The year was 2003. I was 16 years old and my best friend was throwing a birthday party at her house. I had just gotten my driver’s license (after two humiliating attempts) and the guy I was sorta-kinda-maybe dating was coming to the party. Rumor had it that someone was bringing peppermint schnapps.
None of that mattered once she stuck a VHS tape in the VCR and we started watching “Scream.”
I liked horror movies, always had, but my parents were strict with rated-R films and most of the ones I ended up seeing were the cheesecake heavily-edited versions on TBS. I was well aware of Freddy Krueger and his legacy but only having access to the late sequels they didn’t quite spark any real interest for me. “Scream”, well, “Scream” was different.
It was funny. It was scary. It was interesting. I was a junior in high school and I felt many of the movie’s themes very strongly — for example, I too would later fumble around clumsily with a teenage boy that very night without having any idea what I was doing. (In case you were wondering, no, it wasn’t the boy I was sorta-kinda-maybe dating. He promptly broke up with me about 15 minutes after arriving and then left.)
I liked horror movies, but after that night, I loved them. All thanks to Wes Craven.
Over the years I took in all his work. “A Nightmare On Elm Street.” “The Last House On The Left.” “Wishmaster.” “The People Under The Stairs.”
On my 17th birthday I took my friends to see my first legal rated-R movie: “Freddy VS Jason.” Every Halloween, I marathon the “Scream” series. Once I forced my husband to watch “The Hills Have Eyes” and he pretended he wasn’t scared but I knew he was.
Can we talk about “New Nightmare” for a minute? What a meta masterpiece. I absolutely love the idea of Robert Englund, the actor who portrays Freddy Krueger, being haunted by the sinister character who made his career. I don’t care if it’s cheesy in parts, it’s one of my favorites. In fact, I watched it last night after hearing that Wes Craven had passed away.
Why does it feel like I’ve lost a friend when it’s someone I’ve never met? Sure, his work influenced me immensely as a horror author. His movies have been there through my adult life. He even favorited a few of my tweets when he asked for movie recommendations. But that doesn’t mean I knew him. I didn’t.
So why am I so sad?
I guess all I can chalk it up to is the loss of such a creative force in the horror genre. It’s the genre I’ve always loved and chosen to make my passion, my career. There are few people who can truly garner critical acclaim in the horror business and we’ve lost one. I didn’t know him but he offered up his masterpieces and I am better for it. And let’s face it, there will never be another “A Nightmare On Elm Street.”
Thank you, Mr. Craven. Thank you for Freddy and Ghostface and the Djinn. Thank you for the nightmares and the jump scares and the inspiration.
Sleep well, friend.