Horror movie director Wes Craven died on Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015, at the age of 76. For more than 40 years, with such iconic films as "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and the "Scream" series, Craven delighted and terrified generations of movie audiences with tales that often blended suspense and gore with comedy.
"Horror films don't create fear," Craven once said. "They release it."
Left: Cami Cooper in Craven's 1989 film, "Shocker."
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan
Wesley Earl "Wes" Craven was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on Aug. 2, 1939. Raised by a strict Baptist family, he earned degrees in philosophy and writing from Johns Hopkins University, and worked as a college professor.
He entered the movie business in the production of porn films (working under pseudonyms), but he made his first feature film in 1972, taking as his inspiration Swedish director Ingmar Bergman.
"The Last House on the Left"
The horror film "The Last House on the Left" (1972) was inspired by Bergman's "The Virgin Spring" (about the family of a murdered girl that wreaks revenge against her attackers). Its famous tag line: "To avoid fainting, keep repeating: It's only a movie ... only a movie ... only a movie ..."
"The Last House on the Left"
Richard Towers in "The Last House on the Left" (1972), directed by Wes Craven. The bloody low-budget exploitation flick, about teenage girls abducted and taken into the woods, was a hit that also impressed critics.
"The Hills Have Eyes"
Michael Berryman was the startling leader of murderous mutants that happen upon a clean-cut family whose car had inconveniently broken down in the Nevada desert, in Wes Craven's 1977 horror film, "The Hills Have Eyes."
A Hittite community (led by Ernest Borgnine) hides some dastardly supernatural doings in the 1981 horror film, "Deadly Blessings," costarring Maren Jensen and Sharon Stone (left).
Maren Jensen is not in good hands in "Deadly Blessing."
Though not traditional horror, Craven produced the 1981 TV docudrama, "Kent State," about the deadly clash between National Guardsmen and college students protesting the Vietnam War. The film won an Emmy Award for director James Goldstone.
Based on the DC Comic, "Swamp Thing" (1982), written and directed by Wes Craven, feature a scientist (Ray Wise) who is transformed by a laboratory accident into a mutant swamp creature (Dick Durock). Thankfully, Swamp Thing is able to aid a wounded Adrienne Barbeau.
"The Hills Have Eyes Part 2"
Michael Berryman and his mutant clan returned in Wes Craven's 1985 sequel, "The Hills Have Eyes Part II."
"A Nightmare on Elm Street"
Wes Craven's greatest critical success was the 1984 horror film, "A Nightmare on Elm Street," in which high school friends are hunted down and killed in their dreams by the deranged, scarred child murderer Freddy Krueger. The cast included Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia, Johnny Depp, and Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger.
In 1997 Craven talked with Charlie Rose about the attraction - and notoriety - of the horror genre: "You're dealing with fear and you have to get through to those fears, and in that way you have to know what people are really afraid of. You have to go into sort of those forbidden areas, and you're probably going to be making a film that's upsetting to adults and to the establishment."
"A Nightmare on Elm Street"
Robert Englund as serial killer Freddy Krueger, who does his best work when he invades people's dreams, in "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984). Englund appeared as Krueger in seven "Nightmare" films in all, and hosted the syndicated TV anthology series, "Freddy's Nightmares."
In Wes Craven's 1985 TV horror flick "Chiller," Michael Beck plays a cryonically-frozen corporate executive who is revived. Just about the same time a string of murders occurs. Hmmmmm...
Craven's other TV projects included the movies "Stranger in Our House," starring Linda Blair; "Night Visions"; and episodes of "Nightmare Cafe" and the revived "Twilight Zone."
Although Kristy Swanson has been killed by her abusive father, computer whiz Matthew Laborteaux brings her back to something kind of like life, thanks to a microchip, in the sci-fi/horror film, "Deadly Friend" (1986).
"The Serpent and the Rainbow"
Based on Wade Davis' non-fiction book about the beliefs in zombies in Haiti, "The Serpent and the Rainbow" (1988) starred Bill Pullman as a Harvard anthropologist whose investigations into voodoo and other practices bring him uncomfortably close to a sinister corporation, the Tonton Macoutes, human sacrifices, and - zombies!
Old Sparky was supposed to mean the end of inmates convicted of capital crimes. But in the case of serial killer Horace Plinker (Mitch Pileggi), the electric chair gives him a life beyond death, in Wes Craven's "Shocker" (1989).
"The People Under the Stairs"
The cannibalistic residents of Wes Craven's "The People Under the Stairs" (1991).
"Wes Craven's New Nightmare"
Wes Craven wrote and directed the 1994 meta film, "Wes Craven's New Nightmare," in which the actors from the original "Nightmare on Elm Street" - Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon - play themselves as well as the characters they portray in the horror series.
