Wes Craven, born on August 2, 1939, is a genteel, literate director who has turned out some of the most relentless horror films ever made. Craven studied philosophy and literature at Wheaton College and Johns Hopkins, and had actually become a professor of literature before joining up with Sean Cunningham (Friday the 13th) as a film editor. He caused a stir with his first directorial outing, Last House on the Left (1972), a shockingly violent tale of senseless mayhem and revenge reportedly adapted from Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring.
Craven more or less disappeared for five years before returning to the big screen with The Hills Have Eyes (1977), which brought him enough critical and commercial attention to precipitate a constant flow of horror vehicles, some successful (1981's Deadly Blessing) and some not (1982's Swamp Thing). Craven's most popular movie, from a box-office standpoint, was A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), which introduced child-killer Freddy Krueger to the moviegoing public and spawned six sequels (the last of which, 1994's Wes Craven's New Nightmare, was the only one he directed) that made its studio--New Line--one of the most successful independents in the business.
The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1985) didn't enjoy its predecessor's success, nor did Deadly Friend (1986). Craven made a worthy effort to "legitimize" horror in 1988 with the chilling supernatural thriller The Serpent and the Rainbow, based on the best-selling book by Wade Davis. He created a fanciful TV sitcom called The People Next Door, which lasted just one month in 1989, and executive produced Nightmare Cafe (1992), which starred Elm Street's Robert Englund. He bounced back, with a vengeance, in 1991, when his The People Under the Stairs garnered many excellent reviews and turned a respectable profit. He then went on to repeat his Elm Street box-office success with a new series of horror-comedy films beginning with Scream (1996).
--LEONARD MALTIN, from
Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia.
A selection of Wes Craven films.
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A selection Wes Craven related books.
A History of Horror
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