Thursday, January 6, 2011

Great Directors: Wes Craven

Wes Craven is an incredibly intriguing filmmaker, who has helped shape the horror genre by projecting his fears and dark perceptions onto audiences. His interviews discussing his films are nearly more entertaining than his actual films. Unlike many great directors, Craven was a late bloomer to the world of cinema. He studied English and Psychology in college, which is evidently expressed in his movies. His first career path took the route of education when he became college professor teaching English and Humanities. We all know what he did after this career path, but Craven has kept up his teachings through his films. 

Craven's debut was with his exploitation rape/ revenge picture "The Last House on the Left", which has garnered much controversy over the years for its graphic portrayal of rape and murder. Although many would recognize "Last House" as a meaningless gore infested flick, Craven has claimed that it was a statement about the United State's involvement in the Vietnam War. Whether or not this movie is a political statement it works superbly as a horror film. It is famous for portraying a realistic and terrifying dilemma, and its advertising slogan was  an extremely clever idea: "Remember its only a movie, only a movie, only a movie." I saw in an interview recently that this was the only film that frightened Quentin Tarantino when he was a child and rightly so.

Craven has also tackled the subject of lucid dreaming long before Christopher Nolan's success with "Inception", with his own "Nightmare on Elm Street" in 1984. Although not as complex as Nolan's take on the sub-conscious it gave a whole generation of kids nightmare for years and the story behind the now huge franchise is actually terrifying and bizarre. 

A cult classic for sure and a really well made movie that resurrects a certain nostalgia from my youth. My cousin used to have a poster of Freddy Kruger on his bedroom ceiling, which forced me to cover my eyes when I had to enter his room, to be honest I still would today.

One of Craven's most fascinating and possibly most terrifying concept is "The Serpent and the Rainbow", which focuses on Voodoo and the idea of "the zombie". Set in Haiti, where the zombie originated, Craven shows us the realities of the tough times in the country and portrays a universal fear, which is being buried alive. Craven's natural skill for horror is at its peak in this movie, not so much because of craft, but just for the idea and his explanation in the video below heightens our fears.

All these real life phenomenons that have been fictionalized by Craven for the screen are bound to have strong affects on audiences, but in his first meta-horror project, "Wes Craven's New Nightmare", Craven does question the affects his films have on not only audiences, but its contributers. I believe that "New Nightmare" could possibly be Craven's best and most original work. The narrative is very clever as in the idea that if Freddy is no longer trapped on the screen  he will be free to terrorize reality. This is a great satire of Hollywood and the marketing of Freddy Krueger, which places Craven in Godard mode, while reliving his college professor days.

Craven continued his horror film within a horror film antics by re-establishing the slasher genre with "Scream". Once again, except with more humorous and yet more frightening methods, Craven takes a satirical glance at not only his previous work, but at the entire horror genre. Even "Scream 2" and "Scream 3" are pretty good movies. Is he satirizing his own success of the Freddy franchise by actually reliving it with "Scream"? Craven's influence on the horror genre is without question, yet others and Craven himself have said that he doesn't necessarily want to make horror, but is just so fucking talented at it that he must. I believe that is true to an extent, but when you look at this man gently explain his methods he is either insane or really likes what he is doing.