Last Sunday, Horror icon and director Wes Craven died of brain cancer at age 76. Like John Carpenter and George A Romero, Craven was one of the most important Horror directors of all time.
“The Last House on the Left,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream” (even though I don’t like the latter) all left their mark on the Horror genre and have influenced countless other films.
Here I will go into my experiences with his directorial work (take note I have not seen every film he’s ever done).
The Last House on the Left
Back when I was in High School my local mall had a Borders. It was an awesome book store with tons of books and a decent-sized movie section. I had always heard of this film from reading about Craven’s works and from my mom who is also a Horror fan. I had also always heard that this film was widely controversial and as a mid teenager, that made me want to see it more. I eventually saw a copy at this particular Borders and without hesitation, I picked it up and watched it as soon as I got home.
The film is about two girls on their way to a rock concert that are kidnapped by four thugs and are raped,tortured and eventually murdered.
The thug’s car later breaks down in front of the house of an old couple who let them stay the night. Little do they know that this couple happens to be the parents of the two girls.
I loved this film. I loved how fucked up and violent the way the girls are tortured and in the way the main villains die. David Hess was great as Krug – the head of the thugs and the characters were mostly very fun. The explicit content helped tell the story and wasn’t there for just shock value. The film is loosely Inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s “The Virgin Spring“ (a great film that’s more of a Drama than a Horror) in plot. The film spawned many rip-offs including ones that would have Hess in the same role (“Hitchhike” and “The House on the Edge of the Park”).
The Hills Have Eyes
In 2006 I was still in my early stages of becoming a full-fledged Horror fan. I remember seeing trailers for a movie called “The Hills Have Eyes”. It looked very cool to me.
My dad at the time was working in New York City and would buy bootleg movies off of a guy he knew. After his shift, he brought home a bootleg copy of the film and we watched it. We both found it to be very fun and pretty damn brutal.
Around that same time I used to hang out a lot with a brother and sister named Guy and Angie who were the biggest Horror fans I knew. They recommended I check out the original and that Craven had directed it. That next weekend I went over their place and watched the original with them. Eventually I picked it up at a local Rite Aid during a Halloween Season.
The film is about a family whose car breaks down in a desert in the middle of nowhere. They are then attacked by a family of inbred cannibals. The parents are killed and the child of the oldest daughter and her boyfriend is captured. The daughter and her brother stay behind while the boyfriend goes out to find the baby and fight these inbreds.
Like the previous film, this movie is very raw and violent as this was Craven’s exploitation era. Though most people I know liked the remake, I preferred this version. The remake was great but this just felt more like what I love from horror films. The two movies are very similar with the only major difference being the origins of the cannibals. In the remake they are a community of people mutated from nuclear testing instead of an inbred family. Not only do I recommend both versions, I also suggest you stay away from both sequels as well.
I have always known about the Swamp Thing character. My friend Isaac showed me some of the comics (which I thought were cool) as well as hearing from Guy and Angie that the comic series is the first appearance of Hellblazer’s John Constantine.
I always knew this movie existed but never took the time to check it out (mostly because I was a teenager with no job). Then one day Isaac got a copy and invited me over to watch it, claiming it was the best Craven film.
“Swamp Thing” is about a scientist named Alec Holland who is working on a chemical that can merge animal and plant life. He is sabotaged by the evil Anton Arcane who causes a freak accident that turns him into Swamp Thing. He ends up helping a woman named Alice Cable and uses his new found abilities to fight Arcane and his followers.
While I did disagree on this being Craven’s best, (and still do) I enjoyed it a lot and to this day consider it to be the most underrated DC movie out there.
This film appears in horror sections all the time but I wouldn’t call it a horror film. It’s more along the lines of a Sci-Fi/Action movie although the film still feels like it was made by Craven. I would later pick up a copy for myself last year when the store I work at added a movie shelf. It came in a pack with the other classics “Return of the Living Dead,” “A Bucket of Blood” and “Frogs”.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
My Horror journey started when I was in middle school. While I have always had an interest in Horror and have always had ones I’ve seen that I like (such as “Carrie” and “The Shining”), I was still more focused on playing video games and watching anime on Toonami.
Then around the seventh grade, my mom started buying Horror films she remembered loving. These includes such classics as “Pet Cemetery,” “Beyond the Door” and “Fright Night.” I fell in love with the Horror genre and felt the need to see all the classics.
Some time later Isaac and I were at an FYE looking at the VHS tapes (yeah, the good ol’ days). I picked up “Friday the 13th Part III,” “The Thing” and this film. After having a fun time watching some hockey masked massacres we put in “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
For the two people that don’t already know, the film is about a killer named Freddy Kreuger (played by fellow Horror icon Robert Englund). Unlike your average serial killer, Kreuger is a demonic spirit that haunts people’s dreams. If he kills you in your dream, you die in real life. While trying to stop this from happening, the main protagonist Nancy finds out more about Krueger and his connection to the parents of her and her friends.
This film is a horror classic. Kreuger’s mix of sadistic insanity and silly one-liners made the character a Horror behemoth to this day and made England a star. Johnny Depp’s death scene remains a staple to the franchise and help project his career into the stratosphere. Seeing this movie made me want to check out the sequels and eventually I would get the Nightmare Boxed set with all the films except “Freddy vs Jason” (which I have no reason to own anyway).
The Hills Have Eyes Part 2
As a random gift, Isaac decided to buy this for me when he saw it for real cheap. I popped it in when I got home the next day (even though I knew this film was an infamously bad one).
“The Hills Have Eyes Part 2” is about a group of bikers which include the youngest son from the first film, the daughter of the cannibal family (who is now a regular person as well as a blind psychic because, why not?) and a black guy who gets kicked in the balls every other scene he’s in (because that’s funny, right?).The team decides to race where the events of the original film took place.They are then attacked by some of the cannibals from the first film.
This movie sucks.
The first part is made up of mostly flashbacks from the original, including a flash back from the dog (not making this up). While part one was awesome, part two is not scary at all. Part two is full of wooden acting, terribly unfunny jokes and scenes that make you wonder “what were they thinking?.” The remake had a sequel that was pretty bad too but not as bad as this. Craven would later admit he only made this film because he needed the money.
As is tradition with Horror, there’s always a sequel. Keep checking back for part 2 of this tribute to one of the masters of terror.