Legendary Horror Director Wes Craven Dies At 76
After spending several years as a college professor and a few more making X-rated films, Wes Craven made his feature directing debut with 1972’s The Last House on the Left. Inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s classy Swedish drama The Virgin Spring, this gritty revenge film generated enormous controversy—and box office. (Made for just $87,000, the film went on to earn $3.1 million.) 43 years to the day of that film’s release, Craven died on Sunday of brain cancer at the age of 76.
In his four-plus decades of filmmaking, Craven emerged as a crucial member of the American horror new wave—which also included filmmakers like John Carpenter (Halloween), Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead)—but his position in the mainstream proved to be the most enduring. He ultimately directed 21 feature films, launching three major franchises (The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream), all of which inspired sequels, remakes, spin-offs, and/or TV shows. In fact, at the time of his death, he was an executive producer on the Scream TV series that debuted just two months ago.
While nearly every film Craven directed was closely linked to horror, he always aspired to work outside the genre. Coming off the massive commercial success of Scream and Scream 2—easily his biggest successes, both films earned over $100 million in North America alone—he convinced Harvey Weinstein to give him the job directing 1999’s Music of the Heart, an unlikely stab at inspirational prestige drama that earned Meryl Streep her 12th Oscar nomination. Unfortunately for Craven, the filmed turn out to be a commercial disappointment, stifling any further dramatic aspirations.
In the wake of Craven’s death, he received Twitter tributes from many collaborators and colleagues, including:
Devastated to hear the news. Wes was a great friend, fine director and good man. Giant loss. Much too soon. http://t.co/3XnIn8UNIF
— John Carpenter (@TheHorrorMaster) August 31, 2015
RIP Wes Craven! A pioneer in the genre! — Joe Dante (@joe_dante) August 31, 2015
R.I.P. to one of my all time heroes who was also truly one of the nicest people I ever had the good fortune to meet. pic.twitter.com/UNisaTRgFn
— Eli Roth (@eliroth) August 31, 2015
RIP Wes Craven, my director, my friend. A brilliant, kind, gentle and very funny man. A sad day on Elm St and everywhere. I’ll miss him. — Robert B. Englund (@RobertBEnglund) August 31, 2015
Today the world lost a great man, my friend and mentor, Wes Craven. My heart goes out to his family. x
— Courteney Cox (@CourteneyCox) August 31, 2015
Stunned 2 learn of Wes Craven’s passing. Just doesn’t seem possible. Wasn’t it yesterday we were in the swamps 2gether? O Wes, what a loss. — Adrienne Barbeau (@abarbeau) August 31, 2015
Here’s a quick look back at six of his most enduring films: