Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Craven, Wes

(1949-2015) US movie director, writer and producer. He showed an early interest in drawing, 8mm films and music. After earning a BA in English, he was offered a full scholarship at the Johns Hopkins Graduate Writing Seminars, where he obtained a Masters in Writing and Philosophy. That same year WC married, started a family, and began teaching Humanities. He soon bought a 16mm camera and began making amateur movies. Within a year he quit teaching and headed for New York, determined to break into the movies. He started out as a runner and editor for a company making trailers, then raised $70,000 to make his début feature, Last House on the Left (1972), a disturbing slice of contemporary rape/revenge exploitation loosely based on Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring (1959). Together with Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), which it predated, the film established a new genre in realistic and graphic Horror Movies. This and The Hills Have Eyes (1976), the latter about a family of mutant psycho-cannibals preying on desert travellers, gained him a cult following, but his first big commercial success was A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Inspired by a newspaper article about the inexplicable deaths of young men in their sleep, the movie was budgeted at just $1.5 million by New Line Pictures, who opened it with very little advance publicity. Combining all the elements of the traditional horror movie with impressive spfx, Nightmare tells of a group of suburban teenagers who discover they all share a common nightmare (see Dreams). One by one, as they sleep, they are dispatched by Freddy Krueger, a disfigured killer with a steel-taloned claw, who waits for them in their darkest Dreams. The movie went on to gross an impressive $30 million at the box office, spawned six sequels, more than one book and a TV series, and turned the character of Krueger into a wisecracking cult success. After a much-publicized disagreement with New Line, Craven was involved only intermittently with the sequels, making a welcome return as co-writer and co-executive producer of A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3 Dream Warriors (1987), and writing, directing and playing himself in the film-within-a-film, Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994). The Serpent and the Rainbow (1987) and The People Under the Stairs (1991) are interesting attempts to do something different with, respectively, the Voodoo and psycho themes. [SJ]

other works: Stranger in Our House (1978 tvm; vt Summer of Fear UK); Deadly Blessing (1980); Swamp Thing (1981); Invitation to Hell (1982 tvm); Chiller (1983 tvm); The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1984); Casebusters (1985 tvm); Deadly Friend (1986); Shocker (1989); Night Visions (1990 tvm); Laurel Canyon (1993 tvm), co-creator/exec pr; Mind Ripper (1995), exec pr; Vampire in Brooklyn (1995).

Wes Craven


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.