Wes Craven Dies at 76

Published: August 31, 2015

Wes Craven Dies at 76, Wes Craven, a master of horror cinema and a proponent of the slasher genre best known for creating the “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream” franchises, died on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 76.

The cause was brain cancer, according to a statement from his family.

Perhaps Mr. Craven’s most famous creation was Freddy Krueger, memorably played by Robert Englund, a serial killer with a razor-blade glove who haunted the dreams of high school students in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984) and its sequels and became one of the best-known villains in horror movie history, alongside Michael Myers of the “Halloween” franchise and Jason Voorhees of the “Friday the 13th” films. The first “Nightmare on Elm Street” cost $1.8 million to make and grossed about $25 million.

It also spawned six sequels, although Mr. Craven directed only the last one, “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” (1994). Much as dreams had overlapped with reality in the other “Nightmare” movies and in Craven films like “The Hills Have Eyes” (1977), “The Serpent and the Rainbow” (1988) and “The People Under the Stairs” (1991), “New Nightmare” blurred the line between fiction and reality: Mr. Craven played himself, and the film was set in a world where the “Nightmare” movies existed but Freddy Krueger was also a real person menacing the actress Heather Langenkamp, a star of the original movie.

Mr. Craven began making films after briefly teaching English at Westminster College in Pennsylvania. Early in his career he directed, wrote and edited pornographic movies.

In 1972 he directed his first feature film, “Last House on the Left,” which he also wrote. Although it was a low-budget, extremely violent horror movie and marketed as such, it was inspired by “The Virgin Spring,” Ingmar Berman’s Oscar-winning 1960 film about a father’s blody revenge for the rape and murder of his daughter. Some critics saw it as a commentary about the Vietnam War.

A nightmare sequence in “Last House on the Left” was partly what inspired “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

“Last House on the Left” was a hit, and Mr. Craven followed it with another success, “The Hills Have Eyes,” which centered on a group of savages out to kill a family stranded in the desert.

In recent years “Last House on the Left,” “The Hills Have Eyes” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” have all been successfully remade, although Mr. Craven did not direct the remakes.

Mr. Craven’s career had been relatively quiet until 1996, when the first “Scream” film was released. In addition to reviving his fortunes, it helped redefine horror movies by introducing a self-aware, at times self-mocking sensibility. Written by Kevin Williamson, who would go on to create television series including “Dawson’s Creek” and “The Vampire Diaries,” it featured characters who have seen enough horror movies to know the clich├ęs of the genre – although several of them end up being killed anyway.

Wes Craven Dies at 76

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