All My Heroes Are Dying – Wes Craven

I’d like to start today’s message by giving a really deep personal insight into my psyche, I love horror movies and shows. Horror in any form, from slasher to zombie, from alien invasion to demonic possession, pick your choice, I’m there. My earliest recollection of horror goes to an all day kid’s show at the old Bijou theater, where my Mom would park me and my brother for the day on Saturday. I guess I was about ten, so my brother would have been about six, and Mom would dump us out in front of the theater about 9AM and then pick us up at the library around the corner around 5PM. She’d give us a dollar each, which was a lot in those days, and we’d eat crap all day and watch cartoons and the two or three feature movies. On this day there was “The Mummy”, which was not too bad. My brother was a little unnerved, but I helped him hold his hands over his eyes during the scary parts. “Putting the blinders on” was easy because the movie telegraphed everything; when you know it’s coming it’s not quite as scary is it? Well, the second feature was “The Tingler” starring the scariest guy I’ve ever actually met, Vincent Price. Let me qualify that by saying “movie scary” not real life scary. I’ve met some real scary sons of gun in my time, Vincent would not make the top thousand in real life. But this wasn’t real life and the movie was a corker. What was so cool was that it played on psychology, and apparently I was the target audience. Well, long story short, we bailed out of the theater before Officer Bill from The Popeye Club had given his show and done all of the drawings. The library seemed like a safe refuge from a parasite that attacked its victims based on their fears. Nothing to fear in a library, right?

My seminal moment with horror came one night while I was watching the Bestoink Dooley show and the movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” came on. Everything in the movie spoke to me. I didn’t sleep for weeks, or if I did, I’d wake up pulling the imagined vines and webs away from my body as I gasped for breath. I was hooked. Like any obsession, you need more and more to satisfy your cravings and at some point you notice that you can actually analyze your obsession and focus on nuances.

As usual, I have gone around my elbow to get to my kneecap to pay tribute to one of my heroes, Wes Craven, who passed today. Wes Craven was an educated man, a man of letters and a college professor at one time. His work first came to my attention in “The Last House On The Left” which will still get your heart pumping today, I think. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen everything he’s done, including his big production, “Red Eye”, but the Wes Craven franchise is the “Nightmare On Elm Street” series. I think I was about 35 when I saw the first “Nightmare”, and to a kid who spent so much time on their own, it pushed a lot of buttons deep down. Like “Invasion of Body Snatchers” the film sets up an environment where the characters are afraid to go to sleep. Just like real life, the characters can give in to sleep deprivation and “sleep their lives away”, or fight sleep, and risk psychosis. Hard choices. Wes Craven’s Freddy Kruger character, gave a face to evil as opposed to the two earlier horror franchises, Halloween and Friday the 13th. Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers were like the faceless Frankenstein of old, Freddy Kruger looked real, and therefore far more scary. Thanks for that Mr. Craven.

The cinematic world will be a less scary place now that Wes Craven is gone. He will be missed, but his legacy will live forever in the hearts of horror fans and cinephiles.

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