Rest in pieces

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

As an avid fan of the horror genre, I was upset to learn that legendary director Wes Craven died this weekend. Craven is responsible for horror classics like "The Last House on the Left," "A Nightmare on Elm Street"and the Scream series.

I love all these films, but "Scream" is especially dear to me. Released in 1996, "Scream" simultaneously revived and satirized the slasher genre. It spurred similar, less quality films like "Urban Legends" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer." I'd even categorize "Halloween H2O" in this group; though it was part of an long-running series, its tone notably reflected the metafiction cultivated in "Scream."

I wasn't old enough to understand this when I first watched, instead feeling captured by the legitimate fear Craven created. I've watched a lot of horror movies, and few pull the viewer in the way "Scream" does.

I'm not sure any film has ever terrified me as much as the opening scene in "Scream." In that scene, Drew Barrymore's character Casey Becker is taunted over the phone before being ruthlessly stabbed with her parents just a few feet away. The killer crushes her vocal chords, so she can't scream out for help.

The film sustains the tension in its opening scene until the end. Fortunately, the characters in "Scream" are aware of their situation, often mocking the way people act in slasher films. This sets the film apart from other slasher films but, more importantly, helps relieve tension during non-kill scenes.

Because of this, the characters feel real. Their relationships feel real. When they die, it feels real. Much of this is due to Kevin Williamson's outstanding script -- a screenwriting feat he has never topped -- but Craven is responsible for executing the script's vision.

Craven's other films are just as good as "Scream" for different reasons. "The Last House on the Left" is a disturbing glimpse at humanity; it causes the viewer to question how he or she would react if given the opportunity to kill a person who has hurt a loved one.

"A Nightmare on Elm Street" is probably Craven's most classic work. It features Freddy Krueger, the murdered child killer out to avenge his death by haunting the dreams of teenagers. But these aren't just any teenagers. No, they are the children of the people who killed Krueger.

This isn't just any horror film, either. With Krueger haunting dreams, it evokes the idea of the boogeyman. If you don't believe in something, does it cease to exist? Can you close your eyes and wish an imaginary predator away?

The specific, thought-provoking themes of Craven's work set it apart from other horror movies. "The Last House on the Left" isn't just a revenge flick. "A Nightmare on Elm Street" isn't just a supernatural horror movie. "Scream" certainly isn't your run-of-the-mill slasher film.

Wes Craven made unique horror movies. He challenged and changed the static nature of the horror genre. As a fan of films that really make me think, I will miss him.

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Samantha Jones is a reporter for the Carroll County News. Her email address is CCNNews@cox-internet.com