We recently lost one of the horror genre’s heroes, Wes Craven. The man is most known for creating one of horror’s best mascots with A Nightmare on Elm Street as well starting the slasher revival with Scream. The general public tends to forget the man made many more films. Kicking off Alternative Nation’s Halloween 2015 editorials, here are a few of Craven’s best films that don’t star Freddy Krueger or Ghostface.
Deadly Friend (1986)
Paul Conway is a young child prodigy whose best friend is a robot he built named BB (who has nothing on robot BB-8 in the new Star Wars flick). He also has a crush on his neighbor Samantha, who is constantly beaten by her drunk father. One day, the two decide to play a prank on the town’s crazy lady, Elvira. This goes horribly wrong: BB ends up getting destroyed and Sam’s father throws her down the stairs, leaving her braindead. Paul decides to use BB’s chip to bring Samantha back. It works, but she doesn’t come back normal!
This movie is ultra cheesy but tons of fun. Originally it was supposed to be a sci-fi thriller that focused more on story, but the studio forced Craven to add scenes of gore and nightmares. Maybe one day we will see the original cut.
Horace Pinker is a psychotic TV repairman on a killing spree. This all ends when a football player Jonathan turns him in and Pinker his given the electric chair. Before his death, he sells his soul to Satan and fuses with electricity, giving him the power to travel through power lines, TVs, and even people (not making this up).
This film is 80’s cheese at its best. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and gets weirder and weirder as it progresses. If you enjoyed A Nightmare on Elm Street then you should be able to enjoy this one.
Red Eye (2005)
Red Eye is a thriller about a woman (Rachael McAdams) riding a red eye flight to Miami. While on this plan she meets a man (Cillian Murphy) who at first seems really friendly… until he kidnaps her. She is then forced to assist him in a plot to kill a politician or else he kills her father. Showcasing a different style from Craven, the film feels very Hitchcock influenced. With well crafted suspense and a threatening performance from Cillian Murphy, this film will keep you at the edge of your seat.
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
Starring Bill Pullman and based on the none fiction book of the same name, The Serpent and the Rainbow is one of Craven’s weirder films. Pullman plays an anthropologist who, after hearing about a drug that turns people into zombies, travels to Haiti to investigate. Like every movie with voodoo in it, this film is very surreal. Those who think that Wes Craven’s films are never intelligent should give this one a watch.
Swamp Thing (1982)
Based on the DC superhero of the same name, Swamp Thing is one of the most underrated comic book movies out there. Dr. Alex Holland is transformed into the creature swamp thing when a lab sabotage is pulled by the evil Dr. Anton Arcane. He ends up helping out a woman named Alice Cable. The film is more of an action film with some horror elements. Craven made this movie to prove that he can do more than just horror… and he proved it well.
The People Under the Stairs (1991)
Set in the ghetto, this film tells the story of a 13 year old boy named Fool. When attempting to rob the house of his family’s insane landlords, Fool, along with two others, get trapped in their house. They then face the horrors inside and learn some very dark secrets. Craven tackles disturbing themes such as incest and child abuse, but at the same time the film is very comical. The characters are also very memorable and the script is pretty original, making this a film that should be in any horror fan’s collection.
The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
Back in his early days, Wes made exploitation films. The Hills Have Eyes is about a family that has their car break down very far from civilization who are then attacked by inbred cannibals and captures Katy, the baby of the oldest daughter Lynne and her boyfriend Doug. After the attack, the surviving family members fight the cannibals to rescue Katy from their clutches. The film is very brutal and has very memorable characters. Deformed actor Micheal Berryman, who played one of the cannibals, is now a horror icon.
A sequel was made in 1984 which wasn’t very good… Wes Craven himself has admitted that he only made the sequel because he needed money. In 2006, the film was remade by french horror director Alexander Aja. This remake would end up being one of the best remakes of the 2000’s.
The Last House on the Left (1972)
Wes Craven’s first film is also his most controversial. Inspired by the Ingmar Berman classic The Virgin Spring, this film tells the story of two young girls Mari and Phylliss. They are on their way to a rock concert. At the same time, two thugs, Krug and Weasel, as well as Krug’s girlfriend Sadie and drug addicted son are hiding out not too far from the venue. The girls are eventually kidnapped, sadistically tortured then murdered. Krug and company later drive off, but their car breaks done in front of a strange house. The old couple that lives there lets them stay the night. Little do they know this old couple are Mari’s parents!
Though this film has a few scenes of pointless comic relief, this is Craven’s most vile and raw film. It is also one of the most popular films of the grindhouse era, even appealing to some people who don’t normally like these kind of films. This was also the first time Craven started a trend, as many clones were spawned, the best of these being House on the Edge of the Park which stars David Hess in a role very similar to his own in this. The film was remade in 2009 with Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul.