The Horror Honeys: RIP Wes Craven ~ August 2, 1939 - August 30, 2015

RIP Wes Craven ~ August 2, 1939 - August 30, 2015

A Horror Honeys Tribute to Wes Craven

Head Honey Kat

To say that the sudden passing of Wes Craven on August 30th was a sharp blow to the gut of the horror community would be the very definition of an understatement. As a director who ushered many a young horror fan into the arms of our greatest film genre love, Craven's passing was (for some of us) like losing a close relative. Craven was active on Twitter and loved interacting with his fanbase, participating in Fangoria Question of the Day contests and sharing news, advice, and his amazing t-shirt collection with his followers.

In my teens I was in a horror drought of sorts... my friends hated horror movies, and I lived too far away from a theatre to see what I wanted to see on my own. Once I hit university, the internet was starting to be a thing, and I could finally do and watch what I wanted, when I wanted. My introduction to Wes Craven as a director came with Serpent and the Rainbow - while it was released in 1988, I didn't see it until 1999 in a university classroom ~ Archaeology and Religion to be specific. I had read Wade Davis' book, and was stunned to see how the film brought it to life. I was mesmerized by the imagery and the terror that translated to screen. Serpent and the Rainbow is still my favorite Craven film. When I think about my relationship with Craven's films, it was Serpent and the Rainbow that made me want more, and over the next year I devoured his film catalogue, freaking out boyfriends and study groups like it was my job.

Wes Craven's passing is an event that will haunt the horror community for many years to come, but, in spite of the sorrow we feel, it is the intense feeling of gratitude that remains constant - even though Wes Craven is gone, his work will remain for new generations of horror fans to enjoy, and those of us in the "old guard" to cherish. And that, is as close to immortality as we will ever get.

Sci-Fi Honey Katie

Like many of you, the first Wes Craven film I saw was A Nightmare on Elm Street. I was young. I was terrified. I loved it.

As I got older and was exposed to the entire Nightmare series as well as Craven’s other films, I started to see a side to his work that I’d previously overlooked or was too immature to comprehend. Freddy Krueger occasionally shifted into comic relief mode, and films like Deadly Friend and Scream had moments of levity overwrought with gruesome effects that distracted from the story. But Craven’s early work was unapologetically dark, and I think that’s a motif that persisted throughout his career, even in his films that seem like lighter fare on the surface. Craven’s films showed us that it’s not necessarily the realm of the supernatural that we have to fear, it’s the horrors lurking in the everyday: atoning for the sins of our parents, suffering abuse perpetrated by authority figures, even instilling dread in something as ordinary as falling asleep. Those sinister undertones may have been more subtle in some films, but it’s always present – lending Craven’s work a thematic sophistication that is rarely achieved by contemporary filmmakers working within the horror genre.

Along with mourning the projects that could've been, I’ll miss the man whose presence online was always a bright spot in my social media world. Wes was happy to venture into the darkness and engage with fans on the subject of horror, but he also shared a humorous, cat-loving side of himself that was both charming and sweet. I’ll miss reading through his posts and tagging him on Twitter when I wanted to celebrate our birthday (that’s right; I’ve lost my birthday twin). It's a combination of many small things that added up to something very special in Wes and his invaluable contribution to our beloved genre, and I'll always keep his memory alive in my horror heart.

Revenge Honey Linnie

The People Under the Stairs wasn't the first Wes Craven movie I saw (that distinction belongs to Shocker, though I can't for the life of me tell you why). I don't even think its his best (I believe his best is New Nightmare and I dare you to challenge me). TPUTS wasn't the first, or even the best, but it has been my favorite since I first saw it when I was eleven or twelve, and it's because of this film that I went back and discovered all of the other genius that Wes Craven had to offer.

For me, TPUTS isn't just a horror movie; it's a movie about family, greed, love, child abuse, class, and how all of these can come together to make a real statement about life in America when the American dream is always just out of reach. When Wes made The Last House on the Left, the tagline was, "Keep repeating... it's only a movie." But I turned to Wes Craven films because they were never "only a movie." He always had something vital to say, and I mourn his loss for all the lessons left he had to teach us. There will never be another voice like his.

Monster Honey Jennica 

Wes Craven had said, "The first monster that an audience has to be scared of is the filmmaker. They have to feel in the presence of someone not confined by the normal rules of propriety and decency." If anyone acknowledged and mastered the art of shock value, it was definitely him. One of my earliest theatrical experiences as a budding horror fan was Scream (1996). My parents took me to see the movie when I was eight years old and the opening scene alone forever redefined horror as I knew it. The genre was no longer limited to monsters, possessed dolls, and escaped lunatics; now, even my friends could not be trusted. Early on in my life, Craven had already set a high standard for the horror films I had yet to discover. 

As a young college student, Craven was at it again when I decided to rent a rather controversial movie called The Last House On the Left (1972). To this day, I have not returned to this film. Not because it was bad or necessarily in poor taste, but because it struck a nerve. It made me uncomfortable, it made me angry, and it made me reach for the nearest Disney movie on my shelf as soon as the end credits rolled. To me, that is the true meaning of shock value. And that is what makes Wes Craven a legendary filmmaker. 

