My mother worked 3 jobs when I was growing up. As a result, and in a cost-saving measure, I spent a great deal of time at my Aunt Cathy’s house watching movies with my cousin Samantha. These movies were typically collections recorded from some other medium (cable?) onto BetaMax cassettes, but my favorite cassette had only one film on it, one film that I would watch on an almost daily basis: “A Nightmare on Elm Street”.
The film enthralled me. I couldn’t have been more than six years old at the time and such a film should have sent me into fits of terror. Don’t get me wrong, I was certainly scared by the images I was seeing. Terrified, even. There was something to the story, however, that I simply could not understand: the victim, Nancy, was putting everyone else first. Of course there were moments where she was forced to survive as Freddy singled her out, but in her waking hours when she wasn’t trying to convince the adults of Springwood of what was happening, she was steeling herself and doing what was in her power to keep her friends safe and informed so that they would not suffer the same fate as those before. As I grew older and enjoyed more of Wes Craven’s work, I noticed this to be a common thread in his films. From “Swamp Thing” to “Scream”, the primary antagonist (and often the main focus of the villains torment) is also the hero, trying to defend those around them from the evil it knows is waiting for them. It was this heroism, this stance against evil, that struck me, and instilled in me the desire to face my fears so that my friends would not have to suffer.
My love for “A Nightmare on Elm Street” has never waned and never been displaced. While it may not have prepared me to face the horrors of this world as expertly as I may have thought it would, it did instill in me an empathy for the plight of those unable to defend themselves, especially children. I can recall, mere hours after a friend of mine was killed in a senseless act of violence by a real life villain, my first thought was, “He has little sisters who won’t understand – get to the house, protect the children.” My own grief was secondary, something to be addressed at a later time. Over the years I continued watching the films of Wes Craven and, without fail, would be met with not just an entertaining and often terrifying piece of cinema, but also a bolstering of that value to protect those that couldn’t protect themselves. As weird as it may sound, Wes Craven and his tales of terror helped shape and develop a part of my personality that I could not call myself “me” without.
I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Craven in 2007 at the Scriptwriter’s Showcase in Los Angeles. He was part of the Scare Tactics panel, and when asked what he thought the true definition of horror was, responded: “I’ve always felt that true horror dealt with the destruction of innocence – I can’t think of a greater evil than that, and I can’t think of anything I would rather have someone fighting to protect.” I felt myself smile when he said this, as the feeling or instinct (whatever you want to call it) that had been instilled in me as a child was validated from the very mouth of the man who had instilled it. As I roamed around the conference after the panel, I saw Mr. Craven walking with an amazon who must have been hotel security. I calmly approached him with my hand extended. Mr. Craven, who by the way is an enormous man at easily 6’5”, looked at me, puzzled. The only words I could think to say were, “Mr. Craven, thank you very much, keep kicking ass”. He smiled, shook my hand and, with a nod, went about his business. What I had meant to say was, “You are not a hero, but your characters are; keep helping them win.” In that brief moment, with a smile and a nod, maybe he understood that.
Wes Craven passed away on August 30, 2015. He leaves behind a body of work that will haunt moviegoers for ages to come, but, for those watching closely enough, will also provide a blueprint for how to be a hero.
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Todd doesn’t like anything and doesn’t care what you think about it.
SPRATTE IS A SPAZ AND LIKES EVERYTHING BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS AWESOOOOME! Spratte also REALLLLY likes coffee. And Mountain Dew. And he mourns for the generations that will never fully understand the experience of watching Saturday morning cartoons.
Aaron has a degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Northern Colorado and likes to spend his free time writing the occasional sad bastard play. Because, like Whedon and Moffet, your tears give him strength.
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