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By David Poland

BYOB: RIP Wes Craven


15 Responses to “BYOB: RIP Wes Craven”

  1. leahnz says:

    aw, no comments for Craven? one of the pioneers of the new wave of 70’s horror with his lean, mean, down-and-gritty aesthetic and uniquely imaginative (and iconic in ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’) 80’s horror, no doubt responsible for some of my psychological horror movie scar tissue growing up.
    in probably a minority opinion i think my fave Craven may be ‘The Serpent and the Rainbow’, that’s a hard call but due to my penchant for ‘real’ Haitian zombies and young Pullman and a bit of social commentary/political allegory with my horror, i find it irresistibly inventive and stylish and quite chilling, great locations and effects, very unique. when Craven was good he was very, very good. i’m not a big fan of the original ‘scream’ but i appreciate that he was canny enough to ‘reinvent’ himself and produce such an influential 90’s horror flick, and he did a decent job with ‘red eye’ so he still had some juice in the tank. nobody quite like Craven, RIP Wes

  2. Hcat says:

    I was a projectionist in college and one of my duties was putting together films and screening them to make sure that the sound and my splices were all intact. This all happened after midnight on Thursdays after I had put the previous weeks movies back in the cans. One Thursday Scream came and coworkers joked about watching it all alone in the middle of the night, but young brute that I was I shrugged it off saying that a movie hadn’t actually scared me for years, Craven was coming off of Vampire in Brooklyn and had obviously lost his mojo, the thing starred Drew Barrymore for chrissakes….the phone call starts off nice and creepy, as a film nerd I appreciate all the call outs to the films of my youth, but then when he asks ‘is his name Brad?’ Craven had me. The rest of it rolled over me like nothing since well the first nightmare on elm street. And a ten screen movie theater in the middle of the night is basically a giant attic with lots of shadows and dark corners and I get to walk around shutting off the breakers, high tailing it down the stairs and locking the bad mojo in the lobby behind me. Then I got to walk home in the dark. But man I recommended that to anyone who would listen.

    Growing up Craven and Carpenter were must see events. Even when you would be disappointed by a Shocker, there would be a People under the stairs around the corner (god what a delightfully gonzo movie). And I cannot say enough good things about swamp thing which was second only to Beastmaster on the repeated viewing list of my youth.

  3. leahnz says:

    the opening scene of ‘scream’ is really effective, kind of a high bar for the rest of the movie to live up to. (the opening salvo of ’28 weeks later’ is a bit like that too, Bam! you’re on your ass, heart racing, the rest of the movie just tries hard to live up to those first minutes)

  4. Eric says:

    For anyone interested in horror, “Shock Value” by Jason Zinoman was a pretty good read. NY Times review:

    Among other things, it covers Craven’s early career. He comes across as a genuine intellectual, trying to figure out an art form. (And also rather difficult to live with in his personal life, but the book doesn’t delve too deeply into that stuff.)

    Lots of other material on John Carpenter, Dan O’Bannon, Roman Polanski, George Romero, Brian De Palma. A quick read and lots of good stories for horror fans.

  5. leahnz says:

    nice link

  6. palmtree says:

    I think New Nightmare is an underrated gem. Craven did meta way before it was cool. It was like a gateway drug to the avant garde for this young viewer.

  7. leahnz says:

    so depressing that as the old horror maestros come to the end of their reign, nobody is filling the vacuum in the mainstream, horror released at the cinema now is in a dire state while indie horror – which might be lucky to get released into 2 theatres – is doing much better but hardly anyone sees it, maybe has a life on DVD. how does a flaming piece of just god-awful inept shit like ‘oculus’ get a cinema release (and meanwhile maybe 3 people have seen ‘banshee chapter’), the current state of things is so messed up it’s like a bad dream

  8. Hcat says:

    But in perspective weren’t Craven’s successes outliers in a sea of mediocre slice and dice? Just as there are dozens of found footage bump in the night films being put out by the studios now there are some being released that stand out from the crowd, and while i havent seen them yet from what i recall you would agree that Badabook and It Follows are positive steps in the horror genre (especially since the Saw era is not that far behind us). It took Wes Craven a decade to cement himself as Wes Craven, surely there is reason to hope someone who is showing early promise will be able fill his shoes?

  9. leahnz says:

    yeah i guess, but how freakin long is it going to take? i’ve grown sceptical.
    indie horror is kicking along with some good, creative stuff here and there by directors with unconventional, unique takes in the genre on tiny budgets but in general it isn’t crossing into the mainstream (it’s not given a chance to); directors who once showed promise in/around the genre have faded out (such as marshall and anderson); directors who show serious promise, doing something fresh and out of the box, aren’t given opportunities with money to do what they want to do, so mainstream horror just stagnates and gets dumber and dumber, the decisions on what gets made now inexplicable, the money goes to the dullest, most conventional, mediocre-to-poor directors and writers. it’s as if there’s a conspiracy to kill creative, original mainstream genre cinema by a confederacy of accountants who now run things

  10. Hcat says:

    But Craven was one of the indie horror guys, when nightmare came out new line wasn’t in the same league as Cannon or New World let alone Warner’s. then when craven got to his tenure at universal, the movies were still good but not nearly as bloodthirsty. Working for a studio dilutes the crazy. This was true now as it was for Craven, Dante and Raimi.

