This past weekend, horror lost one of their masters. Wes Craven has passed away leaving a legacy that has created many of the scariest movies of film’s history. His influence will live on in his films and the impact he has had on the horror genre. Though I never got to meet him, his spirit has been a presence in my life since I was a kid.
From a young age I fell in love with horror even though my catholic mom totally freaked out and forbade me from reading, watching, and looking up anything related to it. She only let me see happy things like Disney movies, a funny little tidbit that would make Wes Craven a kindred spirit. The director grew up in a religious home that forbade any sort of movies except Disney and wouldn’t actually get to see many films until his adulthood. He grew up to be the man who not only brought us nightmares but through them would unveil the true horrors of life and that the most unexpected of heroes could rise up to stop the terror.
Scream‘s Sidney Prescott changed my life, she taught me that you can take the power away from those who seek to make you a victim, fight back and speak out to overcome awful experiences. The kids in A Nightmare on Elm Street took a stand against paying for their parent’s mistakes. The parents in Last House of the Left exacted revenge on the psychos who raped their daughter. All of his films taught me that you had to become stronger than whatever was trying to get you.
I wouldn’t have learned any of this if not for seeing Scream at a young age and becoming utterly fascinated by it even though I wasn’t supposed to. I have Craven to thank for my first like-minded friends during an age where I couldn’t just find one through social media. Talking about my love for Scream with another kid who loved it too led to being introduced to his other films such as The Hills Have Eyes and Last House on the Left. I’d sneak these and other horror VHS’ home and didn’t care about being grounded if I got caught and had to bring my friend’s movies back. I did find my calling in being denied and constantly grounded over wanting more dark stories and movies in my life.
I figured, if I could no longer get horror in my hands, my hands would create it.
Inspired by the dark humor in Craven’s films and Whedon’s Buffy, I started to write stories and bring them to school to share with my friend who’d also share his stories with me. We wrote about monsters and kids who coped with the terrors we’d unleash through them with dark humor. We’d exchange notes and reactions while in class to each others writing and I don’t regret sucking at math because of it.
A few years ago, I directed a play called ‘Death Comes for a Wedding’ and after the play my parents looked to me with understanding for the first time. They finally got that it. That behind the scares are the kind of tales that bring people together to realize that finding strength in the most of terrifying of situations is the bravest thing you can do.
I didn’t know Craven personally but I know the effect he had on my life in learning what I could about the stories I want to tell and for that I will always be thankful.