Wes Craven has died at the age of 76. I found myself more affected than I would have expected. But, then again, not only did I appreciate his artistic talent, and his tweets about his cats; Craven was also a part of my growing up.
I was 14 when I watched my first horror movie – Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). It was the early Nineties. My friend Jo acquired the video from her older brother, and we would sit in her parents’ frontroom (my parents would never have allowed such a thing) and watch Johnny Depp being sucked into his mattress, only to be regurgitated as a fountain of blood. Watching it felt transgressive and scary. It was also exciting. So exciting, in fact, that we would repeat this experience after school almost every day for weeks. We would constantly quote the movie, playing out the boiler-room scene in which the main character Nancy confronts the nightmare born of her parents’ cruelty.
Watching teenagers being slashed by Freddy Krueger, the man monster whom Slavoj Zizek describes as ‘the obscene and revengeful figure of the “father of enjoyment”, [a] figure split between cruel revenge and crazy laughter’, was a rite of passage for me and my friends (1). Craven introduced the concept of violence into my life in a way that felt real and frightening, yet at the same time safe and unreal. And when Scream came out in 1996, where the kids who know the rules, as we did, get slashed anyway, Craven had again shifted the goalposts for scary.