I’m not a huge horror movie fan, but I appreciate any good film that can creep me out or make me jump.

I only have a marginal interest in vampire, werewolf, zombie, monster, alien, etc. stuff.  I find the “slasher” genre to be interesting because the threats are human psychopaths. I guess it makes it seem a little more real.

I saw a documentary recently on the history of the genre titled Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film. Interesting movie, and it really made me appreciate writer/director Wes Craven.

His first film (outside of directing some hardcore adult stuff) was The Last House On The Left in 1972. It was one of the more popular bloody exploitation films of the early 70s, and is still a cult favorite. It’s basically a revenge story, but it has a particularly vicious tone to it, especially for the time of release (and it’s still hard to watch).

His third film, The Hills Have Eyes, came out in 1977. It’s another cult favorite, about a family terrorized by cannibalistic inbred mountain folk. Like Last House On The Left, it’s gritty and disturbing.

A year later, John Carpenter’s Halloween came out and, to me, started the whole modern motif of a killer (or killers) terrorizing teenagers in a confined area.

But the emphasis on blood ‘n’ guts and gruesome makeup effects really started in 1980 with Prom Night and Friday The 13th.  From that point on, it seemed like every week there was some kind of formulaic knock-off – usually with a holiday as the theme.

After a few years, moviegoers were getting tired of slasher flicks. Seeing the same thing over and over was getting boring. The genre was dying.

During this time, Craven was fascinated with a story about a man who hadn’t slept in years. The man was terrified that a spirit would kill him if he slept. His family finally convinced him to go to sleep. They soon heard screams coming from his room; when they investigated, he stopped screaming and died. You can guess what idea this story inspired.

A Nightmare On Elm Street was released in 1984. If you’re old like me, you remember what a smash hit it was. Craven had basically reinvented the genre. Sure, there’s a creepy guy stalking and cutting up teenagers with glove-knives, but he does it IN YOUR DREAMS WHILE YOU SLEEP. How are you going to avoid sleep? And is Freddy a monster? A vengeful ghost? Just a crispy-fried man? He’s an unstoppable wisecracker, that’s for certain.

The genre was rejuvenated for a while, and Nightmare was particularly hot. Four sequels followed through 1989. And other independent low-budget straight-to-DVD titles generally sold well.

In 1991, The Silence Of The Lambs won the Best Picture Academy Award. While not technically a slasher film, the main bad guy kills and skins women to make a suit, and the secondary bad guy is a brilliant psychopathic murderous cannibal…so there’s that. Anyway, the horror genre in general got a popularity boost.

Then came Craven’s Scream in 1996. Granted, he didn’t write it, but it’s wonderfully directed. It’s a typical slasher set-up, but the killer’s a cinema buff who knows everything about horror movies. The victims, as well, are aware of all the horror film clichés. By making a quality movie that’s so jokingly tongue-in-cheek, he reinvented the genre again.

Side note: It’s the highest-grossing slasher movie, earning $173 million. There are three sequels.

POINT OF THE STORY: Craven is obviously a talented director with a flair for horror. He didn’t start out making slashers, but he’s put a new spin on and revitalized the genre twice.  So I’m asking:


Dear Mr. Craven,

Please direct another movie with a brilliant twist on the slasher genre. We promise we’ll watch it. You are a genius and we film fans need you to step up here. Thanks! Happy filmmaking!


Gary and the rest of the world