Written by John Wooley
Published by Wiley
Chances are, if you’re reading this site, you know who Wes Craven is. If you don’t, you’ve probably stumbled onto this site by mistake. Either way, the man responsible for bringing Freddy Krueger and the Ghost-Face killer to the big screen is the subject of a new biography by John Wooley, Wes Craven: The Man and His Nightmares.
Starting from Craven’s childhood in a rabidly fundamentalist Christian household, Wooley traces his career from his earliest days as a messenger and director of skin flicks to his current status of horror icon. Through it all Craven comes across as a reluctant monster, but one who intrinsically understands the genre, and who finally ends up embracing his macabre side. Of course, a great deal of that is a matter of public record, with Craven himself discussing his upbringing on numerous occasions. Where Wooley excels is in his ability to tie together the timeline of Craven’s life, his movies, and his philosophies.
Wes Craven: The Man and His Nightmares reads partly like a filmography, partly like a biography, and partly like a critical discussion of themes revisited. It also divulges a few tidbits that many readers may not know. For example, Wooley delves into the real-life inspirations behind not just A Nightmare on Elm Street, but also The Hills Have Eyes, and all the creative and studio-driven difficulties that surround both movies. He also discusses Craven’s personal struggles throughout the length of his career. Before you think this book only discusses Craven’s triumphs, it also goes to the critically panned movies without shyness, details the financial disasters that many of Craven’s films caused, and paints the man himself as a genuinely intelligent, and surprisingly spiritual, person.
This book is surprising in the amount of detail it manages to cram into 262 pages. At times it feels as if the author is skimming the surface, but upon further reflection, the reader realizes that all the important questions have been answered. It seems rather tricky, but Wooley pulls it off nicely and gives us Craven’s story without the maudlin whining that accompanies many biographies today. It gives us real insight into who Wes Craven, the man, is and allows us to look toward the future of his career with anticipation.
4 1/2 out of 5
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