Today we had the sad news that horror director Wes Craven had passed away after suffering from brain cancer. Regarded as many as the man who invented the teen slasher horror, Craven was a film director who pushed the boundaries of the genre, trying to take it in directions others feared to tread. His films might have been looked upon as being camp, crass or, in some cases, just plain disgusting, yet he wasn’t afraid to try to liven up a genre that quite easily could stay stuck in a rut. From cannibals to living nightmares to killers with masks, Craven has influenced many and has scared thousands.
In tribute to his work, here is my top ten Wes Craven films. You may not agree with the list but you have to agree we have lost a master of the horror film
10. Music Of The Heart (1999)
Craven directs an Oscar nominated drama? It happened with a slightly melodramatic tale of a school teacher as she struggles to teach violin to inner-city kids. Meryl Streep received one of her many nomination in a surprisingly gentle and touching tale that showed Craven at his lightest.
9. Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)
Craven took a well-worn horror favourite, the vampire, and produced a comedy with Eddie Murphy. While mixing the two don’t work, it’s still a brave attempt to deliver a comedy horror and proof that Craven isn’t afraid to go in different directions.
8. Deadly Blessing (1981)
One of only horrors to be set in the Amish community, Craven’s film may not be as successful or as scary as his best work, yet it does have an unsettling feeling about it. Ernest Borgnine stars alongside a young Sharon Stone in one of her first roles.
7. The People Under The Stairs (1992)
Craven enjoyed taking risks, none more so than this bizarre horror about a house lived in by brother and sister Everett McGill and Wendy Robie, who have kept kidnapped children under the stairs. The leads deliver over-the-top performances that add to the creepiness of the film. Some may find it all too silly, yet it has since been taken under the wing as another cult favourite.
6. The Serpent And The Rainbow (1988)
One of Craven’s forgotten gems, a tale of black magic, voodoo and zombies, as Bill Pullman plays an anthropologist who heads to Haiti to investigate rumours of a drug that turns people into monsters. A cult favourite that flopped at the box office, this is possibly Craven’s most atmospheric films.
5. The Last House On The Left (1972)
Low budget slasher horror about two young girls kidnapped by a gang of psychotic convicts, this is regarded as the daddy of the genre. A raw and very unsettling film, banned for years due to its violent and sexual contents, it has since been re-examined and many fans of the genre hail it as a triumph. Not for the faint hearted.
4. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Many dismissed this as a nasty horror with low-budget values but this was the film that really put Craven as a director to watch in the horror world. A family breakdown in a desert surrounded by a savage family. Plays very nicely as a companion piece to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this may be hard to watch and some of the performances are a little ropey) yet it still has the power to shock.
3. Scream (1996)
The genre that he created, the slasher stalker film, was turned on its head with this satirical examination of the genre, in which he poked fun at all the rules of the teen horror. With a strong cast of hip actors, he created his most successful series of four films and a TV series that he was producing. The series may have run out of steam by part four but the original is still regarded as a modern classic.
2. Red Eye (2005)
Hugely underrated, this thriller on a plane is filled with tense, nail-biting moments with Rachel McAdams as a passenger kidnapped by Cillian Murphy. At a short 85 minutes, Craven cranks up the tension with a pacy and exciting film that many missed on its first outing but should be re-examined as one of the best. Even Hitchcock would have been proud of this one.
1. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Craven created a movie icon when he came up with Freddie Kruger, a disfigured, knife-fingered monster that was brought to life by the teenagers of Elm Street. Spurning a series of sequels, Craven would return to his most famous character with New Nightmares, which, while not as successful as his first film, took the character into another direction that many would have steered clear of.