Wes Craven, visionary or hack? Some of us are not sure…

In the Lobby? Wes Craven

Okay, one of us is sure that Craven is a hack, but two of us have him in the lobby.   In perusing this brief retrospective of his career from Moviefone, I was reminded of Craven innovative approaches to advancing the art of boogey man movies.  He’s sort of the Michael Bay of the cheesy halloween blockbuster niche: he makes effective genre films that consistently draw big audiences and prove the studios investment in him to be sound.

So, Wes Craven is money, the king of the highly competitive horror date night market.  He has never been afraid to go for the big bucks, which means going for the big scares.  But he often combines great concepts with, as mentioned above, cheesy execution to tickle the crowd’s scary bone.  Consider this line from Roger Ebert review of Craven’s debut shocker, Last House on the Left (1972):

What does come through in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is a powerful narrative, told so directly and strongly that the audience (mostly in the mood for just another good old exploitation film) was rocked back on its psychic heels.
Wes Craven’s direction never lets us out from under almost unbearable dramatic tension (except in some silly scenes involving a couple of dumb cops, who overact and seriously affect the plot’s credibility).

Even the scariest Craven stories have their silly moments, in order to create the emotional roller coaster of tension good horror movies require. but to my taste, Craven often crosses the line.   His most iconic character, Freddy Krueger, is a personalty that mixes sadistic horror with corny wisecracks in the groundbreaking NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.  It’s not my cup of fright, but I cannot deny Craven’s success and strong, devoted following.

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