The last film he directed was "Scream 4," which could have potentially brought upon a new trilogy within the excellent "Scream" series. Normally, when it has been so long since the previous film in a series, the sequel is unwanted and not really very good. This was the exact opposite with "Scream 4." I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I hoped they would make more. It was a shame it did not perform as well as the first 3 films at the box office.
With "Scream," Craven reinvented the slasher film genre. Opening in December 1996, an odd time for a horror film to be released, no one quite expected it to be very successful. Here was a horror film about teens being stalked by a masked killer. Doesn't sound too original, right? Kind of sounds like the crappy horror films from the 80s where it was all about blood and guts and nothing else. Well, here was the catch: the characters were no dummies, the masked psychopath had a passion for horror films, the kills were frightening and original, and the film itself was a commentary on the genre, almost poking fun at it and what had gone wrong with it throughout the years without being a parody.The opening of the film is the most terrifying scene in any horror film (as scary as the shower scene is in "Psycho," that is like a scene from a Christmas movie compared to this). It is so unsettling and difficult to watch, I remember seeing it at the local cheapie theater near my house as a child (one of my favorite places as a kid, sadly no longer there) and needing to take a breath after the scene. I was clutching onto the chair. I actually now cannot believe my mom took me to see this! Now as an adult with a young daughter, I cannot actually watch the scene anymore. I recently rewatched it on Netflix, and I found myself in tears after the opening scene. It was just too real. I needed to pause it for a second to catch my breath, just like when I was a kid!
The rest of the film also exhibits some very creative death sequences, such as an unfortunate run-in with a garage door. Other films tried to capture the success of "Scream," but nothing came close. Also, I find it rare to find a decent horror sequel, but all of the "Scream" films (all directed by Craven) were excellent and did a great job expanding on the original concept.
Another memorable film of Wes Craven's is "A Nightmare on Elm Street." As a child, even before seeing the film, Freddy Krueger was the scariest creature I had ever laid eyes on. I would run up the stairs frantically each time I came up from the basement, frightened that Freddy Krueger was going to get me, and the only way I would be safe was to get upstairs and close the door (hey, cut me some slack, I was a kid). I have read a few different inspirations for the film. From Entertainment Weekly, I read that there was a hobo who used to stare at Wes when he was 10-years-old through his window. From IMDB, I learned that he got the idea of being killed in dreams from a real-life situation where people were mysteriously dying after horrific nightmares. This is some scary stuff. "A Nightmare on Elm Street" was a completely original type of slasher film, something that had never done before. The thought of not even being safe while you dream was (and still is) an absolutely unnerving concept to digest. Freddy Krueger remains one of the most iconic, frightening characters to pop up in horror films to this day.
The world has lost a truly gifted filmmaker. Wes Craven made it fun to be scared, and he knew just what buttons to push when it came to creating scares on screen. Perhaps someday, a "lost" film of his will resurface and find its way to audiences. I don't feel ready to say goodbye to him yet.