After Christopher Lee died this past June, I was asked which celebrity death would devastate me the most. At the time I drew a blank, but last night I found my answer with the death of legendary director and horror icon, Wes Craven.
My very first horror film was A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 at age five. Now, sure, Wes did not direct A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, nor did he direct the majority of the films in the series but he did create Freddy Krueger, one of the most iconic horror figures of all time. It was Freddy who haunted my childhood nightmares. It was the fear he created that inspired me to watch other horror films in search of that rush.
Years later, it was Shocker that terrified me. The scene where Jonathan (Peter Berg) finds his girlfriend dead in the blood filled bathtub scarred me for life. Even as a child, I knew that only a complete psycho would take the time to cover a room with bloody handprints. To this day, I still cannot stomach bloody bathroom scenes like Rob Zombie’s Halloween II and Dexter because of that film.
At age twelve, it was Scream, a film that literally changed my life. Scream ushered in a new generation of horror, changing the rules, bringing big television stars into a genre that was otherwise mostly for B or C level names. It was a horror film unlike any other I had ever seen before. It was this film that brought forth my love of horror to the extreme level it is today.
Wes knew horror. He knew how to bring fear to life and how to project that fear onto the viewers. He terrified thousands with The Last House on the Left, a film my own mother walked out on because she just couldn’t stomach it. He made road trips unnerving with The Hills Have Eyes. He made it impossible to sleep with A Nightmare on Elm Street. He made the person next to you a potential serial killer with Shocker. He made home invasion seem like a worse idea than usual with The People Under the Stairs. Finally, he made your friends your biggest enemies with Scream. No one was ever safe inside a Wes Craven film and you always knew to keep a pillow close by in case the fear became too much to handle on your own.
Wes’s success was proven last night when I watched my Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds explode with posts about his death, his kindness and his influence on horror fans and actors alike. I watched as even non-horror fans mourned his death because everyone knew who Wes Craven was. I was absolutely heartbroken by the news and cried myself to sleep, something I have never before done for someone I have never met.
I imagine the heartbreak felt by those closest to him, the ones who described him as gentle, brilliant, inspiring and kind, adjectives one wouldn’t expect to hear about someone so deeply rooted in the horror genre, but that is exactly who Wes Craven was. He was the guy who would respond to you on Twitter or like your photos on Instagram because he appreciated his fans in a way that many don’t. He wasn’t in it for the fame, he was in it for us and he continued to talk to his fans until the end despite the cancer that was destroying that brilliant brain. He changed the lives of many and I hope he knew just how much he was loved.
Wes Craven was one of my biggest idols. He inspired me to love horror, a genre I now proudly work in. Just a few weeks ago, Wes posted to Twitter, “Take the first job you can in the industry you want to get into. The job doesn’t matter, getting your foot in the door does.” Today I made that quote into a meme for my desk at work to remind me not to give up. I will continue to work hard to do what I love and even after his death, Wes will continue to inspire me.
Rest in Peace, Wes. Your films and legacy will live on forever.