Wes Craven (1939-2015) is one of the few filmmakers ubiquitous with the “Horror” genre who had not been relegated to mere cult-ish fandom. He was a genuinely admired filmmaker amongst critics and general filmgoers who might have even been exposed to his unique creative voice outside of horror & thrillers. He’s a filmmaker whose masterpieces and failures equally define him. He was one of the first few filmmakers whose entire filmography I learned by heart as a kid merely by meticulously combing through the local Hollywood Video & the library (the others were Steven Spielberg, Jackie Chan, Amy Heckerling and Mel Brooks). There was something about being a wide-eyed little kid with open-minded parents who let me scare the pants off myself with these films not to mention the old RL Stine novels and Teen Nick shows my classmates and I were obsessed with (Goosebumps, Fear Street and Are You Afraid of the Dark?). To this day I have no clue why my folks let me see and read these at a young age but, nightmares and occasional troublemaking language slip-ups aside I’m glad they did. Every time I popped in one of these on VHS or caught a TV broadcast of the Wes Craven or John Carpenter movies, whose promo art promised terrifying times ahead, I had my eyes glued to the screen when I wasn’t hiding under the covers or huddled behind my parents or badass babysitter. It was almost an exposure therapy challenge where if I could brave the horrors of these movies, certainly dealing with the bullies, “mean” teachers and awkwardness of my school days would be a walk in the park. I would never claim to be a “horror fan” but I’m certainly a fan of the greats like Hitchcock, Craven, Carpenter, DePalma, Kubrick and the like. Wes Craven died yesterday, at the age of 76. His movies scared, unsettled and entertained me and weirdly along with the Disney Renaissance movies and Bruce Lee martial arts epics, showed me how to not be afraid of what goes bump in the night.
It’s been a few weeks but now the fact has time to really settle: Robin Williams is dead. Joan Rivers is dead. These two were icons of comedy and general pop culture for decades. They were the kind of figures that were a part of the pop culture for pretty much every living generation. They were active long before many of us were born and most of us kind of expected they’d be around in some way shape or form for later generations.