  11. samguy says:

    On another subject, I saw that MGM is one of the companies that was looking at buying Relativity Media. Now you know you’re really f–ked when MGM is looking at buying you!

  12. leahnz says:

    hcat, i think you’re rationalising, i’m not sure what your point is – are you defending the current sorry state of mainstream horror as in any way comparable to craven’s studio output (or the others you mention?)
    so new line wasn’t as big/in the same league as warners etc, a Nightmare on elm st was still horror with studio funding and distribution with a major cinema release, that went on to become a big mainstream hit. ‘the serpent and the rainbow’ is also seriously weird, imaginative horror flick under universal, craven’s studio output does vary quite a lot but it’s still 500x more imaginatively, creatively and provocatively written, designed, and executed than 99% of the homogenous wan-style dreck with wide releases that passes for ‘horror’ today. so working for a studio dilutes the crazy, yeah the parameters were narrower in the past, true, but directors with actual artistic talent, style, daring, vision and flair could still take a risk and make good movies within this context; there is something way more insidious going on now in terms of the bland, homogenous, mostly badly written risk-averse mediocre-to-downright-bad horror being made/widely released by money now, are you seriously arguing that it’s the same now as it ever was for genre movies under the studio system in this current climate?

  13. leahnz says:

    is the blog broke? or just languishing (or my ISP being the usual dangling ball of sheep dung)

  14. Triple Option says:

    Man, when I saw Scream that was like live theater! There were a couple of groans from when Drew picked up the phone like the 3rd time but it didn’t take long to reel everybody in. People were arguing along w/Drew when she gave the killer’s name for the trivia answer and then came the total collective gasp of “Ohhh, yeah!” when the killer revealed the correct answer. It seemed to be everybody’s clue to buckle up! My hair totally stood on end when Drew goes to the window and you first see the mask. It was like somebody threw a bucket of tarantulas on the floor, I have never seen so many people shriek back at one time. I thought the dialog was pretty cleaver. I’m not a horror guy at all but when I saw the trailer and the line from the killer on the phone of “The question is not who am I but WHERE am I,” I knew I had to go see it.

    There are two shots from that film I won’t likely be forgetting before dementia kicks in, 1) the shot of Rose McGowan’s hips swinging as she walked home w/her classmates in her cutoff shirt. Heh. But the more creative, tension heightening shot was when Sydney had locked herself in the blazer and the killer had disappeared. All the sudden you see the door locks start to pop up. I loved how she was holding them down and you have no idea was he coming from up top, underneath, left or right side but then you see the back door slowly rise up…It was so brilliant.

    I, too, really loved New Nightmare. I didn’t see the first Nightmare until a few years after it came out. A couple of others I saw w/friends when they were showing as a midnight movie, so too buzzed to care about quality but they were’t too memorable. I rented New Nightmare and was exceedingly glad I did. I was locked in from the beginning. In reviewing Craven’s library, I had forgotten it was a ’94 release, so no surprise I loved it. I’d argue it as one of the best years for film in history.

    I also agree with the strong opening of 28 Weeks Later. I had to re-read it because so many people love 28 Days Later but I found 28 Weeks much more compelling and scarier. It also had a mesmerizing effect on the audience. If there’s such a thing as to be able to hear silence that was it. There can be plenty of times when people are quiet and there might not be any b.g. music but this was breath held, no one dare blink still.

    I wish they’d show that series Craven did, Freddie’s Nightmares. I really got into that show. It was something I’d watch if I wasn’t out w/friends but became something I’d often rotate my schedule for. I’m pretty sure they were on late night on the Fox affiliate but what I can’t remember was the name of the other show that was often paired with it. I’m pretty sure it was an anthology mystery as well. Wouldn’t mind re-watching some of those now.

  15. leahnz says:

    it’s heartening to hear how craven’s horror effected people, as a genre it can provoke such a powerful, visceral reaction, when done well it’s a kick in the gut like no other from the complete safety of our seats, unique cinema

    (fwiw as sequels go i think 28 Weeks Later works well, and that opening 5 mins is all-time; i know i’d seen renner in few things prior like ‘dahmer’ but his turn as doyle was the first time i really took notice of his special powers. speaking of actual promising horror directors, what the heck happened to fresnadillo? ‘intruders’ wasn’t that great but surely not enough to kill his career, what a bummer)

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