I was most saddened to learn of the passing of Wes Craven today. I was a big fan of his films and he was an extremely smart and kind gentleman whom I didn’t get to know in person as well as I’d like.
Like many film fans who grew up in the 70’s and early 80’s, Wes Craven’s name became synonymous to me with cutting edge horror. When I grew up in a VHS less house, I really could only dream of the horrors behind the forbidding posters or video box art of movies like ‘The Last House On The Left’, ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ and ‘Deadly Blessing’. These were films I was not really allowed to see, but as a young horror obsessive I needed to know everything about them.
Check out these tag-lines…
‘To avoid fainting, keep repeating, IT’S ONLY A MOVIE, IT’S ONLY A MOVIE, IT’S ONLY A MOVIE…’
‘The Lucky Ones Died First’
‘If thine right eye offends thee, pluck it out…’
Imagine a wide eyed 10 year old me looking at those VHS covers in a video shop and trembling at the mere thought of what the films contained. Indeed the first film (Wes Craven’s debut) was one of the infamous video nasties in the UK and I didn’t see it until way later at a special cinema showing in 2001. (Indeed I actually watched my first Ingmar Bergman film because of Wes, as ‘Last House On The Left’ is a loose remake of ‘The Virgin Spring’.)
Even before I actually saw any of his movies, the mere synopsis on the jackets were enough to give me nightmares. I boned up on Mr Craven in the pages of STARBURST and my well thumbed ‘Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film’ and so knew every terrifying detail about his early films without seeing a frame.
The first encounter with the actual work was seeing ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’ sometime in 1985 around the house of a friend of my older brother. Their parents had rented out this 18 certificate movie and we were going to watch it in the afternoon. It felt so illicit and exciting watching it and I wish sometimes I could return to this more innocent time where these horror films felt so dangerous and visceral to me.
The first ‘Nightmare’ quickly became a landmark horror movie and what distinguished it then is what still marks it out as a classic now. It’s the sheer twisted imagination of the premise; the idea of lucid waking nightmares bleeding into the real world makes Freddy Kruger a much more formidable and interesting foe than any of his slasher rivals.
That Wes Craven was able to rip a film from the headlines (with echoes of the mass hysteria surrounding the infamous McMartin case) and create a solid gold horror premise that is surreal and ambitious even within it’s limited budget, was a masterstroke.
From that point on, I had to see every film of Craven’s. My favourites of his early films include the original ‘The Hills Have Eyes’, ‘Deadly Blessing’ and I do have a fondness for the sometimes campy and overwrought ‘Deadly Friend’ (which became a victim of Craven’s success and had nonsensical gory dream sequences added because of the ongoing success of ‘Elm Street’.)
Craven also had his imprint on the two other great ‘Elm Street’ movies. The second sequel ‘Dream Warriors’ is co-written and produced by him and generally thought of as one of the very best instalments. Then in 1994, Wes also wrote and directed the fascinating, forth wall breaking and truly underrated ‘Wes Craven’s New Nightmare’ which took the characters into a daring meta direction that felt ahead of it’s time.
Like many genre directors Wes had many other interests, (he was a former English teacher, had a degree in philosophy and was a keen birder) and thus he was not always happy just being a ‘horror guy’. It’s very telling during his career how often he tries to break out of the box with deviations on the horror theme; with ‘Swamp Thing’, ‘The Serpent & The Rainbow’ and later thriller ‘Red Eye’, not to mention his one non genre film, the Meryl Streep movie ‘Music Of The Heart’.
His actual genre work is nothing to sniff at though and my favourite of his movies is also his most overtly political. 1991’s ‘The People Under The Stairs’ is a great little movie that manages to spin an urban treasure hunt storyline into deeply creepy Brothers Grimm territory, all garnished with an angry anti capitalist streak a mile wide. If you only know Wes from either Freddy or Ghostface, I urge you to track this one down. It’s such a gem.
