(1939 – 2015)
As many of you may know, Wes Craven passed away earlier today. Craven’s contribution to the horror genre and cinema in general is something that will forever be remembered. In a career that spanned forty-three years, Craven is responsible for presenting us with some of the most terrifying films ever to grace the silver screen. While films like Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes and Red Eye are noteworthy achievements, it’s the Scream and Nightmare on Elm Street series where he truly found his footing and for years terrified, humored and entertained audiences, often at the same time. As my tribute to him and his career I’ve compiled a list of his five best films.
Scream 4 (2011)
5. Red Eye (2005)
One of Craven’s best and most underrated efforts, Red Eye is a film that makes great use of its minimalistic setting (an airplane) to deliver a tense and thoroughly compelling Hitchockian drama. Anchored by two superb performances from Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy, Red Eye was a film that mirrored much of Hitchcock’s early work and demonstrated Craven’s knack for suspenseful storytelling while also showing that the director was more than capable of making a great film where scaring people wasn’t the main aim.
4. New Nightmare (1994)
After a string of terrible and unsuccessful Elm Street sequels it seemed evident that New Line had milked the Freddy Kruger cow to its full extent. In an attempt to reinvigorate the franchise one final time New Line brought back Wes Craven to write and direct his first Elm Street movie since the original. Working with a sharply constructed and self-aware script, Craven took the film into a completely new direction making Heather Langenkamp, who is playing herself, the center of the story while also having himself, Robert Englund, and New Line Studios head Robert Shaye appear as themselves in this genre deconstruction that predated Craven’s similarly meta Scream.
3. Scream 2 (1997)
Making a sequel that lives up to its original is never easy but Scream 2 did it with the utmost ease, at times even rivaling its predecessor. Taking cues from the first one but never copying, Scream 2 steps up the ante for a lot of the horror while also celebrating the fact that it’s a movie. From the opening theater scene to the conversations of film school students, it is evident that this movie is out to rip apart everything wrong with sequels but what’s great is that it’s a proficient balance between comedy and horror as well and the film never gets too fixated on being meta. A great sequel and just a great film, in general.
2. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
The film that petrified audiences to such an extent that they had trouble sleeping, A Nightmare on Elm Street deserves its billing as a horror classic. This is the film that launched Wes Craven’s career in Hollywood and thirty-one years on, it still holds up. With this film Craven also created Freddy Kruger, one of the greatest antagonists in well…the history of film. Powered by Robert Englund’s brilliantly menacing performance as Kruger and Craven’s direction which constantly raises the bar for horror and shock-value, this film is truly a horror master-piece.
1. Scream (1996)
Just when people had almost given up on horror and grown tired of the genre clichés, out came Scream, a film about people who had seen every horror movie from Halloween to Craven’s own Nightmare on Elm Street, knew about every cliché and trope in the book and weren’t complete fucking idiots like the people you normally see in horror movies. Writer Kevin Williamson’s tightly scripted, witty and self-aware screenplay started a bidding war in Hollywood until the Weinsteins got their hands on it and brought on Wes Craven to direct. The result was exactly what people expected from someone like Craven and Scream offered a sly deconstruction of horror genre, ripping apart every cliché while also providing an entertaining and highly engaging horror-comedy. Wes Craven’s magnum opus.