Welcome to Psycho Drive-In’s 31 Days of Schlocktober celebration! This year we’ve decided to present the ABCs of Horror, with entries every day this month providing Director information, Best-of lists, Genre overviews, and Reviews of films and franchises, all in alphabetical order! Today brings us C is for Craven! Wes Craven was born and raised in Cleveland, OH and went to college at Wheaton College in Illinois. After later earning his Master’s Degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1964, he went on to teach English and Humanities. However, before long he discovered that there was more money to be had making movies. Specifically, pornographic movies. And by all accounts, he had a hand in making the adult classic, Deep Throat (1972). He made his mainstream film debut that same year, writing and directing one of the most shocking and violent films of the early Seventies, The Last House on the Left (1972). Oddly enough, this tale of rape, murder, and revenge was actually inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s 1960 Swedish classic, The Virgin Spring (which was based on the 13th Century Swedish ballad “Töres döttrar i Wänge“). The film also reused the mid-Sixties advertising campaign, “To avoid fainting, keep repeating ‘It’s only a movie’…” to great effect and The Last House on the Left became one the three formative horror films of the modern era along with George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). The film was so extreme for the times that it was banned or censored around the world, and was particularly controversial in the UK where it was banned for scenes of “sadism and violence.” Even the home video release, which skirted the cinema ban, ended up on the list of “video nasties” to be banned by the Video Recordings Act 1984 until 2002 (after another banning in 2000). It was only released uncut on video in the UK in 2008. For his second feature film, Craven again drew inspiration from folklore; this time the legend of Sawney Bean in 15th or 16th Century Scotland. According to legend, the 48-member Bean clan were murderers and cannibals who killed and ate over 1000 people. Craven shifted the location to Nevada and set the clan of deformed cannibals on a family trapped and stranded on their way from Ohio to Los Angeles. The Hills Have Eyes (1977) was another strong outing and was originally given an “X” rating due to the graphic violence, but was edited down for an “R”. After the disappointing transitional film Deadly Blessing in 1981, the “mainstream” DC superhero movie Swamp Thing in 1982, and the generally unsatisfying The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1984), Craven struck horror gold with the extremely imaginative, frequently frightening, and always entertaining A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) — featuring the film debut of a young Johnny Depp. Nightmare became a massive success both critically and at the box office thanks in large part to the clever script, innovative surreal effects sequences, and the star-making performance of Robert Englund as the dream-stalking serial killer, Freddy Krueger. It was also the first film that New Line Cinema actually produced, having been a distribution company up until that point. The film was so successful that New Line launched the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, turning Freddy into a household name, but Craven bowed out of directing the sequel. He had never intended the film to become a franchise, so when he co-wrote the screenplay for the third film in the series Dream Warriors (1987), it was intended to serve as a conclusion to the story. But money talks and more sequels were produced without Craven’s input. In 1989, feeling that he hadn’t been given due profits for the Nightmare series, he attempted to create a new similar franchise with Shocker, but it failed to engage audiences or critics. The Nineties, however, would find Craven achieving critical success beyond anyone’s expectations. The decade began with 1991’s The People Under the Stairs, a horror film that didn’t hold back on social satire, casting two David Lynch alumni, Everett McGill and Wendy Robie, as an over-the-top parody of Ronald and Nancy Reagan as slumlords with nightmarish kinks and abused children. Then in 1994, Craven returned to the world of Freddy Kreuger with Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, a metafilm that treated all of the previous films as fictitious and found Freddy making his way from the films into the “real” world of the actors, including Heather Langenkamp (Nancy in the original film), John Saxon, Robert Englund, and even Wes Craven himself. It was easily the best film in the franchise since the original; however audiences weren’t quite ready for it, making it the lowest grossing installment in the series. But just two years later, those same audiences wouldn’t be able to get enough of self-referential, tongue-in-cheek horror as Craven teamed up with writer Kevin Williamson for Scream (1996). Williamson had pitched the film as the first of a trilogy and sold the concept to Dimension Films and the Weinstein brothers, who then brought Craven on-board. And with that, Craven finally had a franchise of his own to play with and a popular serial killer to market by the name of Ghostface. The following year, the first sequel was released to just as much critical and fan acclaim, but the third film, released in 2000, failed to live up to its earlier chapters, thanks in large part to the absence of Williamson as screenwriter. In 2011, though, Craven and Williamson reteamed (after also making the 2005 werewolf movie Cursed) and brought Ghostface back for another go-around that, while not up to the standards of the first two films, was decidedly better than Scream 3. Over the past few years, Craven has taken to producing remakes of his own earlier films, The Hills Have Eyes (2006), The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007), and The Last House on the Left (2009). Except for Hills 2006, though, which was directed by French extreme-horror director Alexandre Aja, none of the films have lived up to the expectations of the originals. See larger image Scream: Five-Film Set (Scream / Scream 2 / Scream 3 / Still Screaming: The Ultimate Scary Movie Retrospective / Scream: The Inside Story) [Blu-ray] New From: $11.99 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related 2 Responses ABCs of Horror Day 14: H is for Hooper - Psycho Drive-In November 9, 2014 […] the world. George Romero led that charge (however unintentionally) with Night of the Living Dead; Wes Craven carried the torch with the brutal intensity of Last House on the Left; then, in 1974, Texas […] Log in to Reply EZMM 2015 Day 1: Zombies - When the Dead Walk (2008) - Psycho Drive-In March 30, 2015 […] anthropology student (chronicled in his book The Serpent and the Rainbow, and then fictionalized in Wes Craven‘s The Serpent and the Rainbow — two very different experiences!), or how traditionally […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.