Legendary horror director Wes Craven dies at 76

Legendary horror director Wes Craven died in the early hours of this morning at the age of 76 after a battle with brain cancer.

Writer Wes Craven. Lucas Jackson / Reuters
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Legendary horror director Wes Craven died in the early hours of yesterday morning at the age of 76 after a battle with brain cancer.

“It is with deep sadness we inform you that Wes Craven passed away,” the family said. “He was surrounded by love, in the presence of his family at his Los Angeles home.”

Craven's most-famous creation was Freddie Krueger, played by Robert Englund. Wearing his distinctive fedora, striped jumper and a glove with razor blades attached to the fingers, the supernatural villain stalked and killed people in their dreams in the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies, the first of which was released in 1984 and featured a young Johnny Depp in a small role.

But the writer and director's path to a place in horror-movie history began in the 1970s, with two landmark – and ­controversial – films: The Last House on the Left (his first feature film, in 1972), and The Hills Have Eyes (1977). He returned to them more recently to produce inferior remakes.

The director was also behind cult favourite The People Under the Stairs, not to mention the Scream movies, in partnership with writer Kevin Williamson. Scream, featuring a cloaked killer in a ghost-faced mask, played about with the established conventions of "slasher" horror movies to revitalise the genre when the first film was released in 1996. It spawned three sequels and a TV adaptation that began this year.

Craven was also behind boundary-pushing projects such as the 2005 thriller Red Eye, and Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1995), in which he and actors from the A ­Nightmare on Elm Street movies played themselves and were terrorised by Freddie Krueger after the fictional killer crossed over into our "real" world.

Former Friends star Courteney Cox, who appeared in the Scream movies, paid tribute to Craven on Twitter, writing: "­Today the world lost a great man, my friend and mentor, Wes Craven. My heart goes out to his family."

Fellow horror director John Carpenter, who made The Thing and Christine, wrote on Facebook: "My friend Wes has left us too soon. He was truly an old- school director."

Writer and producer Richard Potter, who worked with Craven on the Scream franchise, said: "He was such a genuinely nice guy. You felt like you were talking to your favourite professor."

"Thank you for being the kindest man, the gentlest man, and one of the smartest men I've known. Please say there's a plot twist," Scream star Rose McGowan wrote on Twitter.

Craven was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1939 to a strict Baptist family. He moved as a teenager to university in Illinois, where he graduated in English and psychology, before completing an MA in philosophy in ­Baltimore.

He wrote or co-wrote much of his own film work, including the most successful instalments of the Elm Street and Scream franchises, and the comic book Coming of Rage.

* With additional reporting by AFP

cnewbould@thenational.ae