Wes Craven (1939 – 2015)
Upon rising from the tomb that is my bed today, rising once more from the black inertia that is sleep…Before leaving my temple and witnessing my Lord rescue the Sun yet again from a cesspool of no tomorrows…I heard the saddening news.
Yet another soldier in the real-life Army of Darkness – the one that defeats the uncreated Worm by trapping it in created images again and again – has fallen. Wes Craven – the director and creator of such immortal classics as The Hills Have Eyes (1977), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Scream (1996) – died of brain cancer yesterday. He was 76 years old, and he will be sorely and dearly missed not only by his family, but also by those who’ve been following his work since they were children.
Perhaps, in a way, we might be counted among his “family” as well.
The first Wes Craven film I ever saw was the original Nightmare on Elm Street. I first saw it during the wee hours of Saturday, January 14, 1995 on the “Million Dollar Movie” on WPVI-TV Philadelphia. (I describe more about the “Million Dollar Movie” show and why it was so important to me here.) Nightmare, the story of teenagers being haunted by a child killer’s ghost in their dreams, scared me so badly that I couldn’t sleep well for several weeks. (If I had a nightmare about Freddy Krueger, I thought to myself, how the hell was I to know it was really just a dream?)
Not all of Craven’s films are good – some, in fact, are abysmally terrible – but even the worst films on his resume came from a place of authenticity and concern for the human condition. Take The Last House on the Left (1972), for example, in which a gang of psychos rape and murder young girls and are then ruthlessly butchered by their victims’ bereaved family. The film itself is terrible and almost impossible to watch even by today’s standards; its brutal, tasteless violence is still unmatched by anything else I’ve ever seen. And yet, none can deny the movie’s importance in the history of horror, or that Craven’s message therein was truly more philanthropic than misanthropic (i.e., it is a statement against violence rather than a endorsement thereof).
Personally, I think Craven’s best work was The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), which was inspired by the book by Wade Davis (and which is the first film to my knowledge that ever treated Vodun or “voodoo” as an authentic religion worthy of reverence and respect). I will discuss that film more fully in a future review; but for now, let us remember Wes Craven the man. Let us wish him well in the next world; may he now find happiness and comfort in the presence of his ancestors and his God. And may all of us who love him work well to keep his spirit alive here on Earth.