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 have to thank Mr Williams, Thomas Bangalter, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo & Bryan Younce for getting me onboard for this video. Read more
Seen ‘The World’s End’?
Then what are your thoughts on the meanings of the pub names and signs?
Leave your theories below. And if you haven’t seen yet, beware spoilers.
1. The First Post
2. The Old Familiar
3. The Famous Cock
4. The Cross Hands
5. The Good Companions
6. The Trusty Servant
7. The Two Headed Dog
8. The Mermaid
9. The Beehive
10. The King’s Head
11. The Hole in the Wall
12. The World’s End
DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE YET!
Like the poster says, ‘OUT NOW!’. We do hope you enjoy.
Check the link to the full list of locations below to see if your local cinema is showing The World’s End and book tickets HERE or on the relevant cinema website.
Damn Fine Print teamed up with Irish artists Steve Doogan, Steve McCarthy, Ale Mercado, Fatti Burke and Gavin Beattie to create 5 limited edition screenprints based on the Cult Films and TV series of famed director Edgar Wright for his takeover weekend at Lighthouse cinema.
For more artwork checkout http://damnfineprint.bigcartel.com/
The official soundtrack to The World’s End is out on Monday 29th July! Check out the full track listing below and pre-order your copy here http://po.st/OSTpreorder.
The Winchester shoot was a tough one and definitely the trickiest part of the ‘Shaun’ shoot. It’s funny sometimes how the shoot starts to mirror the movie, as the stand off section and Barbara’s big death scene were easily the most intense and difficult stretches of the shoot. I remember not being in a great mood during this sequence and perhaps that is why dark clouds gather over the movie in this act. Maybe that even worked for the movie. Every good zombie film has to have a bummer section.
It was especially tough for the zombies stuck outside who had to bang and moan for 12 hours every day. That’s tough on the arms. It’s no fun being one of the living dead.
The difference between the schedule and the actual shots done today are a sure sign that we are running behind. Time is running out in the Winchester for ‘Shaun’ and for me!
Spare a thought for the zombies at the windows. These extremely patient flesheaters had to be outside the pub for days on end and without them the scene would be nothing. My friend Tim Chipping is one of the zombies halfway through the glass and soon to be shot in the neck. Lovely stuff.
The detritus below shows you just what it’s like to get locked up in a pub set for weeks. There’s a lot of Mini Cheddars there.
You will be pleased to know that Hog Lumps make a blink and you’ll miss it appearance in ‘The World’s End’.
I think the description of the scheduled pages above and the slate below must mean that we are behind. We’re still on the death of the zombified bartender. The beast must die soon as there’s the rest of the climax to shoot.
I do remember the Winchester scene being as intense to shoot as the scene appears in the movie. It’s a very strange feeling keeping a siege sequence going and maintaining that mood.
As a director you do also feel like you are barricading yourself in the set and not venturing back out into the world. It’s quite the lock in.
Another hard day throwing an elderly bartender into a jukebox. We cast Steve Emerson as John the barman because he was a stuntman but could also act and pull off a formidable zombie. Still seems quite crazy to put a stuntman in his sixties head first through smashing glass.
I have continued this idea of casting stuntman and physical performers in small roles with ‘The World’s End’ which feature stunt performers ranging from 15 to 70 years old.
Ten years ago today we shot the Queen scene fight which around revolved some quite complicated Steadicam shots operated by Paul Edwards. We had choreographed the scene with both a stunt co-ordinator, Jeff Hewitt Davis and a dance choreography Litza Bixler. We had it completely worked out beat for beat to ‘Don’t Stop Me Now.’
Steve Emerson who plays John the barman is a veteran stuntman with hundreds of credits. One that I only found out about after the fact was that he had already performed a head-into-the-jukebox stunt, in the 1975 John Wayne film ‘Brannigan’. In that movie the Duke himself threw him into a jukebox.
I think we had champagne for our 500th slate. On ‘Hot Fuzz’ we tried to have champagne on every 100 slates, but the idea was quickly abandoned when we shot 1200 slates during the shoot.
As you can see we are deep into the ‘Queen Scene’ here. Just outside that back door are zombies played by, among others, Paul Kaye and Simon Pegg’s sister Katy. A lot of people came down to be a zombie for free. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?
In case we couldn’t clear Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ for the shoot we had one other song as backup; Boney M’s ‘Rasputin’. Now that’s an alternate scene worth thinking about for a second.
This is a panorama photo taken by production designer Marcus Rowland of the Winchester set. Hence the double Dylans.
A lot of people assume the Winchester is a location, so that is a big credit to Marcus. Exterior in New Cross and interior on a stage in Ealing.
And so we shoot the beginning of the end in The Winchester. In all my films, the lead character is the focus of every scene and in every scene and you very rarely have time without them.
In ‘Hot Fuzz’, it’s only the first two murders that don’t feature Nicholas Angel. In ‘Scott Pilgrim’ there is only one short scene with Knives that doesn’t feature Scott. And in this, after seventy minutes of Simon Pegg leading every scene, you have one in the pub where Shaun is AWOL. Where did our hero go?
It made for a different energy on set too. And a rare lie in for Simon.
Picturehouse Cinemas / Very pleased to announce trilogy screenings of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End on 27 July at the following cinemas: Picturehouse at FACT, Cameo Cinema, The Belmont Picturehouse, Cambridge Arts Picturehouse, Ritzy Cinema, Clapham Picturehouse and Hackney Picturehouse!
Tickets will all be on sale soon.
I’m not sure this is all we shot this day. I do love this photo though.
This is most likely the day we shot this highly loaded dialogue from Ed; “We’ll have a Bloody Mary first thing, get a bite at the King’s Head, grab a couple at The Little Princess, stagger back here and bang… we’re back at the bar for shots.”
We took all day to write that little speech setting up the rest of the movie. I am loving all the recent GIF sequences that have broken the foreshadowing down. Makes it all worth it.
Our days at Ealing continue. This is the only scene where Nick Frost is not wearing the ‘I GOT WOOD’ t-shirt. The fruit machine he’s playing is real and actually called ‘Ooh Aah Dracula’.
On ITV they change Ed’s line from ‘Can I get any of you cunts a drink?’ to ‘Can I get any of you cocks a drink?’. I think that is sexist.
Ten years ago today, Nick Frost said ‘It’s not the end of the world’.
This summer at the movies, it feels like it is.