Recently we did a Top 7 list featuring the greatest films by Joe Dante. Dante is indeed horror royalty, and today, in celebration of the Scream Factory release of The People Under the Stairs on Blu-ray, we revisit the greatest films of another legendary director: Wes Craven.
As a horror movie maker, Craven is nearly unmatched. His list of credits as a writer/director/producer includes a slew of horror classics that go beyond memorable with many of them reaching legendary status. His movies contain some of the most recognizable characters in the history of the genre, and his impact on horror cannot be overstated.
So, with one of Craven’s classics, The People Under the Stairs, finally making its Blu-ray debut, we look back and present you with the Top 9 Wes Craven Films.
The Last House on the Left (1972)
Keep repeating: “It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie.” But The Last House on the Left turned out to be so much more than that. Originally carrying titles like Sex Crime of the Century and Krug and Company, it wasn’t until producers settled on the title of The Last House on the Left when the film’s popularity really took off. Wes Craven’s directorial debut, Last House was shot for $87,000 in New York and Connecticut and went on to enjoy a very successful box office run. But that was just the start. Being censored and banned in many countries, with the UK being especially stodgy about it, the legend of Last House would continue to grow over the years, making it must-see horror, and once it was re-released on video and then dubbed a “video nasty” by the UK, the popularity simply continued to skyrocket. It is indeed a fitting directorial debut for a man who would go on to have such an incredible horror career
The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
It’s often hard, really hard, for a filmmaker to replicate the success of his first film if he truly knocks it out of the park. Craven delivered The Last House on the Left with his first attempt, so it would have to be something really special if he was to maintain the momentum he built. Say hello to The Hills Have Eyes. Based on the Sawney Bean legend (if you’re not familiar with it, look it up; it’s a story worth knowing), The Hills Have Eyes was spawned from a script (also written by Craven) entitled Blood Relations: The Sun War. The film garnered an X rating but still had a decent showing at the box office. And, just like Last House, Hills continued to grow in popularity and also became a cult classic. With two films under his belt as writer/director, Craven had created two horror films that would live as favorites in the heart of fans of the genre for decades.
Swamp Thing (1982)
Craven made a handful of movies after Hills, including Deadly Blessing, which featured Sharon Stone, but it was five years later, in 1982, when another of his more memorable creations would arise. He wrote and directed Swamp Thing based on the DC Comics character, and the flick featured Ray Wise and Adrienne Barbeau. The film has everything a good sci-fi action-horror movie should have… a science experiment gone awry, government intervention, a dangerous bio-engineering formula, and an evil scientist. Although it didn’t contain the grit and realism of either Last House or Hills, Swamp Thing was an unabashed good time movie. Although sometimes lost amongst among Craven’s long list of outstanding accomplishments, it cannot be denied that Swamp Thing certainly holds its place as a film that is entertaining and one that has stood the test of time.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Two years after Swamp Thing, Craven unleashed the film that would undoubted go down as his most memorable work. Introducing us to a supernatural murdered child killer that haunted teenagers in their dreams, Craven’s stunning and powerfully frightening A Nightmare on Elm Street raised the bar for horror to an entirely new level. Featuring Robert Englund in the role that would make him a horror icon, A Nightmare on Elm Street presented the dilemma of what would you do if you were stalked by a murderer in your dreams. Freddy Krueger would go on to become a household name, and the Nightmare franchise became a juggernaut and basically single-handedly launched New Line Cinema. Spawning a slew of sequels, a television series, novels, a comic book, and an eventual (albeit unfortunate) reboot, A Nightmare on Elm Street took its rightful place beside such movies as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Friday the 13th, and Halloween as horror royalty. Grossing nearly half a billion dollars at the box office, the Nightmare franchise (when adjusted for inflation) ranks only behind the Friday the 13th series as the most lucrative horror franchise of all time. Nine, ten, never sleep again.