Of all the horror genre’s most celebrated directors Wes Craven has had the most success with his films with the public due in part with the Nightmare On Elm Street and Scream films. From his first film Last House on The Left to his most resent Red Eye Craven has made a career of defying audience’s expectations. Here are ten highlights from his career.
Hills Have Eyes, The (1977)
The quintessential cannibal movie of the day as a normal family finds themselves stranded in the hills of the middle of nowhere and must defend themselves from a family of cannibals hiding in the hills feasting on anyone who is unlucky enough to cross into their territory. Many films would be influenced by this one including some of Craven’s own future films.
Last House On The Left (1972)
Although not one of my favorites, there is no denying the raw nerve of this film and the influence it would have on the horror genre by breaking all the established taboos of the day and proving that audiences were ready for something more extreme than had ever been offered to them before.
Music Of The Heart (1999)
Craven’s only non-genre film in which he follows a music teacher who teaches her students how to use the violin as a way to cope with the pressures of real life. Based on real people and a true story this is one of Craven’s most personal films and one of Meryl Streep’s is most endearing performances as Roberta Guaspari..
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Craven took his long running franchise A Nightmare On Elm Street and turned it on its head with this sequel that redefines the term nightmare and makes a grown up horror film out of a franchise that had been relegated to the teen horror genre. It also happens to be one of the few films Craven, himself, makes a cameo appearance as does many of the actors from the original film.
A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Craven’s most famous creation in the child murderer Freddy Krugar that not only made Craven a house hold name but helped build a studio in New Line Cinema. This film is over twenty years old yet still captures the imaginations of horror fans everywhere with its imaginative visuals and unstoppable suspense and tension.
People Under The Stairs, The (1991)
Not one to be scared of taboo, Craven crafts a creative inner city horror film about a kid Fool (Brandon Adams) who gets trapped inside the house in a neighborhood that everyone crosses the street to avoid. Craven weaves humor, horror, and sadism in a complex cat and mouse chase through the walls of the house as Fool encounters more of the people trapped within.
Craven’s most highly regarded film with mass audiences as it became one of his biggest crowd pleasers that spawned two sequels and a spoof series as well. This was hip and smart as well as being suspenseful and horrifying at the same time. It was a film that took the world by storm and still has imitators to this day. This is the film that started the self referential horror film craze of the time but few have been able to achieve the notoriety and success of this one.
Serpent & The Rainbow, The (1988)
One of the few genre films to delve into the real life practice of voodoo and still be an entertaining drama. One of Craven’s earliest films in which he tried to cross over to mainstream audiences while still maintaining some of his visual flair. This is one of few films geared to grown ups but is still enjoyable to audiences of all ages that are fans of his films.
Although Craven has said that he created this film as a means to create another franchise in the vein of his A Nightmare On Elm Street series, this film relied more on fantasy than his previous film (although the Elm Street series gradually added fantastic elements to the subsequent sequels) and has a sharper sense of humor. What it lacks in suspense it makes up for in direction as Craven crafts some exciting sequences throughout.
Swamp Thing (1982)
This early comic book adaptation, although dated, has remarkable production value in the swamp in which it was filmed and in the cinematography that creates a character out of the swamp itself. Swamp Thing himself is still impressive compared to the CGI of today and it is the personal journey of the character that makes this worth a look-see. It also spawned a lowly sequel and a short lived television series.