When we think about Wes Craven, the first things that come to mind are the endless nightmares and lost hours of sleep for which the masterful horror director was responsible. Now that he's died, there's been a reexamination of his work, his techniques, and his impact on the horror genre.
Before he died, Craven gave one last interview to the Front, which includes a particularly great passage about his personal life and the art he created. There's a notion that in order to create gruesome, horrific stuff — the kind of movies Craven made — you have to be a weird, fucked-up person. That isn't the case, Craven explained.
When speaking about his directorial debut The Last House on the Left, a gruesome horror movie featuring rape and murder, Craven told the Front that he found the film objectionable — something that might be construed as weird, considering he wrote the film in addition to directing. But he explained that being able to write something horrific or terrifying doesn't absolve a writer or creator from feeling fear or disgust:
Craven: ... That’s how I got started making scary movies. It was The Last House on the Left. Before that, I had no impulse. I immediately tried to move away from it.
The Front: From the horror genre?
Craven: Yeah. That film was especially brutal and scarifying.
The Front: I heard a rumor that you were never able to watch it.
Craven: No, no I’ve watched it. It’s just not pleasant to watch. The suffering feels very, very real. It’s mean. The bad guys are mean-spirited and very personal. Just total rage and take no prisoners.
The Front: But you wrote it.
Craven: Oh, I wrote it. I get that all the time, "Where does this come from? You seem like such a nice guy." I don’t know. Now I know most of the major guys and girls who make horror films and they are a jolly bunch. We’ve all talked about it amongst ourselves and we were scared in school or bullied or whatever, or had scary fathers. It’s partially a way to immune yourself from terror and fear. And I’m sure there is a certain amount of anger and even rage in being raised in a way that says half of the great sources of inspiration and joy in life are sins and you burn in hell forever. I’m sure that had done a lot of psychic damage.
Craven's explanation is another glimpse into the relationship between art and artist, and, ultimately, a hard look at the assumptions we might make when connecting an artist to his or her work. Reading how Craven approached horror in his own words gives us a better appreciation of his work, but also a better understanding of other creators and the art they produce.
Head on over to the Front for the full interview.