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Movies & TV

31st Aug 2015

TRIBUTE: 5 of the best Wes Craven movies that scared the sh*te out of us

Colm Boohig

The legendary director of the Scream franchise passed away over the weekend.

He revolutionised the horror genre when he wrote and directed the first Nightmare on Elm Street and consolidated his status as a scare master with the Scream series. On Sunday, Wes Craven died, aged 76, after a long battle with brain cancer.

Craven’s mastery of motion picture suspense and overall influence on the entertainment industry cannot be ignored. Here are five examples of the director’s best gifts to the movie-going world.

Red Eye (2005)

Craven proved that he wasn’t just content with straight-up gorefests in this sleek thriller from a decade ago. Red Eye, starring Rachel McAdams and Cork’s own Cillian Murphy, is a brilliantly misleading thriller. From just another travel-based rom-com to a dark twist in one fell swoop, Craven fascinated audiences with Red Eye.

The director also demonstrated his eye for talent here, harnessing the momentum of McAdams – fresh from The Notebook – and Batman Begins’ Murphy in a partnership full of necessary tension.

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

Before Bill Pullman was busy protecting us from those pesky aliens with rousing presidential speeches in Independence Day, he was caught up in a Craven-led clusterf***. The Serpent and the Rainbow can be safely filed under ‘cult’ and it was genuinely frightening.

Entering the very, eh, voodoo realm of voodoo, Craven relied heavily on atmosphere and anticipation to scare the bejaysus out of his audience and by the looks it, Pullman as well.

The Last House on the Left (1972)

The renowned critic Roger Ebert said of Craven’s fist directorial effort, “there is evil in this movie. Not bloody escapism, or a thrill a minute, but a fully developed sense of the vicious natures of the killers. There is no glory in this violence.” The Last House on the Left may have been a precursor to Craven’s most famous creation but, my word, it was intense.

Like Taken, but with no Liam Neeson to save the day, a middle-class girl and her friend are stranded up against no-good’uns with horrifying consequences. The movie’s trailer advised the audience to remind themselves that ‘it’s only a movie.’ Good call.

Scream (1996)

The undisputed contemporary horror classic. Spawning a handful of sequels, several different killers and one unforgettable mask, the Scream franchise is the modern-day rock star of the gore genre, which played host to one of the most surprising opening scene demises in cinematic history.

Ironically, Craven only agreed to direct after Drew Barrymore signed up and he assumed that she was going to play the lead role. Awks. In any case, the movie was a huge triumph, providing a genuine whodunnit vibe throughout.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Responsible for initially creative, eventually lazy Halloween costume ideas, Freddie Krueger is the king of the horror villains. A school janitor/child murderer who picked off his victims in their dreams, the character of Krueger was arguably Craven’s finest hour.

Launching the career of Johnny Depp and setting up Freddy himself, Robert Englund for life, Nightmare on Elm Street was kind to its cast members and made back its $1.8 million budget in just three days, eventually amassing $25 million. No doubt, cinema will be a scarier place without Wes Craven.

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