Wes Craven

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6.2 The Last House on the Left (1972)
6.5 The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
5.8 Deadly Blessing (1981)
5.0 Swamp Thing (1982)
7.2 A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
4.5 The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1985)
6.5 The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
5.0 Deadly Friend (1986)
6.0 Shocker (1989)
6.5 The People Under the Stairs (1991)
6.7 Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)
4.5 Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)
6.9 Scream (1996)
6.7 Scream 2 (1998)
5.5 Music Of The Heart (1999)
5.9 Scream 3 (2000)
6.5 Red Eye (2005)
4.5 Cursed (2005)
4.5 My Soul to Take (2010)
5.5 Scream 4 (2011)

Wes Craven (USA, 1939), a professor of English at presigious New York colleges, equipped with a master's degree in Philosophy and Writing, dropped out of academia and started directing pornographic videos. He turned to horror movies first with The Last House on the Left (1972), which is basically a horror version of Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring (1960), then with The Hills Have Eyes (1977), about cannibals and influenced by Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), and then with Deadly Blessing (1981).

Swamp Thing (1982) is an adaptation of a comic-strip super-hero.

Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) added a supernatural element to the slasher stereotype created by John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) and Sean Cunningham's Friday the 13th (1980), and at the same time created a new horror icon on the same level as Dracula King Kong, and Frankenstein's monster: Freddy Krueger. Freddy, however, seems to dwell not in the real world but in the symbolic and mythological world of dreams. There the girl is haunted by her mother's alcoholism and by her father indifference: those are the real monsters who terrorize her.

A teenager, Tina, has a nightmare in which she is brutally assassinated by a man named Freddy, who has a disfigured face and blades instead of fingers. When she wakes up, terrified, her mother notices four slashes on her nightgown. Later her best friend Nancy reveals that she too had the same nightmare. Tina's mother leaves town and Tina's boyfriend Rod sleeps with her. Nancy and her boyfriend Glen stay to sleep in another room. After Tina and Rod make love, Tina has the same nightmare, and Rod wakes up hearing Tina scream and sees her thrown in the air by a mysterious force and bleeding to death. Rod flees terrified. Nancy and Glen rush to the room and find Tina brutally killed. The evidence points at Rod being the killer. Nancy's father is a cop and arrests Rod. The following day Nancy falls asleep in class and has again the same nightmare in which Freddy corners her to kill her. In her dream, as she's running away from Freddy, she touches a hot pipe. The pain wakes her up and she finds the burn mark on her arm. Nancy hears Rod's version of the facts and concludes that Tina was killed by the man in the nightmare, Freddy, and that Freddy is now trying to kill her. In fact, the moment she dozes off while taking a bath, Freddy appears and tries to drown her. Her mother wakes her up just in time: Nancy has scraches on her hand. Nancy comes up with a plan: she asks Glen to sleep over and to wake her up in the middle of the night, so that she can face Freddy without getting killed. Glen falls asleep but luckily the alarm goes off just in time to save Nancy's life. However, she saw that Freddy is now turning to Rod. She runs to the police station and begs her father to help Rod, but her father doesn't believe her. Rod is found strangled with his bed sheets and her father assumes that he killed himself. Nancy's parents don't believe her either and send her to a psychiatric hospital. During the night, a doctor and her mother watch her having the nightmare. They see her convulse as if fighting and then waking up with a hat that has name "Fred Krueger" written on it. They still don't fully believe her, but her mother is alarmed: Freddy was a serial killer who killed twenty children, and was eventually burned alive by the parents on their street. Nancy, locked in the house by her alcoholic mother, tries to keep Glen from falling asleep but Glen's parents refuse to wake him up when she calls. Sure enough, Glen is killed in his sleep by Freddy. Nancy's father still doesn't believe her but she comes up with a plan to frame Freddy: she asks her father to simply wake her up in 20 minutes. Nancy prepares a trap in her house and then falls asleep. When Freddy appears, she lures him into the real world. Now she has the upper hand: she burns him again and locks him in the basement. Her father finally believes her but Freddy has escaped. Nancy and her father rush upstairs. Nancy opens the door and sees that Freddy is attacking her drunk mother. As her father approaches, both Freddy and her mother disappear into the bed. When her father leaves the room, Nancy again sees Freddy appear in the room. Nancy, however, tells herself to remain calm, convinced that Freddy is a materialization of her fear. Freddy is about to attack her but instead disappears. Now it looks like the whole story was Nancy's dream, all invented by her disturbed mind. In fact, the following day her mother is alive, and she leaves home to go to school with Tina, Rod and Glen, all alive and well. However, as she gets into Glen's car, the car gets out of control and at the same time she sees that an arm has grabbed her mother...