In the late nineties, Wes scored his biggest hit of all with ‘Scream’. I vividly remember seeing this opening weekend in London and saying out loud ‘That’s the kind of movie I want to make’. Eight years later I tried to do exactly that with ‘Shaun Of The Dead’. I would frequently evoke Craven’s film when pitching ours as an example of a successful horror that mixes laughs with jolts.
The intertextuality of ‘Scream’ was a surprise to some, but in reality there was a winking side to Craven’s movies that goes all the way back to 1977’s ‘The Hills Have Eyes’.
That film began a series of funny intertextual references between horror film directors that became a game of one-upmanship. In the first ‘Hills Have Eyes’, there was a ripped poster for ‘Jaws’ on the wall of a ravaged trailer, as if Craven was saying ‘that’s not scary, this is scary’. Then in response Sam Raimi featured a ripped ‘Hills Have Eyes’ poster in the cabin in ‘The Evil Dead’. Craven’s reply to this was to have his characters watching ‘Evil Dead’ on television in ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’. Finally Raimi responded once again by putting the iconic razor glove of Freddy Krueger, in the basement of the cabin in ‘Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn’.
I loved this running gag between horror directors. So you can imagine my answer when we got word that Craven wanted to use a clip of our film ‘Shaun Of The Dead’ in ‘Scream 4’.
I can’t tell you how jazzed I was when I saw our film being watched in ‘Scream 4’ and Ghostface actually said the title aloud. My face lit up with glee when I saw the above scene in the Cinerama Dome on opening night.
Through the use of that clip I came to e-mail back and forth on occasion with Wes and he couldn’t have been sweeter and more complimentary. I geeked out as much as I could in return. The photo at the top of the article is actually one he sent to me last year.
I had actually met him briefly before at a Masters Of Horror dinner back in 2005 and not knowing whether he’d seen my movie or not, I was just too nervous to speak to him. I wish I had.
Years later I went to a screening of ‘The People Under The Stairs’ at Cinefamily where Wes did a Q&A. It was great and he was witty, charming and incredibly smart in his answers to the crowd. He got (rightly) mobbed by fans after the screening, so rather than get in the scrum, I decided to duck out and head home. I mailed him later to say that I was there and had thoroughly enjoyed it and he said he wished I had stopped to say hi.
I wish I had too, as that was the last I saw of Wes.
We had made plans to meet up for a quieter lunch another time, but that didn’t pan out and now I am sad and regretful that I never really got to sit down and talk with him at any great length.
I am thankful for the many movies he left behind, for my tiny part in his last completed film and happy to have got to tell him how much I enjoyed and was inspired by his work. He was a true maestro of genre and a class act.
Rest In Peace, Wes. We willingly give you full permission to haunt our waking dreams forever.
UPDATED: With thoughts from the aforementioned horror wunderkind Sam Raimi. Reprinted with permission.
I would like to wish a very happy 21st birthday to Big Talk Productions, I have worked with Nira Park and Big Talk Productions since way back in 1997.
The above images contain just a few of the films and shows that Big Talk have made, including my own work such as ‘Spaced’, ‘Shaun Of The Dead’, ‘Hot Fuzz’, ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs The World’ and ‘The World’s End’, as well as ‘Black Books’, ‘Rev’, ‘Attack The Block’, ‘Sightseers’, ‘In Fear’ and the upcoming ‘Man Up’ – among too many others to list.
They have been a great home to me and I can’t wait to do more.
As always I make my somewhat OCD end of the year playlist the easy way, by ranking them by play count on iTunes. Coming up then is a very accurate list of the songs that I have played the most in 2014 AD.
First, here are my albums that have got me through this year…
– IT’S ALBUM TIME by TODD TERJE
– ST. VINCENT by ST. VINCENT
– THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK)
– SUN STRUCTURES by TEMPLES
And now for my top 40 most played songs ranked by play count.
Enjoy and have a Happy New Year.
