RIP Wes Craven: 1939-2015

We look back at the career of the horror cinema icon, Wes Craven

Wes Craven
Wes Craven
Wes Craven has passed away at the age of 76

We bring you sad news this morning: director, writer and all-round cinematic icon Wes Craven has passed away, at the age of 76.

An official statement released by his family read: “It is with deep sadness we inform you that Wes Craven passed away at 1PM on Sunday, August 30 after battling brain cancer.   He was 76 years old.  Craven was surrounded by love, in the presence of his family at his Los Angeles home. Craven is survived by his wife, producer and former Disney Studios Vice President Iya Labunka, older sister Carol Buhrow, son Jonathan Craven with wife Rachel Craven and their two sons Miles and Max; daughter Jessica Craven with husband Mike Wodkowski and their daughter Myra-Jean Wodkowski; and Wes’ stepdaughter Nina Tarnawksy.”

Despite being best remembered for the Nightmare On Elm Street and Scream series, Craven’s cinematic output extends to some of horror’s most challenging and confrontational movies, and he continued to innovate and try new things right up until the later years of his career.

After an early career spent in academia and as an editor and photographer in the pornographic film industry, Craven first hit the spotlight with a duo of controversial films that would go on to become cult classics: 1972’s The Last House On The Left and 1977’s The Hills Have Eyes. Highlighting his early penchant for melding the darkest of subject matter with wry political commentary, he immediately marked himself out as a name to watch.

It was with 1984’s A Nightmare On Elm Street that he would forever embed himself in the minds of cinemagoers, however. His nightmarish bogeyman Freddy Krueger remains one of cinema’s most iconic villains, and the series went on to span six films (not including the recent remake), with Craven returning to direct the excellent meta-sequel New Nightmare.

In the intervening years, his films ranged in quality: from the underrated voodoo chiller The Serpent And The Rainbow, DC Comics adaptation Swamp Thing and belatedly appreciated People Under The Stairs, to the maligned likes Deadly Blessing, Shocker and Vampire In Brooklyn (as well as directing five episodes of the Twilight Zone 80s TV series). If people thought he was taking his foot off the pedal, however, they were mistaken.

1996’s Scream, a whip-smart meta-spoof of bogeyman horrors like Halloween, was a massive critical and commercial success, credited with helping to revitalise the genre. It went on to spawn three additional movies, as well as  TV series, which Craven himself executive-produced.

A true legend of not only horror, but of cinema as well, Wes Craven will be sadly missed.