In between the two horror movies The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1985) and The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), about Haiti's voodoo and zombies, he also directed the sci-fi movie Deadly Friend (1986), about a teenage Frankenstein.

The third movie in the "A Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise, Dream Warriors (1987), was scripted by Craven but directed by Chuck Russell. Craven had nothing to do with number 4,5 and 6 (1988, 89 and 91).

Shocker (1989), one of his most anarchic romps, and The People Under the Stairs (1991) were both gothic comedies.

Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994) is an ingenious sequel to a series that was supposed to have ended with Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991). It is structured as a film inside a film: it imagines the lives of some of the actors who appeared in the original film: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, and John Saxon, and the director himself, Wes Craven, all of whom play themselves. It is a sort of "meta-film".
Craven recycles the themes of his horror (the happily-married defenseless woman, the possessed child, the descent into hell) but this time the cause is not an evil supernatural being but the collective unconscious of the people who made the original film.
In a sense, it is also a critique against the entire horror genre, as this film is about the way the collective imagination can create more than just a fictitious character: an evil power that remains long after the film has ended.

Heather, the protagonist (Nancy) in Wes Craven's film Nightmare, has a gorey nightmare while the earthquake strikes her villa. Her husband wakes her up and brings her to her senses. It turns out she has been harassed by a mysterious caller who pretends to be Freddy the killer of that film. Her husband, an expert in special-effects, reassures her that it was just a dream, but the moment her husband walks out the door, an aftershock causes cracks in the wall that look like marks of blades. Her child is hypnotized in front of the tv set and, when she turns it off, starts screaming. The phone rings and it is the voice she fears. Somebody knocks at the door... it is just the babysitter.
A limo takes her to a talk show where she is the guest. The interviewer has a surprise for her: Robert, the actor who impersonated Freddy, has also been invited, and the audience goes nuts for him.
Bob, the producer of the series, tells Heather that, no matter what, Freddy is alive and well because he has become an icon for millions of people, and he wants to make another film of the series. Bob has already hired Wes Craven to write the new script. Heather is reluctant to join and asks Bob is he's also been having nightmares and strange calls since Wes started working on the film. Bob refuses to answer.
Back home, Heather finds her son Dylan in an epileptic fit and mumbling in Freddy's voice. She calls her husband to hurry home and then wakes up in the middle of the night having dreamt that he had an accident caused by Freddy's blade. The police is at the door: he did have an accident and he is dead. Heather insists on seeing the body: it has been ripped apart by razor-sharp claws.
At the funeral, the earthquake strikes again and Heather sees the coffin open and Freddy drag Dylan inside... but it is another nightmare. The funeral is real, though.
Dylan keeps having catatonic visions of Freddy and almost kills himself.
Heather talks on the phone with Robert, who, it turns out, has also been having nightmares and is painting horrible pictures of Freddy.
The nightmares get worse, as she imagines Dylan trying to kill her with Freddy-like blades, and Dylan does wander around the house singing in Freddy's voice "never sleep again" and the phone keeps ringing. Eventually, Heather has to lock Dylan into a psychiatric institution because he is clearly affected by schizophrenia.
Heather visits Wes to find out what the new script is about. Wes tells her it is about ancetral evil itself: whenever a story about it ends, that evil is set free. Freddy is one instance of this phenomenon: the films were his environment, and now, that the films have ended, Freddy is trying to sneak into the real world... through Heather. Wes believes that the only way to to exorcise the evil, once for all, is to make another film in which the demon (not just the monster) gets destroyed. Of course, it turns out to be the screenplay for the film we are watching.
Another earthquake brings more tragedies: the tv announces the mysterious killing of two of the experts who worked on the original Freddy movie, which is precisely what Heather saw in her first nightmare. Then Freddy finally appears and attacks her. Still bleeding, but sensing danger, she rushes to the hospital, and, sure enough, Dylan has had an attack. At the hospital the psychiatrist takes care of her wounds... but there was no earthquake. And Heather is embarrassed to tell the truth.
While she is by her son, the nurses and the babysitter take him away. Heather wakes up and has an hysterical crisis, imagining the psychiatrist is Freddy himself. The hospital suddenly looks like a claustrophobic Kafka-esque prison where everybody (psychiatrist, babysitter, nurses) could be part of a conspiracy. Heather begs the babysitter to keep Dylan awake. The psychiatrist wants to talk to Heather: she suspects that there is madness in her family. Heather refuses to answer her questions but her wounds betray that she is lying. In the meantime, the babysitter fights with the nurses who want to put Dylan asleep with sedatives. In vain does Heather beg the psychiatrist to keep the child asleep. The babysitter is attacked by Freddy. When they hear the screams and open the door, the babysitter is in a pool of blood and Dylan is gone.
Heather takes the car and chases Dylan who is slowly crossing a highway while hundreds of cars narrowly miss him. She has to do the same, causing a pile-up on the freeway, and, even after being hit by a car, keeps running after him. She finally finds him in her friend John's house.
John calls her "Nancy" and thinks she is going crazy like Nancy's mother did in the film. Heather realizes that John is the one still living in the film, probably the one who made the scary phone calls, probably the one who manipulated Dylan's brain to talk like Freddy. As John leaves the house, Heather follows Dylan into hell and, after finding the script of this film, has her final duel with Freddy. When Heather and Dylan come back alive and well to reality, Heather picks up the script of this film, and starts reading it. A note by the director thanks her for having the guts to play Nancy one more time and thereby destroying Freddy forever.