MY FAVOURITE SONGS OF 2014 BY PLAYCOUNT
61 Digital Witness – St. Vincent
44 The Society of the Crossed Keys – Alexandre Desplat
43 Come Get It Bae – Pharrell Williams
38 Touch the Leather – The Fat White Family
37 Ride Into the Night- Axxa/Abraxas
34 Funny – The Black Lips
34 Cast a Shadow – Coves
34 Oh Joy – Todd Terje
33 Seasons (Waiting On You) -Future Islands
33 Shelter Song – Temples
32 Talking Backwards – Real Estate
32 Disco//Very – Warpaint
31 Kong – The Notwist
30 All Under One Roof Raving – Jamie xx
27 I’m Aquarius – Metronomy
26 Drip – Howler
23 Right On, Frankenstein! – Death from Above 1979
22 High – Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
22 Boys – Sky Ferreira
21 Figure It Out -Royal Blood
21 Dogs – Sun Kil Moon
20 Tiswas – Sleaford Mods
19 I Found a New Way – Twin Peaks
17 minipops 67 [120.2] [source field mix] – Aphex Twin
17 Put Your Number In My Phone – Ariel Pink
17 Two Weeks – FKA twigs
15 Do It Again – Röyksopp & Robyn
14 Archie, Marry Me – Alvvays
14 The Heat – Jungle
14 Passing Out Pieces – Mac Demarco
13 Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck) – Run The Jewels
13 I Know It’s a Good Thing – Shamir
11 Can’t Do Without You – Caribou
11 The Selfish Giant – Damon Albarn
10 Had Ten Dollaz – Cherry Glazerr
9 New Dorp. New York (feat. Ezra Koenig)- SBTRKT
9 Bury Our Friends – Sleater-Kinney
8 Super Rat – Honeyblood
8 Take Me in Your Army – Julian Casablancas + The Voidz
8 West Coast – Lana Del Rey
‘Hot Fuzz’ was Billie Whitelaw’s final film. She told me it would be in the summer of 2006, on her final day of the shoot. When she walked into the Market Place in Wells, Somerset to film her part of the climatic action, she greeted me and we hugged. I was very fond of her and felt like her long lost nephew sometimes. That morning, she breezily said “This is it, this is my last day in the movies”. I replied “Billie, don’t say that, it makes me sad”. It was a bittersweet moment, but she seemed very firm about this notion, much as I protested that it may not be the case. She was right.
Billie was so happy shooting that day. And I mean literally, as some of her final setups involved her letting rip with several rounds from a sub machine gun. Even this was not a novelty to her, (“I had a machine gun in a film called ‘Tangiers’, darling.”). Indeed Billie really had done it all before.
Her career was so distinguished that I felt nervous even suggesting her for our movie. She was the great Samuel Beckett’s muse, she was directed by Alfred Hitchcock in ‘Frenzy’, she was iconic as the terrifying Mrs Baylock in ‘The Omen’. Her list of TV, stage and film credits comprises a history of British culture. She was both very proud of her career and sometimes amusingly dismissive. Like the geek I am I would prod her about her filmography. Sometimes I would get a great anecdote about Hitch, sometimes my enquiries about genre films she’d been in would be slapped down (‘Darling, I don’t give a shit about ‘Twisted Nerve’). She made me laugh a lot. She had a wicked sense of humour and could be devastatingly funny.
When Simon Pegg and I wrote the part of Joyce Cooper in ‘Hot Fuzz’ we wrote that the character was a ‘Billie Whitelaw type’. Could we get her? It seemed unlikely as she hadn’t worked for a few of years and we were initially told that she’d retired. As the cast came together and we had a growing ensemble of Jim Broadbent, Edward Woodward and Kenneth Cranham among others, it seemed worth pursuing her again. After badgering her agent about the possibility, we were then told she would like to come in and meet for the role.
