Wes Craven, creator of such delicious horror film fare as A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes, and Scream, died Sunday of brain cancer at this family home in Los Angeles. Mr. Craven was 76.
The well-known horror director and writer was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton University and a master’s in philosophy from John Hopkins University. He worked for a short period of time as a professor before diving in to film work. Though he is best known for the violence and grit in his horror movies, Mr. Craven did veer from the genre to write and direct other films, including The Music of the Heart, for which Meryl Streep won an Oscar.
The 1996 Scream franchise elevated Mr. Craven’s career to new levels, generating hundreds of millions of dollars and launching a long-running series of the films, though it was difficult to get the film into theaters in the first place. “We had a very difficult time getting an audience into a theater on my name,” Mr. Craven said in an interview with director Mick Garris. “In fact, we moved toward downplaying my name a lot on Music of the Heart. The more famous you are for making kinds of outrageous scary films, the more the crossover audience will say, ‘I don’t think so.’”
In addition to his other directorial works, Mr. Craven appeared in several films, including Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Paris, je t’aime, and appeared on an episode of the television series Castle. Early in his career, he also wrote and directed a number of pornographic movies.
According to the New York Times, Mr. Craven explained his theory about successful horror movies: “Horror movies have to show us something that hasn’t been shown before so that the audience is completely taken aback,” he said. “It’s not just that people want to be scared; people are scared.”
Mr. Craven’s forty-year career as a filmmaker has left its mark on the film industry, and not just horror. He is survived by his wife and several children.