The films of Wes Craven

Even if you do not like horror, you would have heard of Wes Craven. The writer and director had a gift for inventing psychopaths that bring our deepest fears out into the open.

The former professor of humanities not only helped create the slasher genre, but he also made it smart, took it mainstream and spawned imitators.

The Last House On The Left (1972)

The low-budget exploitation flick about two young women captured by escaped convicts was written and directed by Craven.

The film, starring Richard Towers and Cynthia Carr, pushed the boundaries of allowable content at the time, but Craven's first feature contained the flourishes that would make his career: ultra-violence, thrill-killers and an awareness of the cultural zeigeist - hippie idealism (represented by the young women) rapidly giving way to something harder and darker.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

Along with The Last House On The Left, this horror classic starring Michael Berryman received a recent remake.

Craven took real-life stories of incestuous cannibal families living in remote regions and turned it into a splatter-fest. A family en route to California by caravan falls into the clutches of freaks somewhere in the Nevada desert. Craven shows the audience the worst that could happen if you stray from the main roads.

A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

Freddy Krueger - no one who saw this movie and was scarred by its terrifying premise can forget him. From the hat to his striped shirt and his bent for one-liners, Krueger (Robert Englund) was cheeky, unstoppable and completely fascinating. He would live on in several sequels.

The Serpent And The Rainbow (1988)

This was the slasher director trying his hand at psychological horror. Based on a popular science work of non-fiction by researcher Wade Davis, the movie starring Bill Pullman explores the world of voodoo cults and zombies in Haiti. It takes huge liberties with the source material, but audiences did not seem to mind.

Scream (1996)

First Freddy, now Ghostface.

Directed by Craven and written by Kevin Williamson, this movie became a sensation because it attracted fans who would not otherwise watch a slasher film. It broke through because it stars names such as Drew Barrymore and Courteney Cox, who was then in the popular Friends television sitcom. And it has Ghostface, who has since taken his place next to Freddy as a Craven baddie for the ages.

John Lui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2015, with the headline 'The films of Wes Craven'. Print Edition | Subscribe