I had a weird nightmare last night. I'm not saying it was a premonition or anything like that, just that when I tried to write it down this morning I promptly forgot it when I saw the headline "WES CRAVEN DEAD".
I grew up on Craven's movies - the ones I could find in reasonably non-mutilated state in my local video store, at least - and it's hard to imagine a Buffy
TV series getting greenlit without the success of Scream
I mentioned nightmares. His three big franchises - The Hills Have Eyes
, Nightmare on Elm St
- all worked (arguably up to a point) because they understood what dreams do, the fundamental weirdness that we spend a third of our lives unconscious giving our brains free rein: They take things we pretend we don't know and make us face the monster under the bed. The people left behind as part of our progress, the murders swept under the rug, the things you can't talk about in daylight. The calls that come from inside the house. You can choose not
to go to summer camp, you can choose not
to go to that weird cabin in the woods, you can choose not
to build on top of graveyard... you can't choose not to dream. That Scream
took the idea to another meta level made perfect sense, because where do those nightmares turn up? In horror movies. Don't go there, Sid. You're starting to sound like some Wes Carpenter flick or something. Don't freak yourself out, okay? We've got a long night ahead of us.
He always brought a level of humour and self-awareness to his movies, not to replace horror (OK, some of the Elm St
sequels got pretty ridiculous), but to heighten it, to make it more human, but also to help us handle it. You can't choose not
to dream, but you can always fight back if you know the rules - just don't expect to ever, y'know, win permanently. He weaponised the sequel: The battle always goes on.
I rewatched Nightmare on Elm St
for the Nth time a few weeks ago - the original, with a tiny Johnny Depp getting killed in one of the most memorable movie deaths I know
- and it's still ridiculously good. 30 years of deconstructions, reconstructions, CGI advances and so-called culture wars (and if we're honest, some pretty crappy sequels) haven't taken one jot of power from Nancy desperately trying to make her parents understand that nightmares are real - and unlike all those other Final Girls of the 80s, calmly and deliberately taking matters into her own hands when they refuse to admit what they've created.
Thank you, Mr Craven. Sweet dreams.