Wes Craven, director of Nightmare on Elm Street, dead at 76

Director Wes Craven accepts the Visionary Award at the Scream Awards on Saturday Oct. 18, 2008 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzell0) Photo: Chris PizzelloHorror movie icon Wes Craven has lost his battle with brain cancer, aged 76.

The writer, director and producer is best known for the Nightmare On Elm Street films which were credited with re-invigorating the teen horror market in the 1980s, passed away on Sunday.

After the phenomenal success of the first Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984, which introduced the iconic character of Freddie Krueger (played by Robert Englund,)  Craven went on to create four sequels, a video game, two spin-off Nightmare television series – 1988’s Freddy’s Nightmares and Nightmare Cafe in 1992) and even a horror crossover with Freddy V Jason, pitting Kruger against another horror film icon, Jason Vorhees, from the Friday The 13th franchise.

Craven also created the Scream franchise in the 1990s, mashing up black humour and horror, and referencing and satirising horror film tropes, including his own.

Craven’s earlier films though, were more straight-up horror, often combining deformed or monster-like (but human) bad guys and social and political issues. He was also been credited with featuring strong female characters in his films.

Born in Ohio, Craven was a teacher before turning his hand to low-budget filmmaking.

His first film was 1972’s Last House On The Left, a controversial ‘rape-revenge’ story, which, while outraging many, was a success – unlike some of his other slashers like The Evolution of Snuff and Swamp Thing.

His 1979 exploitation slasher The Hills Have Eyes (remade in 2006), about a suburban family whose road trip goes horribly wrong when they find themselves stranded in the desert, was an instant cult classic.

Among his other titles are the decidedly weird zombie flick Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), The People Under The Stairs (1991) and a raft of made-for-television films.

Although Craven enjoyed mainstream fame with much of his output, his awards have always come from festivals dedicated to his genre – most recently, in 2008 when he was awarded the Visionary Award at the Scream Awards.

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