Yesterday, we lost Wes Craven, a pioneer and icon of the horror genre. There isn’t much I can add about the man’s considerable legacy and his signature work, Nightmare on Elm Street, though some might argue Scream was his crowning achievement. Elm Street and its surrounding mythology was inventive, original and changed the face of horror cinema forever. His creation Freddy Krueger, the maniacal, sometimes comical dream demon of the series, is the Elvis of horror movie monsters.
Whatever the case, my thoughts are with his loved ones, and as a fan, I feel the loss.
There are many who appreciate his more obscure work – Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes – all nuggets that have had a strong behind the scenes influence on genres and subgenres.
Being a 5th & 6th grader, I myself first stumbled unto his work by stumbling onto two distinct, beloved made-for-TV trash movies. In tribute to Mr. Craven, I’m going to repost my commentary on these gems, from my blog at the now-defunct Open Salon.
Summer of Fear/Stranger in Our House
(Originally posted May 31, 2012) – I mentioned moving, and among all the stuff we had to rediscover and get rid of were countless of my wife’s YA novels. This led me to reread an old – classic? – Lois Duncan‘s Summer of Fear.
Now picture a lazy spring afternoon in rural Connecticut in what I believe was 1982, where I’m playing in my room and I hear noise from the television. I walk over to the living room and I see my mother – who couldn’t sit through any kind of horror movie to save her life – absolutely riveted to a 3-in-the afternoon movie on Channel 9. “Esta es una bruja!” my mom exclaimed gleefully.
And when your own mom is fixated on what appears to be a movie about an evil witch, how do you not sit down and watch the whole thing with her?
But it doesn’t stop there. My sister soon walks in. She thinks she’s seen it before and sits down. Then my dad walks in at the goofy finale.
And so, Wes Craven‘s Summer of Fear (then billed as Stranger in Our House) becomes a fond family memory for me, although the rest of my family does not remember this moment at all. It was directed by horror master Craven, and stars a whiny and poodle-haired Linda Blair, a young and lovely and un-nanny-ish Fran Drescher, and Lee Purcell, the titular stranger, who after much research I found out is a former it-girl, successful producer and Scientologist.
With adult filters and refined taste, you may find Stranger in Our House silly and predictable and not worth your time. I think it’s well done as a suburban sunlit thriller of its time. Craven did a good job being faithful to the novel and making us want to see how everything unfolds despite the incessant whining of Linda Blair’s character. I feel the same way about the novel “Summer of Fear“, which I had to read in hidden embarrassment then since it was very much ensconced in the ‘girly’ YA lit world.
And what about the witchcraft horror genre? Is it often used as metaphors for teen girl anxieties and competition? Another blog post I promise to NEVER deliver!
Warning: SPOILERS FOR STRANGER IN OUR HOUSE IN YOUTUBE CLIP – I mean a big huge one, like, the whole ending….
Invitation to Hell
(Originally posted October 27,2013, a response to the question “Best Death Scene in a Horror Movie”) – Clearly the best death in a horror movie can be credited to horror master Wes Craven. In the second of his two memorable made for TV cheesefests (I wrote about the first one here), Invitation to Hell , Susan Lucci stars as the diabolical mistress of an evil spa/gated community. Robert Urich and Blade Runner replicant stripper Joanna Cassidy star as a normal family under the attack of evil.
Incidentally, the film is cheesy, funny and oddly creative, adding a sci-fi twist to its occult horror.
Here is the death scene, and you must admit, it is made of pure awesome. Many pedestrians I’m sure would love to have this type of way to relieve frustration.
RIP Mr. Craven. You brought us all together in fear and thrills. Can you make horror movies in heaven?