Wes Craven took a surprisingly heartfelt approach to horror. That's most evident in a scene from A Nightmare on Elm Street in which the heroine Nancy defeats bogeyman Freddy Krueger by simply turning her back on him, refusing to give in to her fear. Nancy inspired countless horror fans, myself included, to fight for their dreams and find strength in their nightmares. As Craven once said, "Horror films don't create fear; they release it."
Hordes of horror fans are celebrating the cathartic power of the genre this week at the HorrorHound Weekend convention, which will honor Craven in the wake of his recent death from brain cancer. In addition to featuring a reunion panel with the cast of A Nightmare on Elm Street, HorrorHound is raffling off a beautiful portrait of Craven that was made for the event. (All profits from the raffle tickets will be donated to a charity in Craven's name for cancer research.)
A few of the Hoosier horrormeisters participating in HorrorHound Weekend's film festival talked with us about Craven's influence on the work they see and contribute at HorrorHound.
Joshua Hull: (The writer-director of Chopping Block, which pays homage to Craven's Scream with its mix of slashing and satire.) Scream changed everything! It's one of the few horror films about horror lovers, and it completely reinvented the genre. It was also the first script I ever bought — the shooting script with an introduction written by Craven. I read that script and intro every day. I was determined to learn every in and out of that movie. Scream was the kind of movie I wanted to make over and over. I finally got to make my slasher film last year, and Scream was a heavy influence. Scream has self-aware teens, Chopping Block has self-aware kidnappers. Both sets of characters comment on the genre they inhabit. My film even references Scream's iconic "What's your favorite scary movie?" line — not as a tongue-in-cheek poke at it but as a nod of respect. A nod to what came before me, a nod to what got me here and a nod to where I'm going.
David Pruett: (A regular HorrorHound guest and the director of the Diabolique International Film Festival in Bloomington.) As a kid, I devoured all the sci-fi and horror I could get my hands on. I cut my teeth on the classics, the staple of midnight television — Universal Pictures monster movies at best and low-budget Roger Corman films at worst.
While movies like Halloween and Friday the 13th were on my radar, I was too young to see them in a theater, so it wasn't until 1984 that I finally got the chance to experience my first modern horror classic on the big screen — Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street. It was like nothing I could have imagined — the tale of a monster who infected your dreams, who was always inside you and inescapable.
Whether I'm reviewing films for a festival or writing characters of my own, Freddy Krueger is the benchmark against which I judge all other monsters. And few have measured up to Craven's most terrifying and iconic creation. As strange as it sounds, I can't thank him enough for fueling my nightmares. While he will be greatly missed, I know that he'll continue to entertain fans and influence filmmakers for years to come.
Branden Yates: (A frequent HorrorHound volunteer and the head of programming for Friday Night Frights at Shelbyville's Strand Theatre.) It was during my frequent trips to the video store as a kid that I stumbled upon Craven's films. His name on the box was always a beacon of hope, that whatever I was about to rent would scare me...and it did! He had a knack for always showing us a complete nightmarish scenario without losing sight of his characters or how they were shaped by these horrifying experiences.
When: Sept. 11-13
Where: Marriott Indianapolis East (7202 E. 21st St.)