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Overview for Wes Craven
Wes Craven

Wes Craven

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Also Known As: Wesley Earl Craven Died:
Born: August 2, 1939 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Cleveland, Ohio, USA Profession: Writer ... producer director screenwriter editor actor cab driver professor messenger
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BIOGRAPHY

of the most successful entries in the franchise, Craven rebounded significantly with "The Serpent and the Rainbow" (1988), an ambitious and atmospheric period piece set in a pre-revolutionary Haiti that earned a fair share of admirers over the years. He failed in his attempt to create another Freddy Krueger in serial killer Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi), the persistent villain of the violent, but silly thriller "Shocker" (1989). Staying with the serial killer story for a return to television, Craven wrote and directed "Night Visions" (NBC, 1990), a toned-down mystery thriller about a criminal psychology grad student (Loryn Locklin) caught up in a serial killer investigation. He next attempted to blend social commentary about racism and the poor into the horror genre for "The People Under the Stairs" (1991), which resulted in a clever, but ultimately uneven film that nonetheless became a mild box office success. Meanwhile, Craven reunited with "Elm Street" star Robert Englund for the short-lived anthology series "The Nightmare Cafe" (NBC, 1992), which centered on an unusual café where patrons have a second chance to change their pasts, often realizing their most feared nightmare in the process.

Craven finally returned to classic filmmaking form with "Wes Craven's New Nightmare" (1994), a complex and highly reflexive narrative about the nature and function of horror films that incorporated dreams he had while making the film. Set in the so-called real world of filmmaking, Craven appeared in the film as a fictionalized version of himself, playing a filmmaker struggling to reign in a film project, only to find his fictional creation, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), terrorizing the actors on his set. With the director wisely eliminating the campy humor that had overtaken the series, "New Nightmare" earned its share of critical praise, though box office returns were unfortunately lacking. Craven followed up with a relatively high-profile horror comedy vehicle for Eddie Murphy, who was then in the midst of a serious career slump. Unlike his last Freddy opus, "Vampire in Brooklyn" (1996) was clearly a work-for-hire assignment for Craven. A horror fan himself, Murphy contacted the genre auteur with a script he had co-written with his brothers. Though billed as a comic tale of horror and seduction, the film played like an uneven vampire outing with moments of comic relief. Both press and public were unimpressed and the film retired to an early grave.

Regardless of the commercial and critical failure of "Vampire in Brooklyn," Craven emerged not only unscathed, but on something of a roll. The following year found him with half a dozen projects in various stages of development. Craven moved on to direct his most commercially successful film, "Scream" (1996), a mainstream comedy-thriller boasting a fashionable young cast (Courteney Cox, Drew Barrymore and David Arquette), and a clever script from Kevin Williamson that both satirized and used to great effect the conventions of the horror genre. Self-referential without being coy or campy, "Scream" became a huge hit for Craven, whose career ascendency in Hollywood may have left longtime fans feeling that something vital had been lost. Nevertheless, Craven had found himself a new and lucrative film franchise, which saw him helm both sequels, "Scream 2" (1997) and "Scream 3" (2000). In between, Craven veered far off the horror path and completed an unusual project, "Music of the Heart" (1999), a heartwarming and inspirational biopic of music teacher Roberta Guispari-Tzavaras (Meryl Streep), who believes music, not discipline, is the key for a group of Harlem children trying to find purpose in life. Though the film received mixed critical reviews, Craven was nonetheless praised for taking a risk and going outside his comfort zone.

After a short hiatus from the big screen Craven, reunited with "Scream" screenwriter Kevin Williamson for the werewolf thriller "Cursed" (2005) starring Christina Ricci. But a rather predictable storyline coupled with cheap special effects and few scares resulted in a poor showing with both critics and audiences. Craven fared much better with his next horror thriller, "Red Eye" (2005), which featured a resourceful hotel employee (Rachel McAdams) secretly menaced on a red-eye flight by a mysterious stranger (Cillian Murphy) threatening her father's life. Craven again showed his extraordinary skill in building suspense and crafting scares while still respecting his audience's intelligence with a strong, but simple story. While serving as the producer on remakes of his own films, "The Hills Have Eyes" (2006) and "The Hills Have Eyes 2" (2007), he directed a segment in the anthologized "Paris, I Love You" (2007), which featured a large and diverse contingent of directors, including Joel and Ethan Coen, Alfonso Cuaron, Alexander Payne and Walter Salles. After writing and directing "My Soul to Take" (2010), a horror thriller about seven teenagers slated to die after a serial killer's curse, Craven directed "Scream 4" (2011), his final film. Wes Craven died of brain cancer on August 30, 2015 at his Los Angeles home. He was 76.

er feature, though he did manage to helm a television movie "Stranger in Our House" (NBC, 1978), starring B-movie queen Linda Blair in a tale of teenage witchcraft.

Craven returned to features with "Deadly Blessing" (1981), an uneven but frightening tale of a woman (Maren Jensen) terrorized by a rural religious sect led by a repressive leader (Ernest Borgnine). Largely ill-received and forgotten after its release, the film remained nothing more than a curiosity for hardcore fans of the director. He moved on to direct "The Swamp Thing" (1982), a departure from the horror genre into a spoof of 1950s science fiction thrillers about a scientist (Ray Wise) who is accidentally turned into a half-human, half-plant after a thief (Louis Jordan) tries to steal his secret potion. Though derided by some for its cheesy special effects, the film nonetheless was another cult classic for the director. Craven finally gained some measure of success and industry clout with "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984), in which the horrific Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) haunts the dreamscapes of small-town American teens. The hard-edged and strikingly surreal original ¿ which starred a then-unknown Johnny Depp ¿ was followed by five popular and increasingly campy sequels, all of which Craven had very little, if anything, to do with. But unfortunately for him, Crave signed away his rights to the profits from merchandising, sequels and pretty much everything else in order to assure that his film was financed and that he would have other opportunities to direct.

Over the ensuing decades, the franchise generated over a half a billion dollars worldwide, but Craven received a paltry $400,000. Nonetheless, having his name associated with the successful series led to expanded career opportunities. Going back to the well of one of his previous successes, he directed "The Hills Have Eyes II" (1985), which focused on a group of wild motocross racers stalked by a group of cannibals. Made out of desperation for money, the film bombed at the box office and was later disowned by Craven himself. Meanwhile, the director began working regularly in television in the mid-1980s, helming projects like first season episodes of CBS¿ revival of "The Twilight Zone" (1985-87) and the made-for-television supernatural thriller, "Chiller" (CBS, 1985). Back to features, he made "Deadly Friend" (1986), a gratuitously violent thriller that was seriously marred by censorship and studio interference, while suffering from a decidedly unsure hand by Craven himself, who seemed intent on drawing reference to "A Nightmare on Elm Street" regardless of how awkwardly such elements fit into the plot.

After co-writing the script for "A Nightmare on Elm Street Part III: Dream Warriors" (1987), one

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