I was 5 years old and a man with knives for fingers was telling me to go to hell. But it wasn’t Freddy Krueger – it was my mom’s boyfriend Tim. I’d been woken from a dead sleep in an attempt to terrify me with a reference I neither understood nor appreciated.
But that wasn’t the last time Wes Craven’s monsters would invade my cultural landscape. Years later I was home alone on a stormy night when the power cut out. Being from the South (land of actual storms), I was pretty used to this sort of thing and gave it only a passing thought. I was less composed, however, when my cell rang and the raspy voice at the other end unevenly posed the question, “Do you like scary movies?”
Wes Craven had the uncanny quality of every great horror provocateur: he could follow fear. He could look at modernity’s cultural monsters and make them fictional in ways that reflected the terror we already felt as well as gave those fears a scarred face, a bladed glove and a tattered Christmas sweater.
He was famous for his, “normal” appearance and quiet manner, which I accredit to the simple fact that a true mastermind doesn’t have to tell anyone they’re a mastermind. And literally every decade he worked in was radically shaped by his influence. I’ll miss him because, honestly, I’ve been eagerly awaiting his next genre-redefining take on horror since the travesty that was the Nightmare on Elm Street reboot. He was knife hands-down the most influential horror director on my life (and I’d guess a lot of other 70s and 80s babies as well) and he will be missed dearly.