NEW YORK • Prolific horror film-maker Wes Craven, who directed the slasher classic A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984), died on Sunday afternoon, his family said in a statement. He was 76.
Craven, who was also behind the 1996 horror hit Scream, died surrounded by his loved ones at his Los Angeles home after suffering from brain cancer, the family said.
"It is with deep sadness that we inform you that Wes Craven passed away," the family said. "Our hearts are broken."
Craven suffered from ailing health over the past three years, but continued to work on projects, including several television shows, a graphic novel and a new film, The Girl In The Photographs, which is set to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival next month.
Wesley Earl Craven, born in Cleveland, shot to fame, at least among horror film fans, with his first feature, The Last House On The Left (1972), which has achieved cult classic status over the decades. He moved into film work after spending a few years as a college professor.
Other horror films now deemed classics quickly followed, including The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and Swamp Thing (1982).
However, it was with A Nightmare On Elm Street that he rose to the top of the genre.
The film, which cost less than US$2 million to make, starred Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, a clawed villain who torments a group of youth through their dreams.
It was a box-office bonanza earning about US$25 million and spawned eight sequels, as well as a television series and novels.
Craven's signature concept of dreams and fantasies overlapping reality echoed throughout his career, including in The Hills Have Eyes, The Serpent And The Rainbow (1988) and The People Under The Stairs (1991).
In 1996, he struck box-office gold again with Scream, another teens-in-peril slasher film which also satirised the genre.
It was inspired by his love of Halloween and went on to spawn several sequels, although only Scream 2 (1997) become a major box-office success.
He broke from the genre in 2005 with Red Eye, a well-received aeroplane thriller that starred Rachel McAdams.
He was awarded lifetime achievement awards by the New York City Horror Film Festival and the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, according to the Internet Movie Database.
Tributes poured in for the film director, writer and producer as news of his death spread.
"Today, the world lost a great man, my friend and mentor Wes Craven. My heart goes out to his family," actress Courteney Cox, who starred in Scream and appeared in the franchise's three subsequent films, posted on Twitter.
Actress Rose McGowan, who was also featured in the original Scream, said on Twitter: "Shedding tears now. A giant has left us."
He leaves behind his wife, a son, a daughter and a stepdaughter.
In David Konow's book Reel Terror, Craven said horror movies had to get under people's skin in ways they would not expect.
He added: "Horror movies have to show us something that hasn't been shown before so that the audience is completely taken aback.
" You see, it's not just that people want to be scared. People are scared."
REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES