Legendary horror filmmaker Wes Craven has died

wes craven death a nightmare on elm street scream
[Image courtesy of DFree/Shutterstock]
Acclaimed filmmaker Wes Craven died Sunday at the age of 76.

Best known for creating the Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream horror franchises, Craven reportedly died after a long battle with brain cancer at his home in Los Angeles.

Craven first captured the attention of Hollywood with his 1972 revenge thriller The Last House on the Left, which generated no small amount of controversy due to its intense themes and graphic imagery. Craven wrote, directed, and edited the film himself — a hallmark of many of his projects.

He later wrote and directed the disturbing 1977 horror movie The Hills Have Eyes, which cemented his reputation as one of the horror genre’s rising stars.

His breakout hit, however, was 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. A reinvention of teen-oriented horror films, A Nightmare on Elm Street gave the world one of the genre’s most famous — or infamous, in this case — supernatural-slasher icons: Freddy Krueger. The film featured a then-unknown Johnny Depp in one of his first major movie roles, and was massive success at the box office. Critically praised at the time of its release, the film is widely regarded as one of the greatest horror movies ever made and spawned eight subsequent films in the franchise.

A decade after directing A Nightmare on Elm Street, Craven returned to the director’s chair in 1994 for Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, a deconstruction of the Elm Street franchise that had many of the series’ stars playing versions of themselves as they’re stalked by a new, even more sinister Krueger made real by the franchise’s popularity.

According to Craven, the idea for the Elm Street franchise came to him after reading about traumatized refugees from war zones who refused to sleep due to terrible nightmares, only to die when they did finally succumb to their fatigue. Craven named Freddy Krueger after a childhood bully who tormented him when he was younger, and reportedly took the series’ iconic street name from the road that bordered a cemetery where he grew up in Cleveland.

In 1996, Craven continued his genre-redefining ways with Scream, a slasher film that used the tropes of horror movies as fuel for a scary — and seemingly self-aware — deconstruction of the genre. The film went on to become the highest-grossing slasher movie of all time in the U.S. and is credited with revitalizing the horror genre for a new generation of movie audiences.

That film’s 1997 sequel, Scream 2, was also directed by Craven and was similarly well-received by critics and general audiences and played with the conventions of horror sequels in much the same way its predecessor did with traditional cliches of the genre. Craven would go on to direct all four films in the Scream franchise, which collectively earned more than $331 million domestically and more than $600 million worldwide.

Along with his work in horror, Craven also directed Meryl Streep in the 1999 drama Music of the Heart, which earned the actress an Oscar nomination for portraying a music teacher in an inner-city school.

“We had a very difficult time getting an audience into a theater on my name,” said Craven in an October 2014 interview with Masters of Horror series creator 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 crossover audience will say, ‘I don’t think so.'”

Craven also penned his first novel, The Fountain Society, in 1999. The story follows a brilliant physicist who receives a new lease on life from a secret organization, only to be hunted by that same organization when he refuses to assist in a terrifying project.

Later in life, Craven served as a producer on several remakes of his past films, including the 2006 version of The Hills Have Eyes and a 2009 remake of The Last House on the Left. He also served as an executive producer on the upcoming Scream television series. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the season finale of that series will pay tribute to Craven.

His last directorial project was 2011’s Scream 4, while his last film as both writer and director was the 2010 horror film My Soul To Take.

Along with being an accomplished filmmaker, Craven was known to be an avid nature lover who served on the board of directors for the California Audubon Society. He penned a monthly column titled “Wes Craven’s The Birds” for Martha’s Vineyard Magazine.

“I think it is an extraordinary opportunity and gift to be able to make films in general, and to have done it for almost 40 years now is remarkable,” Craven told Garris in that 2014 interview. “If I have to do the rest of the films in the [horror] genre, no problem. If I’m going to be a caged bird, I’ll sing the best song I can.”

Movies & TV

'Halloween' sequel gives new life to an old killer

David Gordon Green's Halloween sequel finds the right balance between the familiar and the new with a terrifying return to the blood-soaked saga of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (October 2018)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Movies & TV

Out of movies to binge? Our staff picks the best flicks on Hulu right now

From classics to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in October, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Black Panther’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

‘Orange is the New Black’ will end with season 7, Netflix says

Netflix has confirmed that its award-winning series Orange is the New Black will end its run with the upcoming season 7, bringing the show to an end with a final season premiering in 2019.
Home Theater

They’re not just for gaming: Watch Blu-rays on the Xbox One S and Xbox One X

While the Xbox One S and Xbox One X boost the visuals of your games, they also can pull double-duty as Blu-ray players, but there's a bit of set up needed. Need help? Here's our guide on how to watch Blu-rays on the Xbox One S and X.
Movies & TV

You can ditch cable but still get your 'SportsCenter' fix with ESPN+

ESPN's streaming service, ESPN+, is finally here. Despite appearances, ESPN+ isn't a replacement for your ESPN cable channels, and it differs from other streaming apps in a few key ways.
Movies & TV

Title logo for 'John Wick 3' makes its debut during licensing show

The third installment of the wildly successful action series that stars Keanu Reeves as a deadly assassin forced out of retirement, John Wick 3: Parabellum, hits theaters in May 2019. Here's everything we know about the movie so far.

Michael Myers returns, Jonah Hill goes back to the '90s

This week on Between the Streams, we'll be discussing the latest take on the Halloween saga, aptly titled Halloween, as well as some major TV cancellations, Marvel and DC news, an intriguing new movie from Jonah Hill about the '90s, and…
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this fall with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Castle Rock'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we've put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best new movie trailers: ‘Curse of La Llorona,’ ‘Jonathan,’ and more

Everyone loves a good trailer, but keeping up with what's new isn't easy. To simplify things, we round up the best ones each week. On tap this week: New trailers for The Curse of La Llarona, The Kid Who Would Be King, and more.
Movies & TV

Best new shows and movies to stream: ‘Apostle,’ ‘Daredevil’ season 3, and more

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: Apostle, Daredevil season 3, Making A Murderer season 2, and more.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.