Thursday, February 26, 2009

Master of Horror: Wes Craven


If you are reading this blog, then you no doubt know of the so-called “Masters of Horror”. I’m not necessarily talking about the TV Series here, just some names that get frequently dropped while talking about the genre. They are the people that are generally considered the top directors of modern horror films. They’ve built a name for themselves on some (generally) well made and groundbreaking horror movies. Often times considered revolutionary, I have always wondered: do most of them really deserve the title? Or should they have quit after making a couple of movies and just faded away? Well, I want to start taking a look at them and figuring out if I agree with the title given to them. First up on the list: Wes Craven.

This guy is almost universally considered a “Master” of the horror genre and often appears in interviews about what horror means and the scariest movie moments. Well, let’s take a look at some of his “masterpieces” and decide for ourselves if he is deserving of the title.

*Please note, this isn’t a complete filmography, just some highlights. For a complete list, go here*

The Last House on the Left (1972): No doubt about it, he started his career off with a bang. I cannot deny that this was both groundbreaking and well made. He showed some great promise and ingenuity, which led him to make…

The Hills Have Eyes (1977): Again, a great movie. Sure, both of these look a little dated, but they are classics. The mutants in this movie aren’t quite as interesting as the ones in the remake, but if this movie doesn’t happen, neither does Alexandre Aja’s gem. So far, Wes is two for two.

Swamp Thing (1982): Wes keeps up his streak. Swamp Thing isn’t quite as good as his first couple offerings, but it’s a good movie to keep things looking up for him. It’s a cult classic that works pretty well, even by today’s standards.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): Well, I respect this movie. I don’t really like the movie, but that’s more personal preference than anything else. I want to say that this movie keeps his trend going, but it unfortunately also launched a lot of bad sequels. I know this is probably sacrilege in the eyes of Johnny, but that’s how I feel. But I appreciate this movie and don’t consider it a misstep, just sort of a movie that was good enough to keep people thinking highly of him. That is until…

The Hills Have Eyes Part II
(1985): And we have his first major misstep. This movie is pretty god awful. Craven himself has disowned it, saying he did it for the money. That’s not a good sign. He directed a few episodes of The Twilight Zone (that I never saw) and then came back to movies with…

The Serpent and The Rainbow (1988): For my money, this is his best film. It’s a great movie that showed he could make a more serious movie that wasn’t just hack and slash (though I love those movies of his). Craven developed a good story and created some very weird, nightmarish scenes in this movie. The scene where Bill Paxton is buried alive is particularly disconcerting. It’s a little dated, but if you haven’t seen it, it’s good and usually cheap on DVD.

Shocker (1989): Oooh, backslide. Pretty mediocre movie. Craven seems mortal all of a sudden. This movie lacks a punch his first few had. It wasn’t artistic enough to compete with Serpent, but not gritty enough to be the next Hills. Kind of a middle movie that just left you unsatisfied.

The People Under The Stairs (1991): I want to appreciate this movie, but I can’t do it. It seems more dated than most of his early stuff. The characters are so overwrought they can’t even be appreciated on a campy, Evil Dead II level. It’s not scary, not well acted, and just not very good.

New Nightmare (1994): The only other Nightmare movie to be directed by Craven falls pretty flat on its face. I didn’t like the whole “movie in a movie” thing and it just seemed pretty bland. Again, I’m not a huge fan of the whole series (though I do love Robert Englund and the character Freddy Kruger, oddly enough). I think Freddy is a great horror icon that got stuck in an unfortunate series of so-so movies.

Scream
(1996), Scream 2 (1997), Scream 3 (2000): After Vampire in Brooklyn (which I won’t even give a separate entry, it was that bad), Craven came back with probably his best known movies: the Scream Trilogy (which may soon be a quadrilogy). They were okay movies, sort of bringing horror back to the mainstream, showing it didn’t have to be low budget. None of them are particularly awesome, but all are fairly enjoyable. They aren’t a strike against him necessarily, but they aren’t earning him more respect either.

Cursed (2005): If I could forget ever seeing this movie, I would. Apparently, there were so many problems with production, they had to re-shoot about 50% of the movie. They should have just let it die. Watch the trailer and at about 1:30 into it, see what could probably be a CG-Why? segment over at Freddy In Space.



Red Eye (2005): Pretty forgettable movie. Not bad, but not great. Cillian Murphy is quite good, but just not enough to save the movie.

Apparently, that’s his most recent horror foray. He has Scream 4 in the hopper, which I will more than likely see, but I’m not terribly excited for it. When it comes right down to it, he has 4 movies I like, 5 movies I could take or leave, and 5 movies that just aren’t good. I am not entirely convinced this makes him deserving of the “Master” of horror title that he has, but it’s definitely not a terrible career. I think he definitely deserves respect, but overall, I just don’t find him all that masterful.

So, Wes, I appreciate what you’ve done, but you need to make another good movie sometime soon. The last truly good movie you did was 20 years ago. I feel kind of like his career is like a bad blow job: it feels good at first, then just okay, and finally you just sort of wish it would either go back to what it felt like at first or just end.

4 comments:

  1. Sad to say I agree with you on most of these points. When it all comes down to it, Craven has made more bad movies than he has good. But he's made enough classics for me to forever like and respect him.

    Cursed was so bad and totally deserving of making its way into the CGI-Why category!

    I do love People Under The Stairs though.

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  2. I think the reason that Wes is in the master catagory is because when she scores big he scores BIG! (Nightmare, Scream, Serpant and the Rainbow which is also my favorite Craven film). But his crappy ones are....wow.
    BTW, Deadly Friend? Oh wow...wow..

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  3. No more blow jobs for you I guess... if you are going to trash talk me on the internet.

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  4. Craven ruuuuuules!
    SCREAM is the first horror movie I saw, and I gotta admit it's the best so far!
    ...But he did a mistake directing CURSED though...
    So granted that I'm in love with Christina Ricci since I saw her in THE ADDAMS FAMILY, it's not enough to bring the movie to a decent level...

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