Monday, August 31, 2015

Into the Nightmare

Illustration by Mark J. Hiblen (c)2015

Before I take a break from the internet, I felt I had to write a little about the passing of Wes Craven.

I mentioned before on my blog about Stephen King's "IT", and how the cover drew me in and made me curious enough to pick it up and read it - even though I wasn't really much of a reader as a kid. Well, the same thing happened to me about horror films.

Sad confession - I was never a horror film watcher as a kid. Or even as a teen.

Scary or gory things really freaked me out. I still have a vivid memory of feeling the blood drain from my face in that weird "I'm totally not dealing with this" way while watching Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time in the cinema, that opening weekend. And I can distinctly remember being freaked out on holiday in North Wales with my parents, staying in a holiday cottage next to a cemetery, hearing my parents watching the ITV premier of The Omen while I sat in my bedroom waiting for the dead to rise.

Nope. Horror films were not my thing in my youth. I was science fiction and fantasy all the way.

But there was something about the TV commercials that started up to promote a particular film that had me mesmerised.

It was horrific, but had weird elements that appealed to me. It was strangely hypnotic. The concept of something getting you in your sleep? That was too good to pass up.

I have a weird memory of hiring Elm St. from the video store (I think) and watching it around at Milo's place while I was in the 6th form at school. It was dark, scary, but there was a brilliance to it - a genius. It was more than a horror film, it was a fantasy - Nancy was smart, clever, brave and resourceful. She figured out about pulling elements from the dream into the real world, bringing Freddy into our rules to finally confront him without the benefits of dream logic.

It was fantastic.

I tried running A Nightmare on Elm St. as a roleplaying game, and it influenced me writing a Ghostbusters scenario (mixing Elm St. with John Landis' "Into the Night"... you can see where the name of the blog post came from).

I started watching horror movies. I bought Nightmare on Elm St, and followed Wes Craven's career closely. The People Under the Stairs wasn't a horror film - it was like the Goonies with psychos. Serpent and the Rainbow was a new take on zombies, and a fresh and disturbing look at voodoo.

Shocker did the same for TV as Elm St. did for dreams, distorting the boundaries of reality as the chase between the lead and the awesome Mitch Pileggi went through various TV shows - a concept that has inspired and imitated many times since.

Later, as I went to art college, I was loaned a dodgy copy of Craven's earlier movies, including Last House on the Left, and I continued my love of horror movies. By the time Scream (1996) came, I was watching far too many slasher movies which probably influenced my first attempt at writing for Eden Studios with my unpublished supplement for All Flesh Must Be Eaten - "Summercamp Stalkers and Unstoppable Evil". Even the scenario in the book was set at a cinema showing a cult classic. Maybe one day I'll dig that out again...

His meta-textual approach to horror movies, referencing the very "rules" of horror movies and taking the movie out into reality enthralled the public, though he'd done that very thing before in the often ignored "Wes Craven's New Nightmare", where the actors play themselves in the real world, being threatened by Freddy - a dream entity that needs people to tell stories about him to give him power.

Fantastic and genius. A must watch.

I owe a lot of my love of horror movies to Wes Craven - and it'll be a long time before we see someone of his inventiveness and originality again. And I owe a lot of my obsession with dreams to him too. Without Elm St. I doubt I'd be writing WILD.

Thank you Wes.

My thoughts are with his family and friends.

[If you like the illustration at the top, head over to Mark Hiblen's page on Facebook and click like!]

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