Wes Craven’s Seven MUST See Films

I must acknowledge the passing of the great horror director/writer/producer and sometimes actor Wes Craven—let’s give a shout-out to his appearances in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Castle to name a few. Wes Craven will be remembered as the man who created the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise with Mr. Freddy Krueger that made is difficult for EVERYONE to sleep after getting a gander. Craven directed three installments in the franchise, the original version, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors, and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Another very successful franchise in his arsenal is the Scream series and the Ghostface killer that he co-created. His passing has truly saddened my heart and the fans of wonderfully campy slasher horror films.

Below is out list of MUST see Wes Craven films in order of inception. Some of them are not strictly horror, but they do give us a glimpse into the oddities floating around in the Slasher Master’s head. We will miss you always Wes.

The Last House on the Left (1972)
The Last House

The story of two teenage girls out for a night and fun, in the form of a rock concert, and a little bit of mischief in the form or scoring and smoking some grass. Things turn sinister when they are kidnapped and brutally attacked by a group of crazed convicts. One of the girls makes it out alive and finds her way home. A storm hits, and the gang finds shelter at the summer home of the escaped girl. Her parents, realizing who they are, devise a plan full of blood and revenge. I guess parents really will do anything for their children…that includes torture, maim, and murder! Criminals BEWARE.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
The Hills

This is no National Lampoons Vacation and no Walley World at the end of their journey. Talk about a family vacation gone wrong. The Carter family are taking a cross-country trip in their camper when they experience some car trouble. They stumble upon a dilapidated gas station in the middle of nowhere where they find an old man trying to hang himself. They stop him and he tells them the story of his deranged cannibal kin living in the hills, warning them that they should get out of there post-haste. The family never stood a chance against this mob of opportunistic robbers looking for their next meal of human flesh.

Swamp Thing (1982)

Craven delves into the world of DC comics with this campy gem. The story centers around Dr. Alec Holland, a researcher studying plant species with sister and research partner Linda in the Louisiana bayou, in hopes of developing a hybrid that can survive under harsh conditions. Enter government agent Alice Cable, played by the vivacious Adrienne Barbeau. Romance blooms. The team makes a breakthrough, but unbeknownst to them, the evil Dr. Anton Arcane, a man obsessed with immortality, breaks into the research facility and steals the formula. During the attack Dr. Holland also becomes covered in the chemicals compound he created, he catches on fire, runs screaming into the swamp, and there he becomes the Swamp Thing. With this effort Craven is one of the few directors at the time willing to take on the “comicverse” and make it into something cool and watchable. His horror contemporaries were happy to remain in the genre where Crave was willing to take chance. It’s still campy, but he definitely caught my adolescent eye with this one.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

We all know the story. A child molester and killer, Freddy Krueger, is a acquitted on a technicality. An angry mob of parents hunt him down, trap him a building, and then burn him alive inside. To get his revenge on those he believes have wronged him, he returns as a ghost in the dreams of the children of his murderers. With his dirty green and red sweater and claw made of blades, he sets out on a path to slash his way to his retribution. One, two Freddy’s looking for you; Three, four better lock your door; Five, six grab your crucifix; Seven, eight better stay up late; Nine, ten never sleep again.

The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
Serpent and the Rainbow

This film is loosely based on the non-fiction book of the same title. Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman), an ethnobotanist from Harvard, barely escapes the Amazon jungle after acquiring some rare herbs. Upon his return he is approached by a large pharmaceutical company that contracts him to go to Haiti to find the origins behind an elixir, used in Voodoo rituals, that can turn people into zombies. They plan on mass producing the substance and using it as “super anesthetic.” When he arrives in Haiti he is thrown into a dark unknown world of folklore, rituals, and human sacrifice. Will he survive with his or his sanity? Check it out.

The People Under the Stairs (1991)
People Under The Stairs : Cinema Quad Poster

Another campy fun “horror” film from Wes Craven. Poindexter “Fool” Williams, our 13-year old burglar/hero, breaks into the mansion of his slumlords, the Robesons, along with two thugs from the neighborhood after being notified that his family are being evicted. He gets trapped in the house with the deranged, incestuous sister and brother duo who has been kidnapping children for years to raise as their own; that is until they disobey or disappoint them and then they go under the stairs to be replaced by another. Alice (AJ Langer), their “daughter” works to help Fool escape and to stay alive in the house of horror. In casa de la Robesons you speak no evil, hear no evil and see no evil, or you go under the stairs.

Scream franchise (1996- )

Aaaahh, Sydney (Neve Campbell). Who doesn’t know about the tragic story of Sydney Prescott and her murdered mother? In the first installment we meet her and horror filmed obsessed friends a year after the death of her mother. Two students have turned up dead and gutted and Sydney begins to suspect that the murders are somehow connected with of her mother’s death. Enter the Ghostface killer, who begin to pick off her friends one-by-one. But why is the killer so determined to make the young Ms. Prescott suffer? Because she had lived a charmed life and idea of her having to suffer for the sins of our “fathers” like the rest of mere mortals is only fair. In the following films of the Sydney saga she begins to understand the full extent of her mother’s treachery and the trappings and destruction that fame can cause.This is a true example of the sins of our parents coming home to roost.

Khuwailah Beyah
Khuwailah Beyah
Khuwailah "Cookie" Beyah hails from North Carolina. She is a pop culture nut and loves all things Nathan Fillion. Ms. Beyah has a passion for the macabre and the horror genre. She serves on the "Nevermore Film Festival" selection committee in Durham, NC and attends several comic and horror conventions each year. She holds an MA from Duke University, but is a dyed in the wool North Carolina Tar Heel fan! She also enjoys writing and reading creative non-fiction.