I met her for the first time in Working Title’s old offices on Oxford Street. There was an embarrassing case of crossed wires where I had been told she would come in and read, but when she did sit down with me she was a little taken aback at the suggestion of her reading. I wasn’t expecting her to, but I felt like I had insulted the great woman by asking her to read the scenes with me. She said, “Darling, I haven’t read for a part in twenty years’. I was so mortified that I had offended her. Of course she didn’t need to read, she was a two time Bafta winner, a CBE, she was Billie Whitelaw for Christ sakes. She saw my look of deep embarrassment and said ‘Oh fuck it, let’s read.”
And then, the great Billie Whitelaw was acting in front of me. And it was magical.
It turns out there was an extra connection that convinced Billie to do my film. We had shot a scene from ‘Shaun Of The Dead’ in Billie’s son’s flat. The interior scenes in Kate Ashfield’s apartment in the movie were in Brookfield Mansions, in Highgate West Hill, a flat owned by Matthew Muller. He had told Billie that ‘Shaun’ was good and that she should do our film. I am forever thankful for his recommendation.
During the shoot, she was funny and sharp and it was a joy to see her at work. Frequently the camera frame would be full of legends, seeing Billie Whitelaw and Edward Woodward share the screen was such a thrill. Even in a cast full of great British actors, Billie was pretty peerless. Even Kenneth Cranham was totally wowed by her, she had been a teenage crush of his.
On Billie’s final day of the shoot, we filmed her action scenes and her screaming ‘Fascist!’ at top volume. I am pleased to say that her final shots on 35mm was some super slow motion footage of her firing this machine gun. My drama teacher Mr Wild came down to set and watched her shooting. She was one of his favourite actresses and he stood off to the side watching her work with a huge smile on his face.
When Billie wrapped, I asked the crew to give her the customary round of applause. (“Ladies and gentleman, that’s a wrap on Miss Billie Whitelaw”) But this hearty applause was felt very deeply as she now announced to the crew that while she’d had a wonderful time, this was her last day in the movies. I didn’t want to believe it.
I only saw her one more time, when she came in to do some ADR in the mix and watched some scenes of the movie. She thought it was all a hoot and was very happy she’d done it. Sadly she couldn’t make the actual premiere of the movie and I’m sorry to say I didn’t see her again.
If I have another major regret, it’s that in the rush of filming, I forgot to introduce Billie to my old drama teacher. I later apologised to Mr Wild profusely and said I was terribly sorry for not making the intro. He said, “Oh don’t worry, seeing you directing Billie Whitelaw was enough.”
My deepest sympathies go out to Billie’s family and to her son Matthew.
Your Mum was the best.
I have to thank Mr Williams, Thomas Bangalter, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo & Bryan Younce for getting me onboard for this video. Read more
I directed a few music videos between ‘A Fistful Of Fingers’ in 1995 and ‘Spaced’ in 1999. There were three for a band called ‘Ruth’ that I can’t seem to find online. And another one for The High Llamas for ‘Nomads’ that I directed when I was 22 and didn’t really know what the hell I was doing.
After ‘Spaced’ was finished in 2001, I directed a few more music videos while writing and developing ‘Shaun Of The Dead’. It was a funny period for music videos as the budgets were plummeting because of file sharing. Interestingly each of these videos had a lower budget than the last. That meant a lot of favours pulled in every department. Still, the best thing about doing them is to try out new techniques.
Here they are…
After Hours ~ The Bluetones – dir. Edgar Wright (2002)
This was my second video for The Bluetones (the first being ‘Keep The Home Fires Burning’) and is still one of my favourite things I’ve done. The Bugsy Malone homage came about because I remarked how Mark Morriss’ song had a Paul Williams flavour. The video is comprised (mostly) of a single Steadicam shot, of which we did 9 takes.
Choreography was by Litza Bixler, who also did the Don’t Stop Me Now sequence in Shaun Of The Dead. Where are the kids now?
