Wes Craven, the visionary filmmaker who defined the horror genre with the long-enduring “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise and later deconstructed and redefined it with “Scream,” has died. He was 76.
His family confirmed his death to the Hollywood Reporter. And Craven’s verified Twitter and Instagram accounts carried a photo of him, with the caption reading, “Wes Craven 1939-2015.”
Craven had been battling brain cancer, the magazine said.
His career spanned decades, beginning with the 1972 revenge flick, “The Last House on the Left.” While a commercial success, it pales in comparison to what came 12 years later.
With 1984’s “Nightmare on Elm Street,” he created an enduring icon of terror with the knife-fingered Freddy Krueger. It spawned several sequels, none of which he directed until he deconstructed the genre with “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare,” in 1995. The latter poked fun at the earlier movies, ingeniously looping back on itself using some of the original cast members.
And then came a ‘Scream’
Likewise, he bent the horror genre again with “Scream,” a monster hit that produced several sequels, gave birth to the “Scary Movie” parodies and lives on in the form of its signature ghost face mask featuring the slasher’s open mouth.
“Today the world lost a great man, my friend and mentor,” tweeted actress Courteney Cox, who starred in “Scream.”
“My heart goes out to his family.”
Her co-star, Rose McGowan, described him as “the kindest man, the gentlest man, and one of the smartest men” she’s ever known.
“Please say there’s a plot twist,” she tweeted after his death was announced.
In a way, his education prepared him for a career as a writer with an unbridled imagination.
Craven was born in Cleveland in 1939 and attended Wheaton College in Illinois, where he graduated with a degree in English and psychology. He later earned a master’s in philosophy and writing from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and briefly taught English.
After a career as a professor, Craven admitted to working on “many hard core X-rated films” as he tried to break into filmmaking.
In the 1970s, he shocked audiences with the realistic “drive-in” horror film, “Last House on the Left,” which was censored in many countries at the time, including the United Kingdom, and his cult classic, “The Hills Have Eyes.”
Other notable films he directed include the horror-comedy, “Vampire in Brooklyn,” and other suspense films such as “Red Eye” and “The People Under the Stairs.”
But his career was more than horror films.
In 1999, he directed “Music of the Heart,” which featured Meryl Streep and Angela Basset. The movie was nominated for an Oscar.