Like many many people my age and older who grew up during the golden age of slasher films, Wes Craven may have been one of our earliest introductions to horror. I remember being about 3 or 4 years old, and over at a family friend's house and playing the arcade game Defender. Behind me, they were channel surfing, and one of them ended up on a channel showing one of the Elm Street movies. Honestly, I can't remember which one it was, and it may have just been a promo, but I remember thinking, uh oh, I probably shouldn't watch this, this looks a bit too intense for me. I'm going to continue shooting the citizens I'm supposed to be saving in Defender.
It wasn't until about 4th or 5th grade that I really really started getting into binge watching horror films. That's right, going to the video store, renting a wagon full, taking them home, and spending a couple days watching through them, then returning and renting some more. By the time Junior High started, I already had quite the collection that I had bought. And yes, there were a lot of Wes Craven movies in there. "Last House on the Left" is pretty much the definition of flawed masterpiece. There's some really intense and well acted sequences in that film. And then chicken trucks happen. "The Hills Have Eyes" is fun and gritty looking as hell. I love how it looks like it was filmed with cameras that were themselves left over at a nuclear test sight.
It's hard to believe "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Hills Have Eyes Part 2" came out the same year. Elm Street being a scary as hell movie, with one of the most memorable villains of any genre, and Hills Have Eyes Part 2 isn't that good, but watching Michael Berryman running around like madman and terrorizing a blind woman is worth atleast a rental I suppose. "Deadly Friend" is worth it for the basketball scene, "The Serpent and the Rainbow" has gotten repeat viewing from me since I first saw it, and "Shocker" is corny as hell, but still kinda worth it.
"The People Under the Stairs" is a bizarro freakshow masterpiece, and one of his most underrated movies. It's like a kids movie that somehow wandered into an exploitation film, and it's brilliant. Everett McGill running around in a leather outfit screaming like an insane demon from an S&M club is genius. I watched "Nightmare Cafe" with my mom when it first aired on television. I can still remember being freaked out by the dude who turned into a stone pillar at the end of an episode. It was a great short lived series that should have gone on much longer than it did. "New Nightmare" will hold a special place in my heart because it was the first Freddy movie that I saw in theaters. I went by myself since none of my friends at school were allowed to go. I really did have the best parents. "New Nightmare" I think is a really smart film, and a great way to make Freddy spooky again.
I remember not liking "Vampire in Brooklyn" when it first came out, but Sarah has been wanting me to give it another chance for years. I haven't been intentionally avoiding it, I just forget things sometimes. Honestly, it may hold up better for me as an adult, I can think of a lot of movies that are like that. "Scream" was an insanely popular franchise for him, and while it's a series I was never a fan of, it's definitely going to be mentioned in any write up of Wes Craven. But I'm not here to talk on and on about what I disliked about some of the guys films; I'm not an asshole, I'm here to give the man credit where credit is due, and thank him for some movies that really did help shape my tastes since my childhood. By the way, "Red Eye" is a really fun flick too and is totally worth a watch.
Hell yes I still own That Darn Cat and watch it anytime I can. I love That Darn Cat so much that I can go on and on about how the remmake with Christina Ricci and Doug E Doug is one of the worst movies remakes ever. The physical comedy from Dean Jones in That Darn Cat is outstanding, and also his likable straightman capabilities at just getting laughs from a simple look of disbelief, especially in this movie where the plot has him as an FBI agent using a Siamese cat named DC as a tool for rescuing a kidnapped woman. There's much added hilarity too in making him so allergic to cats, that even saying the word cat makes him sneeze. Another thing I love about this movie is that while on the one hand we have this silly and very funny Disney comedy, the villains on the other hand are Neville Brand and Frank Gorshin, and while Frank Gorshin is playing his role for laughs, Neville Brand is playing it STRAIGHT. I'm not sure if Neville Brand knows he's in a Disney movie. I think he thinks he's in Stanley Kubrick's The Killing.
Watching Neville Brand in this is like watching Seth Gecko pop up in The Parent Trap. It's brilliant. So much so that Brand even says to the kidnapped woman "I've got 6 little lead nozed friends, and they can all run faster than you can." This is great stuff, and it all ends with a fist fight between Dean Jones and Brand which immediately makes your movie a mmasterpiece. Long story short, you want to honor Dean Jones this weekend, or just watch a great comedy, watch That Darn Cat. And I definitely can't end this without mentioning Dean Jones' against type performance as the veterinarian from hell in "Beethoven." I remember seeing Beethoven in the theater and thinking, "um, that's not the Dean Jones I remember!" It was a great role for him and totally showed that he could do villain just as well as hero, and honestly I would have loved to seem do a villainous role more, but if it's likable Disney hero you're looking for, it never got more likable than Dean Jones.