Psychosis Safari ~ The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster – dir. Edgar Wright (2003)
This is a very low budget video I did for EMBLD for a single off their incredible debut album, HORSE OF THE DOG. The animation is by my big brother, Oscar Wright, Matt Piper and John Yeo. Am still proud of this video and still love the song. If you have never heard that album, it’s still fearsome.
Blue Song ~ Mint Royale – dir. Edgar Wright (2003)
Back in 2003, I remember Mint Royale’s label questioning my casting of Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt in this video. They wanted someone bigger, despite our low budget and the fact that both actors would work for free to help me out. I told the label that they would soon be huge. Cut to a few years later and they are now cult superstars all over the planet. See the young Boosh boys along with Michael Smiley and Nick Frost in my getaway driver musical number.
Summer ~ Charlotte Hatherley – dir. Edgar Wright (2004)
Here’s a video I did after ‘Shaun’ for the talented Miss Hatherley from her ‘Grey Will Fade’ album. The video contains an enormous amount of animation, flashcuts and subliminal frames (by the likes of Oscar Wright, among many others). It took an age to edit and failed the television standards epilepsy test 57 times before we got it passed.
Bastardo ~ Charlotte Hatherley – dir. Edgar Wright (2005)
Here’s the last video I directed in this period. Again it comes from the ‘Grey Will Fade’ album and it features a cast of David Walliams, Simon Pegg, Lucy Davis, Lauren Laverne, Alice Lowe and Julia Davis. This video cost 6K and was the result of a lot of hard work and pulled favours. It took so long to edit that it still exhausts me to watch. Ultimately it put me off doing music videos for a long while as you could only ask for favours so many times. But there is a lot of artwork and photography in this rapid fire clip and I’m staggered at what we all managed to achieve.
That was the last video I did. Well, until this…
This will make you feel old. My film ‘Shaun Of The Dead’ is 10 today.
It was released on April 9th, 2004. But as a birthday gift for you, we’ve made available the screenplays for all three movies:
So please celebrate by reading the screenplays by myself and Simon Pegg for ‘Shaun Of The Dead’, ‘Hot Fuzz’ and ‘The World’s End’ right here. Enjoy.
Choose your own adventure:
Modesty prevents me from labelling this post with the same title that Gabriel Fasano gave it, but I am deeply flattered by the amount of work that’s gone into this. Technically it’s missing ‘Fistful Of Fingers’ clips, but I am more than cool with that.
This is a great mashup and it made me misty eyed. And if you haven’t seen everything yet: SPOILERS.
Find more mash ups and remixes posted to the blog over the last few years by clicking here.
It’s well worth checking out the original Embury Cocktails blog for this. Impressive detail!
When I met Alastair Walker at The Everleigh in the Fitzroy District of Melbourne this past November, I couldn’t have predicted that a week later he’d have come up with 12 cocktails inspired by the 12 pubs in Edgar Wright’s “The World’s End”. As I sat at the bar chatting with him the film came up–he recounted going with a friend who’d gotten tickets for “This Is The End”–somehow the two guys had been talking about the two different, similarly named films, something I’d speculated must have happened at some point. Apparently it wasn’t the ideal set-up for enjoying Franco, Rogen & Baruchel when you were primed for Pegg, Frost & Freeman. That led us to talking about the Edgar Wrightini and the stunt shot “The World’s End” we’d done with Jacob Briars. I sat at the bar, enjoying my first-ever Woolworth after the longest series of flights I’d ever endured, I mentioned that I thought there was still room to create homage drinks for “The World’s End”, 12 possibilities, in fact–the pubs, and the pub names, all totally sounded like drinks already. Alastair said he’d look over the list and after just a couple emails back and forth he’d come up with 12. All recipes are below and there’s a rather nice 11×17 downloadable poster we’ve made: Download GOLDENCOCKTAILMILE. We were definitely inspired by Wright making available a downloadable poster of the Golden Mile map (2 sided!) for anyone who fancyed being Gary King for Halloween.
