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Wes Craven 1939-2015: Memories of Movies

I remember watchingon a VHS all-nighter with my cousin Gav. Watching the basketball-induced head explosion inwith my jaw hanging open. And. God, how I remember watching that, in a packed cinema absolutely fizzing with tension. Watching and wondering just how one guy could get so good at this.

I remember being 10 years old, and standing in the hallway at my best friend's house. His mum arrived back from a day's work at the Romford Odeon. It had been a memorable shift. Apparently, there was a new film that was so scary that people had been screaming and walking out, particularly a bit where "a horrible guy jumps up from behind a bed". I stared at the ad for the movie in the local paper that evening, wondering just how terrifying a movie could be. Even the font of the movie title seemed almost impossibly forbidding.

I remember four years later, watching snatches of the third Elm Street film on Malaysian cable tv in the middle of the afternoon. I was terrified that my parents in the hotel room next door would catch me. Malaysian censorship standards, which would remove even the mildest sexual content or characters kissing from sitcoms, had no problem with mid-afternoon gore. That third Elm Street movie had been effectively banned by Southend Council upon release, meaning that horror fans in my home town had been forced to travel to Basildon to watch it. This gave it an added frisson of danger as I sat in the hotel far from home, flicking the channel onto Teen Wolf Too in panic whenever I heard a noise in the corridor.

As a young adult, I remember watching The People Under the Stairs, a barking mad nightmare tinged with satire, (which happened to star two of the cast of my favourite TV show), and almost hooting with joy at the way it threw preconceptions into a blender and played with the audience's loyalties and sympathies. This was smart horror that never forgot to be entertaining.

I remember watching Wes Craven's New Nightmare at the cinema and being genuinely stunned that a Part 7 of anything could be interesting and innovative. After a bunch of unsatisfying sequels, the reintroduction of the series creator to the saga had resulted in a movie of pretty jaw-dropping originality; a meta experience starring the original cast and crew members as themselves which felt unlike anything I'd ever seen before. Wes had returned to the series he'd created, and in doing so had shown just how lacklustre everything that had followed his departure had been.

I remember picking up a bootleg VHS of The Last House on the Left at a film fair, a movie that was still very much banned altogether in this country at the time. I watched it with the woman who later became my wife. I think my hands were shaking as I put it in the player.

I remember watching Shocker on a VHS all-nighter with my cousin Gav. My exhaustion added an even more delirious quality to the already batshit third act, and I subsequently found it tough to watch Mitch Pileggi in The X-Files without occasionally getting crazy flashbacks to his performance as Horace Pinker.

Watching the basketball-induced head explosion in Deadly Friendwith my jaw hanging open.

And Scream. God, how I remember watching that, in a packed cinema absolutely fizzing with tension.

Watching and wondering just how one guy could get so good at this.

I remember so much, and I'm grateful to the man for every one of those carefully crafted glimpses into the darkness.

Thanks for the nightmares, Wes.

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