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  • Ten Terrifying Wes Craven Films

    Thu, 07 Oct 2010 16:51:40

    Ten Terrifying Wes Craven Films - In honor of "My Soul to Take" hitting theaters Friday October 8, 2010, ARTISTdirect.com contributor Matt Molgaard runs down ten terrifying Wes Craven films...

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    I am an absolute diehard Wes Craven fan. He's made some monumental pictures that altered the landscape of the horror genre as we know it. Anyone who denies the impact of Craven’s influence on the genre is either a purebred hater, or an uneducated viewer (no offense guys).

    So, in preparation for the release of Craven's upcoming My Soul To Take (which lands in theatres October 8th) we at ARTISTdirect.com have compiled a list of the 10 best (scariest? You decide!) Craven films. I had to do a little soul (I can be a bit bias in regards to Craven) searching in order to compile a list I felt was accurate, and that I personally felt comfortable with. So, off I traveled wading through the trenches, and revisiting aged treasures. Here now are 10 Wes Craven pictures that are typically terrifying, often humorous, and always entertaining.

    10. The Hills Have Eyes: This campy little offering isn't the most terrifying film ever made. Nor is it the most technical body of work created by Craven. In fact, the idea of a group of muties dwelling in the desert hunting human beings comes off more comical than frightening. What the film does manage to do is force the mind's mechanics to work overtime, and leave one wondering; "What if I did get stranded, and while they may not by mutant freaks, what if I were savagely accosted by a group of strangers with little to no defense at hand?" It's a crippling concept that does indeed linger long after the credits roll, despite any technical flaws the film possesses.

    09. Shocker: Shocker definitely conjures more humor than fright, but the idea behind the film is rather unnerving. After serial killer Horace Pinker is electrocuted, he returns, able to transfer posthumously via the power of electricity. The body count rises quickly, and Horace has a handful of jokes up his sleeve, but there's something truly frightening behind Mitch Pileggi's performance; it's a convincing enough portrayal to make one pause and wonder: is there a genuine dark side to this actor? Pinker remains one of Craven's vilest antagonists, and Pileggi is due plenty of respect for creating a horrific character in a quite comical film.

    08. Scream 2: It's extremely rare that a sequel will ever make any list I compile (though you'll find another on this very list). However, Scream 2 isn't your ordinary sequel. In the vein of 1981's Halloween II, Scream 2 transitions seamlessly from its predecessor (though the story doesn't pick up the very same night, as does Halloween II). Sidney Prescott is still haunted by the events of the past, though she's valiantly attempting to cope. A handful of supporting cast members (Randy, and Dewey to name a few) are on hand to help continue to support her. Things seem to be going fair until a series of twists turn Sid's life upside down again. Great editing, and a shining performance from Neve Campbell elicit a series of quality scares, and with the help of some fine editing, we're treated to a score of quality death scenes. Scream 2 remains one of the genre's more disturbing follow ups, and while as stylized as they come, this picture truly shines in the slasher subgenre.

    07. Red Eye: Any time I take to the skies, it's a numbing experience for me, I'll admit that. Taking to the skies with a sociopath with a bag of demands in his pockets seems to make things a whole hell of a lot worse. Red Eye boasts a fairly intricate (though not entirely original) plot that is quite engaging; but it's not necessarily the storyline itself that is so impacting. In this case, it's all about Cillian Murphy, the scrawny, least intimidating figure in cinema today, who puts forth a painfully eerie, and awkwardly comfortable portrayal of the films focal villain. Dare I say it, but Murphy looks like he could be a genuine (you know, away from the Hollywood gig) serial killer. That power and unsettling dark presence carry this film, and carry it quite well. Whether considered thriller or horror, this picture isn't for the faint of heart, and it is indeed quite chilling.

    06. The Serpent and the Rainbow: Craven's tale of a scientist faced with extreme superstition and witch-doctory is a deeply disturbing piece. The cinematography is absolutely beautiful in a unique manner, the sets are eerie and some of the imagery captured in this film is truly surreal. Scientist Dennis Allen (Bill Pullman) is pulled into a world of complete unknown, and as a viewer, it's quite easy to feel as discombobulated, frantic, and (most frightening) claustrophobic as Allen himself. While many love, and many hate this film, I consider it to be one of Craven's darkest pictures with stronger political undertones than the vast majority of his work.