Craven also appears as himself - the director who believes Freddy Krueger is a real, murderous apparition unleashed upon the world thanks to his films.
"Vampire in Brooklyn"
Eddie Murphy played multiple roles in Wes Craven's 1995 horror-comedy, "Vampire in Brooklyn," one of whom is the vampire, Maximillian.
Wes Craven unleashed another pop culture phenomenon with the 1996 slasher film, "Scream." Starring Drew Barrymore, Courtney Cox, Neve Campbell and David Arquette, the film mixed comedy with shocks as a killer dubbed Ghostface hunts down his victims who seem all too aware of the cliches of slasher films (but maybe not so aware as to avoid an untimely death).
Courtney Cox, Jamie Kennedy and Neve Campbell in "Scream."
"Music of the Heart"
Inspired by the 1995 documentary "Small Wonders," about music teacher Roberta Guaspari and her students at the Opus 118 Harlem School of Music, Wes Craven directed a dramatization of her story in "Music of the Heart" (1999), starring Meryl Streep. The uncharacteristically non-horror work also starred Aidan Quinn, Angela Bassett, Cloris Leachman, Gloria Estefan, and featured appearances by Isaac Stern and Itzhak Perlman.
The film received two Academy Award nominations (including one for Meryl Streep as Best Actress).
Before and after he shot "Music of the Heart," Wes Craven directed two "Scream" sequels. Left: Jenny McCarthy in "Scream 3."
In the 2005 horror-comedy "Cursed," Jesse Eisenberg and Christina Ricci play a brother and sister who cross paths with a werewolf.
In the 2005 thriller, "Red Eye," Rachel McAdams is an airline passenger who discovers an unwelcome message - and become embroiled in a terrorist plot.
Director Wes Craven with actors Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy on the set of "Red Eye."
"Paris je t'aime"
For the 2006 anthology film "Paris je t'aime," which featured 18 vignettes by different directors, each set in a different Parisian arrondissement, Wes Craven contributed "Père-Lachaise." After a man (Rufus Sewell) is dumped by his fiancee (Emily Moritmer), he obtains romantic advice from the ghost of Oscar Wilde (director Alexander Payne). We know it's a Wes Craven film because it was shot in a cemetery.
"My Soul to Take"
Better call 911 -- too late! Paulina Olszynski in Wes Craven's 3-D thriller, "My Soul to Take" (2010).
Investigators comb a bloody crime scene in "Scream 4" (2011).
Neve Campbell (joined by Mary McDonnell) is again the target of a knife-wielding assailant in "Scream 4" (2011). The final film of the "Scream" franchise was also Craven's last film as a director.
Among the horror films which Wes Craven has produced is Robert Kurtzman's "Wishmaster" (1997), in which an evil supernatural djinn seeks to steal souls and lead a takeover of Earth. Though panned by critics, it begat three direct-to-video sequels.
Produced by Wes Craven, Patrick Lussier's "Dracula 2000" starred Gerard Butler as Count Dracula and Christopher Plummer as vampire hunter Van Helsing - both immortal.
From "Dracula 2000": What Dracula film would be complete without comely vampiresses?
Wes Craven, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were among the executive producers of "Feast," a 2005 horror film about bar patrons' encounter with monsters.
Wes Craven produced the 2006 horror film, "The Breed," which follows visitors to an uninhabited island, who encounter a pack of dogs that is less than inviting.
"The Hills Have Eyes"
French filmmaker Alexandre Aja ("Haute Tension") was picked by Wes Craven to direct a remake of "The Hills Have Eyes" in 2006.
"The Hills Have Eyes 2"
Martin Weisz directed the Wes Craven-produced sequel/remake, "The Hills Have Eyes 2" (2007), in which National Guardsmen fight off mutants in the desert. Jonathan Craven, who appeared as a boy in the original "Last House on the Left," co-wrote the screenplay with his father.
"The Girl in the Photographs"
Wes Craven produced the 2015 thriller, "The Girl in the Photographs." Directed by Nick Simon and starring Katharine Isabelle, Christy Carlson Romano, Kenny Wormald and Kal Penn ("Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle"), it tells of an aspiring fashion model being stalked by a pair of deranged serial killers.
In addition to filmmaking, Craven was also a novelist ("The Fountain Society") and an ardent bird conservationist, serving on the Audubon California Board of Directors.
He died of brain cancer in his Los Angeles home, surrounded by family, on Aug. 30, 2015. He is survived by his wife, producer Iya Labunka, a son, a daughter, and a stepdaughter.
In 2010, he told the Los Angeles Times, "My goal is to die in my 90s on the set, say, 'That's a wrap,' after the last shot, fall over dead, and have the grips go out and raise a beer to me."
For more info:
wescraven.com (Official site)