It’s difficult to believe that Wes Craven died almost a whole year ago. Today would have been his 77th birthday. Craven passed away last August after a battle with brain cancer. He was known for directing seminal horror films like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream and The Last House on the Left, along with the occasional non-horror film like the Meryl Streep-starring Music of the Heart.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio and raised in a strict Baptist household, Craven earned a degree in psychology from Wheaton University in Illinois before obtaining a master’s degree in philosophy and writing from Johns Hopkins University. Shortly after graduating, he began teaching at various universities and purchased a 16mm camera that he used to make short films. This eventually led him into the world of pornography as he filmed several X-rated films under various pseudonyms, the most famous of which being The Fireworks Woman under the name Abe Snake (he even has a cameo in that film).
Shortly before The Fireworks Woman (which was released in 1975), Craven broke into the film industry in 1972 with his rape-revenge film The Last House on the Left, shocking audiences and appalling some critics (it was even banned in the United Kingdom). From there he went on to film The Hills Have Eyes, Deadly Blessing (a truly underrated gem) and Swamp Thing before cementing his status as a master of horror with the release of 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street and the creation of one of horror cinema’s most recognizable villains: Freddy Krueger.
After a string of critical and commercial failures (Deadly Friend, Shocker) and moderate successes (The Serpent and the Rainbow, The People Under the Stairs), Craven returned to the franchise that made him famous with Wes Craven’s New Nightmare in 1994 before re-defining horror again with Scream in 1996. Outside of the Scream franchise, Craven never found much critical or commercial success again, with the exception of 2005’s Red Eye.
This is of course an abbreviated version of Craven’s career, but we wanted to shine a light on the man since we are nearing the anniversary of his death and commemorate his life and work. Share your thoughts and memories of Craven in the comments below and celebrate this wonderful man who was taken from us far too soon. Happy Birthday, Wes Craven. You were one of a kind.