The black comedy Vampire in Brooklyn (1995) is one of this worst films, almost a parody of the horror genre.

At the docks two night watchmen suspect that a stowaway hides on their ship. One of them, Julius, is a coward and runs away. The other one stumbles into a number of dead bodies, and then sees a wolf jump ashore and turn into a man wrapped in a black cloak. Julius is in trouble with the mob: two gangsters take him to a narrow alley and are about to finish him off, when a stranger appears and saves his life. He (Eddie Murphy) proclaims to be Max, the last of the vampires. He wants Julius to be his servant, because he is a liar, a thief and a cheat. To make sure he obeys him, Max bites one of Julius' ears off.
Rita is a police officer. She and her partner Justice are assigned to the case of the ship. As she searches the ship, she stumbles into a coffin, from which Max the vampires emerges. Max seems to recognize her and, instead of killing her, disappears.
Later, Julius helps the vampire move (coffin and everything) into his apartment. It turns out that Max came to New York in search for the only other being who is related to vampires, which is Rita herself. But Rita reacts in a very hostile manner, and from that moment Max keeps trying to enter her private life (Eddie Murphy impersonates a series of characters whom he enslaves and possesses). Max even manages to destroy the relationship between Rita and Justice (by making it look like Justice slept with her best friend). After a romantic evening, Max finally manages to seduce her and bite her. Rita's best friend is found dead (in a position that Rita painted it).
Justice is ready to forgive her, but Rita realizes that she is mutating into a vampire. As repulsed as she is, as angry at Max she is, she needs to feed, and follows him to a park, where he teaches her how to stalk victims. Rita refuses and prefers to starve to death. Justice finds them and tries to rescue Rita, but Max's strength is super-human. It is Rita who finds the strength to kill Max.
The film ends on a funny note, as the dumb and sleazy Julius accidentally inherits Max's ring and turns into the new king of the vampires.

A new franchise was born with Scream (1996), scripted by Kevin Williamson, a satire of television and self-reflections on Craven's own movies and on the horror genre in general (the most famous line being “Movies don't create psychos, movies make psychos more creative”). The film had three sequels of dimishing artistic value: Scream 2 (1998), Scream 3 (2000), scripted instead by Ehren Kruger and more interested in cameos and self-referential jokes than in developing the story, and finally Scream 4 (2011).

He also directed the biopic Music of the Heart (1999), scripted by Pamela Gray and very similar to John Smith's Dangerous Minds (1995), and the thriller Red Eye (2005), one of his best, and two mediocre horror movies: Cursed (2005) and My Soul to Take (2010).

Craven died in 2015.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Gabriele Calderone)

I film di Wes Craven sono riusciti a creare un’icona dell’horror dello stesso livello di Dracula, King-kong e Frankestein: Freddy Krueger.

"Wes Craven's New Nightmare" (1994) (in Italia con il titolo: "Nightmare – Nuovo incubo") è un ingegnoso sequel di una serie che si credeva fosse finita con il film "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare" (1991) (in Italia: "Nightmare 6 – La fine"). "Nuovo incubo" è strutturato come un film dentro il film e racconta la vita di alcuni degli attori che sono apparsi nella saga di Freddy: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund, John Saxon, e il regista stesso, Wes Craven, ognuno dei quali recita la parte di se stesso. Craven riprende i temi classici del suo fare horror (la donna indifesa e moglie felice, il bambino posseduto, la discesa all’inferno) ma questa volta la causa di tutto non è una creatura sovrannaturale, ma l’inconscio collettivo delle persone che avevano partecipato ai vari Nightmare. In un certo senso è una critica all’intero genere dell’Horror, che spiega come l’immaginazione collettiva possa essere in grado di creare molto più di un personaggio della finzione: una forza malvagia che perdura ben oltre la durata del film.

