Screams & Nightmares: The Films of Wes Craven

By Brian J. Robb

Allegedly one of the nicest Directors Hollywood has ever graced us with, and yet a man with a very darkly devious creative mind when it came to the content of his films.  Wes Craven fought the censors most of his creative life from the Indi days of the 70’s where schlock lushed the boundaries of Shock; giving way to mainstream gore and slasher work in the 80’s and 90s.  Craven made his stamp in cinema in many decades, all of this and more is covered in Brian J Robb’s book from Polaris Publishing.

There is a background to Craven in the opening chapter, but as the subtitle states, this is mainly going to focus on the film works he produced. But that isn’t to say that the opening chapter should be at all skippable – even if you are here just for the juice on the films themselves.  There is rarely a dull moment in the paragraphs that precede this. There is plenty of fascinating information about the man (Like the fact that he rarely saw any films in his youth until he reached college); or his early career as a teacher in engineering before dabbling in low budget film making.

Chapter Two picks up with the making of his 70s Cult films The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. From here is follows a linear path of his career. There are many more fascinating details to pick up with not just each film, but also the work craven tried to get off the ground in between (He had even scripted a pass at First Blood before Sylvester Stallone got his hands on it).

The book continues in linear fashion through Cravens career. With Craven passed on now 7 years, Robb has done an impressive job of digging out a lot of quotes. This is a decent look at his career that rarely meanders on the spot and is always pushing forward.

This is recommended to even the casual horror fan as there is a fascinating career here that developed through various stages and provided many highlights and even gateways into new realms of horror.  Craven clearly had his thumb on the pulse; delivered on creative ideas; opened new paths; defined sub-genres; and yet still had time to find multiple struggles with the studios along the way.  An engrossing read!

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