Iconic director Wes Craven died Sunday afternoon (August 30) after a battle with brain cancer. Craven will always be known for introducing the world to Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street, which spawned a series of sequels, a TV series, and a reboot, and the Ghostface killer from the Scream series of films, which has also spawned a popular TV series on MTV.
Craven said he came up with the idea for A Nightmare on Elm Street while living next to a cemetery on a street with that name while growing up in Cleveland. The film was released in 1984. Craven had no hand in the 1985 sequel (although he did get a “Based on characters created by” credit) but returned to the franchise with A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) for which he wrote the screenplay. Craven returned to finish off the series with the seventh film, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, which basically deconstructed the film series by featuring the stars of the original movie playing versions of themselves trying to break free of the Freddy character. Craven wrote, directed and appeared as himself in the film, which was nominated as Best Feature at the 1995 Spirit Awards.
In 1996, Craven introduced a new serial killer and created a new genre of self-aware horror-comedy with Scream. The film, released in 1996, grossed over $100 million and was quickly followed by a sequel in 1997. It also grossed over $100 million. Scream 3 finished off the trilogy in 2000, and Craven tried to reboot the franchise in 2011 but it failed to set up a new trilogy.
Craven made a name for himself in the horror genre with his first film, 1972’s The Last House on the Left. Prior to his “overnight success” with Elm Street, Craven also wrote and directed The Fireworks Woman, The Hills Have Eyes, Deadly Blessing, Swamp Thing and The Hills Have Eyes Part II.
Between Elm Street and Scream, Craven directed the TV movie Chiller, Deadly Friend, five episodes of the 1980s version of The Twilight Zone, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Shocker, Night Visions (TV movie), The People Under the Stairs, an episode of Nightmare Cafe, and Vampire in Brooklyn. He followed Scream with its sequels, Music of the Heart (which was not a horror movie), Cursed, Red Eye, the “Pere-Lachaise” segment of Paris, je t’aime, and My Soul To Take. His last directorial effort was Scream 4 in 2011.
Craven was known for casting up-and-coming young talent in his films and he is credited with discovering Johnny Depp (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Sharon Stone (Deadly Blessing) and Bruce Willis (The Twilight Zone).
Craven also dabbled in acting, appearing in the “Children’s Zoo” segment of The Twilight Zone (1985, Season 1, Episode 3), Shocker, TV movie Body Bags, The Fear, TV series Stark Raving Mad, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Diary of the Dead, and a 2013 episode of Castle. In 1999, he completed his first novel, The Fountain Society.
Craven had remained active, signing a deal with Universal Cable Productions developing a TV series based on The People Under the Stairs, We Are All Completely Fine with Syfy, Disciples with UCP and Sleepers with Federation Entertainment. He was scheduled to direct the “Thou Shalt Not Kill” episode of WGN’s Ten Commandments miniseries, and he was working on a graphic novel based on his original idea “Coming of Rage” for Liquid Comics. His last project was The Girl in the Photographs for which he served as Executive Producer. That film will premiere in September at the Toronto Film Festival.