Monday, August 31, 2015

RIP Wes Craven 1939-2015

2015 has been a rough year to be a Horror fan, hasn't it?  We've lost way too many of our heroes this year and, unfortunately, we just lost another Great yesterday.

Wes Craven passed away from brain cancer at the age of 76.

When I saw the news dropped in as a comment on a Facebook thread, my heart sank.  After googling Wes to confirm my worst fear, I was immediately heart-broken and am still having a rough time dealing with his loss.  As I typed out a quick acknowledgement on Facebook last night, legit tears streamed down my face.  Some celebrity deaths are met with a sigh and a frown, but this one hit me really hard. 

It's no secret how important Freddy Krueger and the entire A Nightmare on Elm Street phenomenon has been in my life, but the first time I actually remember seeing Wes Craven speak on-camera about it goes back to when I was at least 5 or 6 years old.  The moment was part of an interview segment on the Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors VHS documentary where Wes, along with Robert Englund, was seen on-hand signing autographs for eager fans and talking about the then still relatively young beast that he had birthed only a couple of years earlier.  

While I still have my original VHS, this copy is actually my wife's.

Wes, discussing the surreal nature of the Nightmare films.
On that initial introduction to the man -- and to this day -- I didn't think he looked like the type of guy who made Horror movies.  In fact, given his past career as an English teacher, he always reminded me of one of my own favorite professors.

I could watch and listen to a Wes Craven interview for hours, just to hear the man talk and wax philosophical about the genre I love.  As far as I'm concerned, Wes was the Thinking Man's Horror Filmmaker.  He brought depth and, quite frankly, the discussive nature to the genre.  

Recently on Twitter, Wes tweeted out these words of wisdom to aspiring filmmakers:  

"Take the 1st job you can in the industry you want to get into. The job doesn't matter, getting your foot in the door does."

From what I've read about his early interest in film, he took his own advice, getting his foot in the door with rougher and cruder (in every sense of the word) fare before making the leap to mainstream success with A Nightmare on Elm Street and eventually becoming a household name with the Scream series.  It's worth noting that he made a helluva an impact in 3 separate decades with his work -- Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes struck nerves in the 70s, Nightmare pretty much defined the 80s, and Scream revitalized a genre that was almost on life-support in the 90s.  That's three generations that his work reached!

Back in 1995, my parents took me to my first ever Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors convention in Manhattan.  As a 13yr old kid, I was mainly there to see and meet Ken Foree from Dawn of the Dead, though the bill also had Angus Scrimm, Heather Langenkamp, Clive Barker (apparently...though I don't remember that at all, but I just saw a flyer for the show today on Facebook), and of course, Wes Craven.  It goes without saying how starstruck I was meeting Ken Foree, so it's no surprise that I couldn't muster up the courage to meet anyone else at that show, even Heather and Wes!  Although, I do fondly recall giving a wave to Wes as he was out in the hallway, signing for courageous fans . . . and he waved back.

Finally, even though I've shared this pic on Facebook, it deserves to be shared here.  A couple of years ago, my wife and I did a joint Halloween costume as Freddy and Nancy.  Kudos go to Wife for her level of detail in creating her Nancy costume, which I'd like to think got some attention on Instagram from Wes . . . 

Even though my pic was probably one of hundreds he saw that day on Instagram, the fact that he took a second to not only take a look, but also"like" it . . . incredible!  The closest I've come to holding court with the man.  Speaking of the presence that Wes had on Instagram, I will really miss his posts, dropping little hints as to where he currently was or was on his way to in the world.  His photos were humorous, often sharing silly memes or showing off his animals.  The man also had some great Throwback Thursday photos that he'd tease his followers with to guess what the film was!  In short, his posts were always a great time!

In a couple of weeks, Horror Hound Weekend will be celebrating one of the largest Nightmare reunions ever, gathering members of the Nightmare family from the original and all its sequels in Indianapolis.  I look forward to sharing Nightmare memories with fellow fans and the alumni who will be there that weekend!  It's ironic that I just saw someone requesting Wes to be added to the guest list, literally, on Saturday . . . he'll be there with us for sure.

With that said, it deeply pains me to bid farewell to someone who has helped shape me and my interests ever since I was a little kid.  He leaves behind an incredible legacy of fear, scares, chills, and laughs.    

Sleep peacefully, sir.  RIP Wes Craven.