Horror buffs all over the world were saddened to hear that long-time screenwriter and director Wes Craven had passed away on Sunday, aged 76. Tributes quickly started flooding in from fans, co-workers, and the writers and filmmakers whom he had inspired over the years.
Craven helped define the horror genre in the 70s and 80s with films like The Last House On The Left, The Hills Have Eyes, and the iconic Nightmare On Elm Street franchise. He then went on to reinvent the genre entirely in the 90s, with the self-referential, satirical Scream, which played with viewer expectations and has since gone down in history as a love letter to the slasher flick.
The worst thing you can say about a horror movie, or any work of art really, is that it is predictable. Craven’s seemingly never-ending parade of bloodcurdling new ideas meant that nobody walking into a Wes Craven film really knew what to expect. Did he ever imagine, when he cooked up the idea of a killer who stalks victims in their dreams, that Freddy Kruger would become a horror headliner, spanning decades of material? Or that so many of his original works would spawn sequels, prequels and remakes? His willingness to take risks, to invent increasingly fearsome villains and to make people laugh as well as scream, has given Craven a kind of immortality.
Perhaps the greatest lesson in creativity that anybody can learn from Craven is to be fearless when it comes to trying something new. For Craven, pleasing horror fans meant coming up with new and ever-innovative ways of surprising and scaring them, of taking what they knew (or what they thought they knew) and turning it on its head. The same is true of any writer, painter or musician — it might make sense to lock the front door, but going outside into the dark to investigate a strange noise can yield all kinds of results.