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For over 40 years, Wes Craven has given the world so many things that made our fears go haywire, but today brought the scariest thing of all, as the thought-provoking filmmaker has passed away. He was 76 years old.
Best known for creating two of the most successful horror franchises on the planet - A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream – Craven died after what was apparently a battle against brain cancer, according to Deadline. He passed away in Los Angeles, and details about his death are still forthcoming.
Born in 1939, Craven didn’t immediately enter the film world and was an educator at Westminster College and what is now New York’s Clarkson University as a humanities professor. And when he did get into movies, it was behind the camera for an untold amount of XXX flicks, which he did under different names. That kind of hardcore subject matter led him to his first major film, the influential and extremely polarizing 1972 exploitation thriller The Last House on the Left, which he wrote and directed, with future Friday the 13th director Sean Cunningham as his producer.
From there, he wrote and directed 1977’s savage road trip thriller The Hills Have Eyes, a film that put actor Michael Berryman on the map. He also wrote and directed the less-beloved sequel in 1985. After a couple of lesser achievements, Craven hit it big again with 1982’s Swamp Thing, which has earned a cult following over the years.
But it was 1984 where Craven became a genre icon, as he used his own nightmares and a young boy’s death to create the dream-haunting Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street, an instant box office success and a series that lasted ten years in its original incarnation. (Or more if you’re counting Freddy vs. Jason. Craven returned to the franchise for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors in 1987, and then again in 1994 for the meta-before-its-time Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.
Worldwide success came again in 1996 with the release of the always-winking comedic horror Scream, which had as big an impact on the modern horror scene as Nightmare did, and tons of movies tried to copy the slick direction, twisty plot and genre-based gags. Craven stuck with this franchise until the end, directing the long-awaited and predictably enjoyable Scream 4 in 2011. He didn’t have a major role in MTV’s current Scream series, but it could have used him.
Beyond those mega-hits, Craven directed a bunch of other films whose fanbases aren’t so one-sided. He’s got movies like 1988’s zombified The Serpent and the Rainbow, 1989’s killer-from-the-grave thriller Shocker, 1991’s urban freakshow The People Under the Stairs and his most recent non-Scream movie was 2010’s serial killer thriller My Soul to Take.
Several of his movies have been remade into far more forgettable films, and People Under the Stairs is currently in development to be made as a TV series, which Craven was going to be executive producing. He also had a handful of other horror TV projects he was putting together, including an adaptation of the novel We are All Completely Fine and one of the comic series Disciples. He also wrote a segment of the upcoming WGN anthology miniseries The Ten Commandments. We can only hope his influence on each of those projects was felt as much as possible.
We at CinemaBlend send our thoughts, condolences and nightmares to the family and friends of Wes Craven in their time of mourning. Horror will never be the same.