Heather, l’attrice protagonista (era Nancy) nel film di Wes Craven, "Nightmare", una notte ha un incubo spaventoso mentre è in atto un terremoto. Suo marito la sveglia riportandola alla realtà. In sogno Heather è stata tormentata da una voce misteriosa che sembra essere quella di Freddy, il killer del film del quale è stata protagonista. Il marito, un esperto di effetti speciali, la rassicura che è stato solo un sogno, ma quando lascia la stanza una scossa d’assestamento causa crepe nel muro che ricordano molto i segni delle famose lame di Krueger. Suo figlio è come ipnotizzato davanti alla tv, e quando lei glielo rivela inizia a urlare. Il telefono squilla ed è proprio la voce che teme. Qualcuno bussa alla porta: è solo la babysitter. Più tardi una limousine porta Heather negli studi dove va in onda un talk show in cui lei è ospite. La conduttrice ha una sorpresa per lei: Robert, l’attore che interpretava Freddy, è stato anch’egli invitato in trasmissione e il pubblico è in delirio per lui. Bob, il produttore della serie, le dice che, non importa come, Freddy è vivo e vegeto, perché è divenuto un’icona per milioni di fan, rivelandole inoltre l’intenzione di produrre un altro film della serie, tanto che ha appena ingaggiato Wes Craven per scrivere una nuova sceneggiatura. Heather non è molto convinta di partecipare e chiede a Bob se per caso abbia avuto incubi notturni e strane chiamate da quando Wes ha cominciato a lavorare sul nuovo film, ma Bob non risponde. Più tardi Heather, rientrando a casa, trova Dylan che è stato colpito da un attacco epilettico e che mormora qualcosa con una voce simile a quella di Freddy. Chiama suo marito e gli chiede di tornare a casa in fretta, quindi più tardi si sveglia nel mezzo della notte dopo aver sognato che il marito fosse stato vittima di un incidente stradale causato dalle lame di Freddy. C’è qualcuno alla porta, è la polizia: suo marito ha davvero avuto un incidente ed è morto. Heather insiste nel voler vedere il cadavere che poi si rivela essere stato dilaniato da artigli affilati come lame di rasoio. Al funerale il terremoto si ripresenta ancora e Heather vede la bara aprirsi e Freddy trascinare dentro Dylan, ma è solo un altro incubo. Il funerale è reale, però. Dylan continua ad aver catatoniche visioni di Freddy ed arriva quasi ad uccidersi. Heather contatta per telefono Robert, che le rivela di essere lui stesso caduto preda di macabri incubi e di disegnare orribili quadri di Freddy. Gli incubi peggiorano, Heather sogna che Dylan tenti di ucciderla con le lame di Freddy e Dylan che cammina per casa cantando con la voce di Freddy "non dormire" e il telefono che continua a squillare. Successivamente Heather è costretta a ricoverare Dylan in un istituto psichiatrico perché il bambino sembra affetto da schizofrenia. Heather fa visita a Wes per saper di cosa parlerà il nuovo film su Freddy. Il regista le dice che il tema principale sarà il male ancestrale: ogni volta che una storia che parla del male finisce, esso si libera. Freddy è un esempio di questo fenomeno. I film erano il suo ambiente naturale e ora che la saga è finita Freddy sta tentando di penetrare nel mondo reale… attraverso Heather. Wes crede che il solo modo per esorcizzare il male, una volta per tutte, sia realizzare un ultimo film in cui il demone (non solo il mostro in sé) venga distrutto. Naturalmente tutto ciò si rivela essere proprio la trama di questo "Nuovo Incubo". Un nuovo terremoto porta un’altra tragedia: la tv annuncia l’uccisione di due degli esperti che avevano lavorato ai film di Freddy, il che coincide precisamente con ciò che Heather aveva già vissuto nel suo primo sogno. Quindi Freddy finalmente compare per farle visita: sanguinante ma ancora in grado di camminare si trascina all’ospedale con la certezza che Dylan abbia avuto un altro attacco. All’ospedale la psichiatra le medica le ferite…ma questa volta non c’é stato nessun terremoto, ed Heather non può dire la verità. Mentre è con suo figlio, l’infermiera e la babysitter lo portano via. Heather si sveglia e ha una crisi isterica, immaginando che la psichiatra sia lo stesso Freddy. L’ospedale istantaneamente si trasforma in una claustrofobica prigione Kafkiana dove ognuno (psichiatra, babysitter, infermiere) potrebbe essere parte della stessa cospirazione. Heather chiede alla babysitter che mantenga Dylan sveglio con ogni mezzo. La psichiatra chiede a Heather di poter parlare con lei: sospetta che ci sia un filone di follia nella sua famiglia. Heather si rifiuta di rispondere alle domande ma le ferite sul suo corpo sembrano rivelare che la dottoressa ha ragione. Nello stesso tempo la babysitter ha una discussione con l’infermiera che vorrebbe mettere a nanna Dylan con una dose di sedativo. In vano Heather chiede alla psichiatra di tenere sveglio Dylan. Poi la babysitter riceve una visita di Freddy: quando sentono le urla ed entrano nella stanza, la ragazza è in un lago di sangue e Dylan sparito. Heather prende l’auto e lo insegue, fino a vederlo in mezzo alla strada, nell’atto di attraversare, come se non fosse cosciente, mentre centinaia di auto gli passano vicino sfiorandolo. Heather fa lo stesso causando un tamponamento e anche dopo essere stata colpita da un'auto continua ad inseguirlo. Finalmente lo trova a casa del suo amico John. John chiama la donna Nancy, come nel film di Freddy, e crede che, nello stesso modo, la donna stia impazzendo. Heather capisce che John sta ancora vivendo nel film, e probabilmente è lui quello che ha fatto le telefonate misteriose, ed è anche colui che ha manipolato la mente di Dylan per farlo parlare come Freddy. Quando John lascia la casa, Heather segue Dylan all’Inferno e dopo aver trovato la sceneggiatura del nuovo film arriva il momento del duello finale contro Freddy. Quando madre e figlio tornano vivi e vegeti alla realtà, Heather raccoglie la sceneggiatura e comincia a leggerla. Una nota del regista la ringrazia per aver avuto il fegato di interpretare Nancy ancora una volta e di aver annientato Freddy per sempre.

