Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Sunday (Maroochydore, Australia)

Face of; Marcus Williamson Looks at the Genius Behind the Late Wes Craven

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Sunday (Maroochydore, Australia)

Face of; Marcus Williamson Looks at the Genius Behind the Late Wes Craven

Article excerpt

WITH A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream, Wes Craven changed the face of horror in Hollywood.

Watching one of his films, he once said, is ''like a bootcamp for the psyche".

"In real life, human beings are packaged in the flimsiest of packages, threatened by real and sometimes horrifying dangers - events like Columbine," he said.

"But the narrative form puts these fears into a manageable series of events. It gives us a way of thinking rationally about our fears.''

Craven, far right, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1939. He studied English and psychology at Wheaton College, Illinois, then took a Masters in philosophy and writing at Johns Hopkins University, graduating in 1964.

He had a strict Baptist upbringing, but university changed his outlook, he said, giving him a ''transition from Christianity into a larger humanistic philosophy ... I replaced those very rigid views for a broader view of consciousness and the holiness of life itself".

After graduating, he spent time teaching at Westminster College, Pennsylvania, and then Clarkson College in Potsdam, New York, where he fell in love with cinema.

''There was an arthouse in the town that showed foreign films,'' he recalled, ''so the first grown-up, artistic films I really saw were the films of the New Wave: BuA[+ or -]uel, Fellini, Truffaut - all of those wonderfully inventive directors.''

He bought a simple 16mm camera and began to experiment.

He made his break into cinema in 1972 with The Last House on the Left, which famously bore the tagline: ''To avoid fainting, keep repeating, 'It's only a movie'."

The story of two teenage girls abducted, tortured and murdered by a group of psychopaths - and based on the Ingmar Bergman film The Virgin Spring, its graphic violence led to it being banned or censored in many countries.

The British Board of Film Classification did not approve it until 2002, eventually giving it an 18 certificate for its DVD release, after insisting on cuts.

Craven followed it with The Hills Have Eyes (1977), in which an American suburban family on a road trip is attacked in the desert by savages. It is a modern retelling of the story of Sawney Bean - a 16th century Scottish cannibal, possibly historical, probably mythical. A cult classic, the film was remade in 2006 by Alexandre Aja, with Craven producing.

The inspiration for Craven's magnum opus, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), which he wrote and directed, came out of his experience of living opposite a cemetery in Elm Street, Cleveland: his childhood home. It centres on a group of teenagers who are stalked and killed, both in their dreams and in real life.

"Horror films in general are about the terror of entering adulthood," he said, "because adulthood is actually evil. …

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