    05. People Under The Stairs: There are two obvious things about People Under The Stairs that I find particularly uncomfortable: the fact that at any given point a couple of hooligans could break into your home and rob you blind, and second, the fact that your very neighbor could be housing an unfathomable amount of kidnapped, malnourished and tortured souls in his basement. This film is sadistically second only to The Last House On The Left. The People Under the Stairs is disturbing on many levels, strong social commentary being one of the front runners, the sadistic nature of mankind being another. Aside from some twisted visuals, and blatantly offensive sadomasochism there's a deep cruelty to the film that reverberates in the minds of viewers to this day.

    04. The Last House On The Left: It's difficult to find a film as offensive as this without venturing into the pure exploitation realm. And, while many label this picture little more than an exploitation flick itself, there’s a whole lot more to this story. Shot from a direct grizzly approach, there isn't much satire within the film, and the torture scenes are played more for genuine shock than chuckle. If you haven’t caught the original picture, I highly recommend it. It's not for everyone, but there's a primal essence to this film that exceeds simple rage or revenge. A few of the torture scenes are deeply disturbing as well, particularly the urination sequence, which offered no gore, but a load of psychological impact guaranteed to siphon a strong level of disgust. Did I mention Krug (David Hess) may be the nastiest villain captured on film, ever?

    03. Wes Craven's New Nightmare: Here we have another sequel to add to the list. This time around, Craven takes a unique approach to the story; gone are the characters, in are the actors themselves. It is in short, a movie within a movie. Heather Langenkamp is once again forced to deal with the menacing Krueger, and this time around he's no penciled in rival. The jokes are few, the scares are strong, and the script’s direction sheds a whole new light on the franchise. Particularly disquieting is the tension Craven builds upon between Langenkamp, her family and friends; it's an angle that doesn't illuminate the fear of the boogeyman solely so much as the fear of a psychological break and the affect it bares on life away from fiction. Heather performs well as a distressed mother who once again finds herself face to face with a more frightening than ever Freddy Krueger, this time with far more to lose. New Nightmare is easily one of Craven's most paralyzing pictures.

    02. Scream: Scream will never be recognized as a spine-tingling trip through terror. What it will always be recognized as, is a stylized hack ’n slash body of fiction that not only works extremely well, but also reignited a fanatical interest in modern slasher films. Kevin Williamson’s script is a legitimate work of art in the sense that it not only captures fear quite effectively, but it also manages to highlight pop culture in near flawless fashion, making for one of Craven's most marketable bodies of work. Also noteworthy is the films gore, which is ratcheted up quite a few notches in comparison to the majority of Wes's past projects. An excellent pace and polished editing act as the icing on this bloody cake that any Wes Craven fan should at least admire, if not love.

    01. A Nightmare On Elm Street: There is no greater point of vulnerability than deep sleep. Completely defenseless, prior to 1984 sleep was our one chance at true serenity. Wes Craven changed all of that when he introduced Freddy Krueger, a paralyzing spook with the ability to turn sleeping flesh into a pile of filet mignon that looked to be handled by the worst culinary student alive. Much like John Carpenter’s Halloween, Craven and Krueger stole the peaceful ideology that tends to loom over American suburbs. No longer were children safe; not just on the streets, but from the comfort of their very own homes, their very own beds. What helps propels Nightmare into the deepest abyss of fear is an assortment of grizzly, and (for the time) quite gory scenes. A sound script and promising young cast destined to meet the knives of Krueger only helped to make the film that much more disturbing. Tina's bloody trek through the high school hallways remains a harrowing visual still to this day.

    What My Soul To Take will exactly brings remains to be seen. Providing a fairly thorough analysis of the man’s past work does however leave me nearly frozen with anticipation. One of the greatest living genre directors is gearing up to unleash a new beast, between My Soul, and John Carpenter's The Ward (also rumored to be released this October) I am one ecstatic horror fan about now!

    —Matt Molgaard

    Will you be seeing "My Soul to Take" this Friday October 8th?

    Check out our "Rogue on Rogue" feature between Corey Taylor of Stone Sour and Slipknot and Wes Craven here.

    Check out Wes Craven on the red carpet of the premiere below!

    Watch a two-minute scene of the movie below!

    Watch an exclusive TV spot below!

    Visit the Official website for Wes' new movie, My Soul To Take, in theaters October 8, and in Real 3D, where available.

    Read our review of the film here!

    "Like" ARTISTdirect on facebook to get more news and info on Wes Craven

    Tags: Wes Craven, Red Eye

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