"Vampire in Brooklyn" (1995) (in Italia con il titolo: "Vampiro a Brooklyn") è uno dei suoi peggiori film.

Al molo, due custodi notturni sospettano che un clandestino si nasconda sulla loro barca. Uno dei due, Julius, è un vigliacco e scappa via. L’altro ha più coraggio, ma sull’imbarcazione si imbatte in molti cadaveri e vede un lupo saltare a terra trasformandosi in un uomo avvolto da un mantello nero. Julius intanto è nei guai con la mafia: due gangster lo portano in un vicoletto e stanno per finirlo quando uno sconosciuto compare e gli salva la vita. L’uomo (Eddie Murphy) dice di essere Max, l’ultimo dei vampiri. Vuole che Julius divenga il suo servo, perché è bugiardo, ladro e imbroglione. Per essere sicuro che Julius obbedisca, Max lo morde ad un orecchio. Rita è un ufficiale di polizia. Lei e il suo uomo, Justice, sono stati assegnati al caso della barca. Mentre sta indagando all’interno di essa inciampa su di una bara, da cui emerge il vampiro. Max sembra riconoscerla e invece di ucciderla scompare nel nulla. Più tardi Julius trasporta il vampiro e la bara nel suo appartamento. Poi Max si reca a New York per trovare l’unico altro essere vivente che abbia un collegamento con i vampiri, Rita appunto. Ma la donna reagisce in maniera ostile e da quel momento Max prova in ogni modo ad entrare nella sua vita privata (Eddie Murphy impersona una serie di personaggi che il vampiro schiavizza e di cui si impossessa). Max cerca anche di distruggere la relazione tra Rita e Justice (facendo sembrare che lui vada a letto con la sua migliore amica). Dopo un pomeriggio romantico finalmente Max riesce a conquistarla e la morde. La migliore amica di Rita viene ritrovata morta. Justice è pronto a perdonarla ma lei capisce che si sta trasformando in una vampira e seppure disgustata da tale condizione e in collera con Max, ha pur sempre bisogno di "nutrimento", perciò lo segue fino ad un parco dove lui le insegna come adescare vittime. Rita si rifiuta e preferisce lasciarsi morire. Justice li trova e tenta di salvare Rita ma la forza di Max è sovraumana. E’ Rita, infine, a trovare la forza di uccidere Max. Il film si conclude su una nota buffa, con lo stolto Julius che per caso si impossessa dell’anello di Max e diventa così il nuovo Re dei Vampiri.

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