Director Wes Craven, master of the horror genre, passed away yesterday at the age of 76 from brain cancer. His memorable film credits include A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Scream (1996) and The Last House on the Left (1972).
Horror often is regarded as a B-picture genre in Hollywood, something that industry hacks specialize in, a class of film below the work of a true filmmaker. Yet if that is true, how come so many horror films disappear into obscurity while audiences still vividly remember classics such as Craven’s work. Everyone knows Freddy Krueger, a monster of Craven’s creation, a being that goes into the dreams of people and murders them. Everyone recognizes Ghostface, who terrorizes a town through phone calls and bloody hackings.
It is not a hard trick to scare an audience, but it is difficult to scare them in a way that is never forgotten. Craven’s work is exemplary for that ability. He was able to get under an audience’s skin through memorable scares and vivid antagonists.
Modern horror films so seldom present something so unmistakable, so distinctive. It is why people still continue to love Freddy Krueger and Ghostface. They are not only terrifying, but visually dynamic, fun even, in their mercilessness and creativity.
Craven will be missed for his ability to create such interesting characters and for the mark he left on the horror genre. There will never be another like him.