This is the first in an as-many-parts-I-want-it-to-be series on the creative genius of horror, Wes Craven. Aside from being the one figure i...

Why Wes Craven is a Genius: Part I of Many

This is the first in an as-many-parts-I-want-it-to-be series on the creative genius of horror, Wes Craven. Aside from being the one figure in horror I secretly (or not so secretly) want to have brilliant babies with, Wes Craven has dominated the genre with his Scream franchise and more recent thrillers like Red Eye.

So, Why is Wes Craven a Genius?

He critiques and pokes fun at the genre while still providing a thrill. As many of the Scary Movie spoofs have shown, it’s hard to make fun of horror and still scare the audience, but Craven manages to do just that with his skillful critiques of the genre. One such appraisal can be found at the opening of Scream 2 as Craven presents Maureen and Phil, a black couple attending a screening of Stab--a thinly veiled version of Craven’s original Scream. Maureen, who would rather go to a chick flick, describes it as a “white ass movie, with some dumb ass white girls, getting their white asses cut the fuck up.” As an academic, one can imagine Craven’s words coming out of Maureen's mouth as she explains to her date that “the horror genre is historical for excluding the African American element.”
Craven turns these jabs at the horror genre into something truly terrifying with Maureen’s murder. The ghostface killer takes out her boyfriend in the bathroom and returns dressed in his jacket to the theater. It’s not long before Maureen figures out something’s not right. The killer knifes her as she flees toward the stage, the crowd shouting “Stab her!” at the female victim and her killer on the silver screen. Craven draws a parallel between the cinematic murder of the onscreen victim and Maureen’s very real murder, making the audience implicit in her killing. As Maureen turns after being stabbed, all she sees is a sea of ghostface masks, suggesting that a killer lurks behind every one.
Homage to the classics. Craven knows his horror roots and pays homage to the classics of the genre. In addition to the Freddy Krueger janitor in Scream, there is a Freddy-esque sweater in Sidney’s room in Scream 2. Also when Cici is being threatened by the killer, Nosferatu is playing on the TV in the background.
Allusions to classical literature. As a lit nerd myself, I appreciate Craven’s references to classical literature, namely the greek tragedy of Cassandra, the prophet who foretold the fall of Troy in Scream 2.
Casting Portia de Rossi and the Noxema girl as a pair of annoying sorority girls. Enough said.


  1. Nosferatu is also paid homage in Wes Craven's New Nightmare; when Freddy comes over to the real world, he casts that familiar shadow on the bedroom wall ... in NOES their is the bastardized quoting of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (the surfer dude reading just before Nancy falls asleep in class)...In that same scene, a poster for The Cherry Orchard is plainly seen - often wondered if any connection between the two can be made.

  2. Very interesting post! I love a lot of Wes Craven's work, especially Wes Craven's New Nightmare; a very clever film and ahead of it's time.