Wes Craven Reflects On The State Of Horror

Ghostface is back to leave more bloody marks.
(Photo courtesy of Dimension Films.)

Scream 4 opens today, and it looks set to be a new hit for Wes Craven, the director of the original trilogy and the creator of Freddy Krueger. I spoke with Craven for a four-page story in the new issue of MovieMaker entitled “Wes Craven Screams Anew,” in which we discuss the new sequel, his disappointment over the reception of last year’s My Soul To Take and it’s “terrible history of birthing,” how he is metaphorically making war movies and why the Oscars routinely ignore horror. There was a little bit left over from the story, specifically his thoughts on recent horror films and whether the genre needs to go away for awhile to recharge its batteries. Here it is.

Craven happy in the
director's (hot) seat.
(Photo courtesy of Dimension Films.)

Given the current horror boom of the last decade, and given this current crop of reboots, remakes and sequels, do you think horror needs to go back underground again to regain its potency? So that maybe a new generation comes up with a new Wes Craven or Dario Argento, perhaps the young talent that you have been cultivating over the years?
In a way, I hope so. In a way, I hope the old Wes Craven can bring something new back, but I know what you’re saying. I think in some way some of the new films, when they were in their first iteration, were quite groundbreaking. I think SAW was quite original, and Blair Witch, Hostel and Paranormal Activity, all of that stuff was kind of innovative. It’s really not even the fault of the filmmakers that some of these things go into one iteration after another. It’s just incredibly lucrative for a studio. It’s a very risky business, so if the studio can recoup some of their losses on others gamble that they’ve taken, that’s great for them. I’m all about studios surviving, too. It would be great to see somebody come in and, in my personal taste, bring a little more humanity to horror and make it a little bit more real or just different from torturing people and stuff like that.

With the advent of the torture porn movement over the last several years, I’m wondering if we’ve become too desensitized to real-life violence and don’t react to it in the same way. Do worry about that at all as a filmmaker?
No, I don’t. I really think that people know very well what’s real and what’s not, and I think in some ways the entertainment follows the reality. Those two films [SAW and Hostel] about torture came out right in the middle of revelations about the extent of torture that was being done by our country, at least our leaders, in trying to cope with 9/11. It was quite horrific, and there were some very devastating images that came from the [Iraqi] prison; people standing with hoods over their head sand electrodes coming out of their fingers. My God, that couldn’t have come out of a horror movie any more than possible. Those are startling images, and I think it deeply affected the subconscious of a lot of filmmakers, so it really didn’t surprise me that torture became a subject of consideration. I think it’s a way of a filmmaker and also of an audience testing themselves against it. If this were done to me, how would I survive? Or even can I psychically survive watching something like this? I know when I went to Hostel that I didn’t want to go there, but I felt like I had to to see what other people were doing. At least in the first Hostel I thought they treated it in a way that didn’t exploit it horribly, but you certainly felt that sense of helplessness of somebody caught in a situation where somebody else was doing it and not feeling any compunctions about it.

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