Horror Icon Wes Craven Passes Away at 76

Wes Craven

The horror world suffered a tremendous blow yesterday, as one of its greatest auteurs, Wes Craven, passed away after a long battle with brain cancer.

Given Wes Craven’s reclusive nature, it may come as a surprise to many to learn that the man behind the Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream franchises was even struggling with brain cancer, yet a statement from his family released earlier today confirms that the legendary filmmaker has passed away from just that.

“Wes Craven died in his Los Angeles home Sunday, surrounded by family, after battling brain cancer,” read the statement.

Craven, 76, had recently signed a television deal with Universal Cable Productions and had a number of projects in development. A television show based on his 1991 film, The People Under the Stairs, is currently in set to be produced on the Syfy channel, as is Disciples with UCP, We Are All Completely Fine with Syfy/UCP, and Sleepers with Federation Entertainment. Likewise, a television series based upon Scream will wrap up its first season on MTV tomorrow and plans to pay tribute to Craven in doing so.

Although Craven’s name has become synonymous with the 1984 supernatural slasher-turned-franchise-turned brief television series, Nightmare on Elm Street, his catalogue extends far beyond that. His debut film, The Last House on the Left, is considered one of the early masterpieces of exploitation cinema and grossed over 3 million dollars (on just an $87,000 budget) upon its release in 1972. His takes on the zombie genre, The Serpent and the Rainbow, and backwoods horror, The Hills Have Eyes, are considered cult classics and sit atop many “Best of” lists to this day. With entries in the genres of horror-comedy (Vampire in Brooklyn), romance (Paris, je t’aime), thriller (Red Eye), and a couple episodes of The Twilight Zone to boot, Craven was a much more diverse director than many gave him credit for. He may have scored a box office smash with the very first self-aware horror film, Scream, but Craven also led Meryl Streep to an Oscar nomination in the 1999 drama, Music of the Heart.

The man had layers, is what I’m getting at, and in addition to being one of the kindest men in the business, Craven also served as an inspiration to filmmakers of all genres. Wrote director of Gremlins, Joe Dante:

Wes was a pioneer. Scream was a very self-aware film, and it was one of the first films that acknowledged that the audience knows as much as the characters do, or even more, about horror films and what their tropes are.
The Scream movies enabled audiences to say “yes, I understand this and I know what the jokes are.”
Wes was a former college professor, he was very professorial. He was a very warm guy. He was the last guy you would look at and think he makes horror films. He had great relationships with his actors.

The outpour of condolences for Craven on social media has already been incredible — most notably, Scream star Courteney Cox, who wrote “Today the world lost a great man, my friend and mentor, Wes Craven. My heart goes out to his family.”

Craven’s status as one of the grand maestros of horror will be an everlasting one, as will be the void left behind by his passing. He was, after all, the man who most famously said that “Horror films don’t create fear. They release it.”

Farewell, Wes. You will truly be missed.


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