The pub names do indeed work remarkably well for cocktails. In some cases these are drinks Alastair was working on and was kicking about for names already, some started with the pub name, and one or two are pre-existing cocktails that just work too well with the name not to be borrowed. A case in point is “The World’s End” (A.K.A. Better Then A.K.A. Jayne Fonder) as its both fiery (to the palate) and blue which just fits the bill too perfectly. There are a number of cocktails utilizing ale, naturally. I think the thematic resonances of all the drinks are clear when you read through them. I’m sure Alastair would be more than happy to make any (or all) of them for you at The Everleigh, but if you’re not lucky enough to be in Melbourne in the near future your friendly neighborhood bartender should be able to easily recreate them with these recipes. Properly outfittted of course, one could make them at home. And one hopes one is and one does.
We wanted throw a little spotlight on the artwork of the signs themselves in this project. One thing I hadn’t known that came out of a little research was that Wright’s brother Oscar was involved in their develoment and is a frequent collaborator. That was neat to discover both because brothers working together is obviously cool; then there’s the fact that parents naming their kids “Edgar” and “Oscar” is quite rad. There are meanings to both the pub names and the details in the artwork; forums on Wright’s site go into some elaborate theorizing about the significance of the names and the signs. Like a chinese box the film just seems to have more and more layers as you revisit it and delve deeper. As far as who is responsible for the signs themselves, Marcus Rowland, the inspired production designer for the film explained, “Like all film making it’s a collaborative venture, starting with Edgar then me, followed by ideas from Oscar and our graphics person Georgina Millett, & finally scenic painter Barnaby Gorton pulls it all together.”
Many thanks to Alastair Walker for the creativity, and Michael Madrusan of The Everleigh, for participating in this rather extravagant liquid homage. And a huge thank you to Greg Needham who put the poster together with considerable inspiration and patience And for anyone who may wonder why the tagline for the poster is ” A Liquid Repast for The World’s End”, please refer to the clip below, which also serves as a neat summary of the 12 stops along the Golden Mile.
~ Jason Rowan
UPDATE: This is why end of year lists are silly. Because since Jan 1st 2014, I have seen and admired the following 2013 movies: THE ACT OF KILLING, BLACK FISH, BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, THE GREAT BEAUTY, MUD, PHILOMENA, PRINCE AVALANCHE and UPSTREAM COLOR.
I also forgot BEWARE OF MR. BAKER from my great documentaries list. I’m still catching up. But as I say, it’s never too late to see a good movie.
In mid November I was pushed to do a Top 10 films of the year, which was tricky because I still had so many movies left to see. It’s the 1st of January here in Australia (where I currently am) and I still have a huge amount of movies that I intend to see.
The truth is that more than 400 films were released last year and so I, like you, will still be watching 2013 movies in 2023.
That said, here’s my expanded Top 20 movies of the year (can’t call all of them films as some were shot on digital). I thoroughly enjoyed, was moved or completely dazzled by …
The Wolf Of Wall Street
Behind The Candelabra (A cinema release in the UK)
Inside Llewyn Davis
Short Term 12
The Spectacular Now
12 Years A Slave
Iron Man 3
The Bling Ring
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
And there’s a whole bunch more besides showing just what a great year it was for movies, including future cult items like ‘The Counselor’ & ‘Stoker’.
Plus the few documentaries I did see and enjoyed include…
The Stone Roses: Made Of Stone
20 Feet From Stardom
Oh and there’s more…
Lots and lots of amazing tracks this year.
So here are my favourite songs of 2013 handily compiled by using my iTunes play count. I haven’t even included The Lonely Island’s ‘I Don’t Give A Honk’ either. Which is saying something.
This appeared on the /SLASHFILM site last week and I’m still very flattered by it.
Credit goes to Bryan Lee O’Malley for the incredible source material of course, an amazing crew and the legions of art department, graphic and visual effects wizards who helped me pull the film off.
Happy Merry from me, Simon, Nick, Gary & Andy.