Freddy Krueger is undoubtedly giving a very long middle finger to God. A Nightmare on Elm Street director Wes Craven passed away from brain cancer on Sunday. Craven spent nearly half-a-century making scary movies and yet he didn’t see anything but Disney movies until his last year of college. Movies were prohibited by both his strict Baptist family and Christian college under threat of expulsion, which he tempted by sneaking into a theater to see To Kill a Mockingbird.
Craven downplayed the influence of religion on his work during an interview with fellow filmmaker Mick Garris.
“There’s no way that it didn’t have some influence in some way but there’s lots of horror film directors that didn’t have that background,” Craven explained. “I don’t know. I think I just have this innate sort of dark humor. I was known much more in school, in college, for a sense of humor than I was for anything like horror.”
Craven’s funny bone was fully exposed with reanimated corpse of Freddy Krueger, who took joy in tormenting the children of his murderers. The malevolent character was inspired by a bum scaring Craven as child. The man looked up at and smiled at him while passing by his home. Craven hid and when he mustered the courage to look out the window, he was terrified to see the sneering man was waiting for him.
Actor Robert Englund brought his nightmare to life on-screen. The form-fitting makeup allowed him to show the true face of evil unlike masked monsters such as Jason or Michael Myers.
“RIP Wes Craven, my director, my friend,” Englund tweeted. “A brilliant, kind, gentle and very funny man. A sad day on Elm St and everywhere. I’ll miss him.”
Craven also had a lighter sense of humor demonstrated by numerous cameos. He even dressed up in a Freddy sweater to play the janitor in Scream. The director appeared as himself in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) walk onto the set of Scream 4 starring Shannen Doherty. The killer is revealed to be their pet orangutan. Craven defends the casting choice. “Market research says people love monkeys,” he insists. It’s a brilliant commentary on Hollywood. Craven understood the penchant for remakes and sequels. He pointed to the rise in piracy for the industry’s unwilling to take risks. Craven made his final appearance in the Castle episode “Scared to Death.” Castle (Nathan Fillion) calls up the horror legend looking for advice on how to avoid a seemingly real-life Ring curse. He claims that it’s research of a book that will provide some friendly competition for Craven, who laughs at the notion.