When it comes to horror, I was a child of the slasher generation. The names Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers are as much a part of my childhood as Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolf Man were to my parent's generation. I remember being a kid and seeing the ads for their movies in the paper and wishing I could go see them. I didn't stand a chance at the time, since I was way too young to be going to R rated movies, but my parents didn't really seem to have an issue with the creatures in them. I was always into sci-fi and horror, so I suppose my wanting to see them was normal for me.
Then we finally got a VCR and the gloves were off. I was a teenager by that point, so my viewing habits weren't monitored all that much anymore. I rented the tapes of all those movies I remembered and got to watch them to my twisted little heart's content. My first was a Friday the 13th, I'm afraid, but it didn't matter in the long run. I liked the Friday movies. I liked Halloween. But I absolutely LOVED Nightmare on Elm Street.
I bought everything I could find related to Nightmare. Books that novelized the screenplays for several of the movies. Magazines. If Freddy was on the cover of Fangoria or GoreZone, I was all over it. I even bought the over-sized comic books that continued Freddy's story in glorious black and white so they didn't piss off the Comics Code Authority (Google it). For me, Freddy Krueger was the number one slasher badass of them all.
Part of that is due to Robert Englund's masterful portrayal. I couldn't believe Willie from V was playing this creepy, burned killer. But he was, and he did it well. The recent remake missed some of the heart of the thing, and that I chalk up to Robert Englund, hands down.
But his portrayal was not the reason the movies struck such a chord. That honor went to the man who created Freddy and told his tale on film to scare the hell out of all of us. That man was Wes Craven.
I was always into the mystery of creating movies. So the name stuck with me from the very start, as soon as I saw it on those posters. If his name was attached, I knew I would like it. Serpent and the Rainbow, Shocker, People Under the Stairs, I loved them all. They had a distinctive touch that could only have come from Mr. Craven himself, and it showed. Even if they were not what I was expecting, I knew they would be good, simply by his name being attached.
Then, years later, I finally got to see where he started. Last House on the Left creeped me out for reasons that had little to do with the things Freddy had done for me years earlier. This time, it felt real. It felt like something that could actually happen. The Hills Have Eyes, while I was better able to keep this one in the realm of movie fantasy, it was still disturbing as all get out because Wes Craven made it feel real, whether I wanted it to or not.
He wasn't all serious scares, though. Scream proved that he could poke fun at himself as well. If you needed more proof of it, just watch for his cameo in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. The man had a sense of humor, and he wasn't afraid to show it.
Today, I learned that Wes Craven passed on, after a fight with brain cancer, at the age of 76. To his family and friends, I offer my condolences and sympathies. They have lost a loved one, and that is a pain that only time can temper. To the rest of us, especially those of us who enjoy and play around in the horror genre, we lost a legend. Personally, I lost an influence who's true effect on how I view the genre cannot be measured.
I never had the honor of meeting Mr. Craven before his passing, but I would like to think that wherever he is now, he knows how each of us felt about him, about the respect we held for him, and the gratitude we had for all he gave us.
Thank you, Wes, for giving me all those enjoyable frights through the years, and the laughs once I realized there was no boogeyman in the closet. You were a master of your craft, a legend in the genre, and while your influence will be felt for generations to come, your presence will be sorely missed.
Sleep well, sir, and may you be at peace eternally.