In our next debate, Carl from I Like Horror Movies will be teaming up with Rhonny Reaper from Dollar Bin Horror to cover both sides of the topic at hand. The rules as always are to keep it civil, keep it thoughtful, and keep it under 500 words:
Is Wes Craven a hack that got lucky?
Wes Craven is a knowledgeable, cultured, and articulate speaker that could have become a brilliant professor if he had stuck with his original profession. It was his background in Literature that drew him to THE VIRGIN SPRING, a drama based on a13th century Swedish ballad that also served as the basis for his feature debut THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. It is this film in particular that we must now draw our focus. Many genre enthusiasts consider Craven to be one of (if not the) masters of horror, while still others place him as a talentless hack that got lucky with his first film. While that language may be harsh, the argument is not without merit. Although there are strong prevalent themes lying beneath the surface of LAST HOUSE relating back to the destruction of the nuclear family and the breakdown of civility, these themes are completely overshadowed by the abusive sex and violence the film portrays. There is very little style of substance in many of the deplorable acts, filmed in a crude “guerilla” style that lacks all of the polished professionalism of the studio system. The characters are written to such extremes as to achieve a level of comic book supervillainy. The burden of these exaggerated characterizations did not fall on the actors, but rather their creator. The characters were written by an irresponsible director that specifically engineered them to generate sensationalism and to perpetuate the perversity and gore in the script. As THE VIRGIN SPRING proved, the story was strong enough to succeed without these elements. The senseless tortures and humiliations are unnecessary additions included to upset and disgust the audience rather than seize them in a grip of suspense or terror. Cheap exploitation techniques, then, become the driving force of the film, not character or plot. Cruel characters and gore alone do not make a poor director, but when added to the weakened structure of the film, cracks do appear. Zany music, goofy cops, and an uneven blend of sadism and sitcom are just a few of the faults leading to the film's ultimate technical failure.
Craven benefited most from a genius marketing campaign and a dramatic shift in the times that brought forth a desensitized audience craving carnage and bloodshed as a cathartic release from the struggling social and political climate post-Vietnam. While he would strike gold with later hits THE HILLS HAVE EYES and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, his spotty track record often reflects the same inattention to style and character that made films like CHILLER or INVITATION TO HELL fall flat. Were it not for the perfect timing of LAST HOUSE'S release during a period when Exploitation was a thriving new market, Craven may easily have been written off and forgotten before HILLS or NIGHTMARE were ever conceived. Luck and timing had everything to do with his future success as a filmmaker, and not skill.
"No" Rhonny Reaper:
Wes craven is a familiar name to horror fans. His legacy of films has kept him relevant to new and seasoned horror buffs, but with greatness comes scrutiny. There are those who would say he got lucky because not all of his films are good. Well to this, let me ask you, name a director who every single film they ever made you love? Carl focuses on Last House on the Left, but lets remember this was his FIRST FILM; he wasn’t a seasoned pro yet! Did Big Ben win his first super bowl, I think not! Sure Craven had some missed with films like Last House on the Left (which I actually liked), Chiller and Vampire in Brooklyn (even though I kinda sorta liked that one, don’t shoot me it was funny), but when he hit it, he fucking hit in on the bulls eye.
The Hills Have Eyes (If it wasn’t for this film, you wouldn’t have your Wrong Turns and crazy redneck films!), A Nightmare on Elm Street (come on, he created Freddy for fucks sake, the slasher that broke the strong, silent type mode!), Scream (The original 90’s slasher with my future husband, Billy! lol)…he hit it in all of these! And not only were this films great, but they reached out to THREE different generations of horror fans! Hacks get lucky once and ride of the successes of that one glimpse of greatness, Wes Craven has proved several times over that he knows what he’s doing, and does it well.
Join in the fun and voice your opinions on Horror legend Wes Craven in the comments below, and thanks again to our contributors in this tonight's debate!