I still cannot bear the thought of living in a world without Wes Craven continuing to give me new nightmares and push my imagination to the limit. To the man who laughed in the face of propriety and decency and showcased life's terrifying truths, I say thank you for being such a presence in the horror community. May Wes Craven's legacy live on and may he rest in peace. Pleasant nightmares, my deadly friend

The Horror TV Honey Lisa ~ Last House on the Left

Mr. Craven grew up in a strict, religious household and this especially shines through in his earlier films. Coming from a strict, religious house as well, my first encounter with The Last House on the Left remains one of the most visceral movie experiences of my life. A friend and I went through Leonard Maltins movie review book and held a Bad Movie Partybased on the star rating he gave movies. Mr. Maltin refused to give The Last House on the Left a star at all, so it was our feature film after Excorcist 2. This was way back in high school which puts me around 15 or 16 when I finally saw this movie. Im sure that most people saw this film at an earlier age, but as I said, I come from a specific childhood where this kind of movie was not exactly on my radar. To say that I was emotionally traumatized and mentally scarred by this movie wouldnt fully express how it affected me. It would be twenty years before I was willing to watch this movie again and I only did so after reading a particularly insightful interview that Mr. Craven did for Playboy. In it, he specifically spoke about The Last House on the Left and how his upbringing compelled him to do this remake of The Virgin Spring. He spoke freely about religion and the impact, both positive and negative, it can have on oneself. Reading this interview made me realize that what had really bothered me about the film were the deep rooted biblical fears. I really do not know how to appropriately explain this. I only know that in reading about his personal fears, obstacles and experiences, that I had always had a kindred spirit in my  video collection, but I just hadnt realized it. To learn that a man who was well known for being kind, intelligent and gentle was also battling a lot of the same internal conflicts that I was and was also utilizing horror as an avenue to work through them was liberating. I no longer felt selfish, ignorant or disrespectful to what my parents had taught me. I just felt human. 

Wes Craven stands next to Alfred Hitchcock in my personal cinematic history of the many reasons behind why I love horror films. Wes Craven allows me to work through a multitude of personal demons with my oldest and best friend: the television screen. Hes not a master of horror just because he knows how to frame a scene, create an iconic shot, connect you with the characters or make you rethink what you thought you knew about the genre. Hes a master because he always put his heart and soul into it. Whether its one of his iconic films or one of his films that didnt quite capture the publics imagination, they are all pieces of work that you can feel his love in and that is exactly why we all felt a personal loss when the world lost him. Its strange to feel a personal loss when someone that you never had the privilege to meet passes, but the fact that we all felt this on an emotional level is a testament to just how deeply he touched all of us.

Slasher Honey Chassity ~ Scream

There is one word that comes to mind when I think of Wes Craven: Education. That’s because for me, he’s been the beginning, the foundation, of my entire horror education. 

Wes Craven gave me my first (and, to be quite honest, only) true haunting scare with The Last House On The Left. To this day, after just shy of 20 years loving and studying the horror genre, it is the only film that terrifies me and teaches me over and over again what horror is all about. It’s so terrifying that I struggle to get through it, and every time I try to, I find something new to make me not sleep for at least a day. That kind of impact is more than I can say for any other horror filmmaker.

But even that isn’t the thing I think of most when it comes to Wes Craven. For me, the most meaningful thing that he’s given to the horror genre is the Scream films.

Because that’s where my love of horror began. Scream was the first horror film I fell in love with, and I remember sneaking and watching it with my brother, and then dissecting it, at the young ages of 10 and 7. There was just something about the mystery of it all that drew us in. We imagined that we would both be like Randy when we were teenagers; we would have snuck and seen many horror films by then, and then we’d sit in the cafeteria or the local hang out spot discussing horror films with our peers. 

From then on, we started sneaking and seeing other slashers films like the ones mentioned in the first Scream. In that way, this franchise shaped the horror fan that I turned out to be. Because of Wes Craven and Scream, I developed an undying love for slashers in a way that I just don’t connect as much with other horror subgenres. 

I don’t think that the Scream films would have turned out to be what they were if it weren’t for Wes Craven. He took a simple vision and brought it to life in a way that, I think it’s safe to say, any other director wouldn’t have done justice and, at their best, probably would have minimized. Without him, I imagine that the original could have run the risk of being forgettable. I say this because the beauty that is that infamous opening scene is so powerful purely because of the genius of Craven. Many times he told the story of the kid who convinced to finally say yes to doing Scream by calling his other work… well, to paraphrase, not so scary. To that kid, wherever you are and whoever you grew up to be, I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you.

Because of Scream, Craven introduced me to the concept of the Final Girl (and, as a by-product, feminism). I also learned the greatest writing tip of my life from what he turned that original’s opening scene into. 

Scream started something for me that has become a tradition: horror movie night for me and my brother. It began with watching these movies when we were little, and we still get together at least once a month to do it. It’s the thing that keeps us close to this day, and Craven and his team are responsible for that. It’s the franchise that we love so much, we would celebrate rare snow days out from school with popcorn and these movies. Talking about Scream 3 even once reunited me with a cousin I hadn’t seen in years, and who, since then, I have become extremely close to. So for me, this Craven franchise is comforting, familiar, and makes me think of family. 

Without Scream, I wouldn’t be the Slasher Honey. Without all of these movies, I wouldn’t even be a horror fan. It’s because of Wes Craven that this genre is one of my greatest loves in life. And of all the horror movies I’ve seen over the 20 years since I discovered, it is still the franchise that’s most important to me.

Hardcover Honey Jocelyn ~ Shocker

I really loved Shocker. It had Mitch Pilleggi (pre X-Files) and Peter Berg (pre-assholism) and it was about (if I remember correctly): a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad man who somehow gets into the electrical system in a prison while he's being electrocuted via electric chair (as you do) and then proceeds to travel from person to person anytime they touch a light switch or various other electrical devices. And, it was basically bat-shit crazy, a lot of fun, and made a perfect double-feature with my other favorite movie of the time, Angel ("schoolgirl by day, hooker by night..."). 

And now, I'm off to rent both films to see how well they have stood the test of time... I am devastated that Wes Craven died but I love it that so many of our horror family was online this week comforting each other and sharing memories. This is such a great community and I am lucky to inhabit one teeny-tiny corner of it with a great coven of women in the Horror Honeys!