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'Fresh Air' Remembers 'Nightmare' Director Wes Craven
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'Fresh Air' Remembers 'Nightmare' Director Wes Craven

Movie Interviews

'Fresh Air' Remembers 'Nightmare' Director Wes Craven

'Fresh Air' Remembers 'Nightmare' Director Wes Craven
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Craven, who died Sunday, revitalized and the horror genre with his Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream movie franchises. Includes excerpts from interviews originally broadcast in 1980, 1987 and 1998.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, in for Terry Gross. Wes Craven, the filmmaker who revitalized and redefined the horror genre with his "Nightmare On Elm Street" and "Scream" movie franchises, died this week at age 76. Today on FRESH AIR we remember Wes Craven, who not only broke the rules of the horror genre, he helped codify the rules, and even listed and made fun of them through the mouths of the characters in his hit movie, "Scream." Kevin Williamson wrote the script, and Wes Craven directed.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SCREAM")

JAMIE KENNEDY: (As Randy) Don't you know the rules?

MATTHEW LILLARD: (As Stu) What rules?

KENNEDY: (As Randy) You don't - Jesus Christ, you don't know the rules?

LILLARD: (As Stu) Have an aneurysm, why don't you.

KENNEDY: (As Randy) There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie. For instance, number one - you can never have sex.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, booing and groaning).

KENNEDY: (As Randy) Sex equals death, OK? Number two - you can never drink or do drugs.

ACTORS: (As characters, booing and groaning).

KENNEDY: (As Randy) No, the sin factor. It's a sin, it's an extension of number one. And number three - never ever, ever, ever under any circumstances say, I'll be right back - 'cause you won't be back.

LILLARD: (As Stu) I'm getting another beer, you want one?

KENNEDY: (As Randy) Yeah, sure.

LILLARD: (As Stu) I'll be right back.

ACTORS: (As characters, cheering).

BIANCULLI: Wes Craven was born in Cleveland, earned a master's degree in philosophy and writing, and briefly taught English as a professor before pursuing his dream of working in the movie industry. The first place he found work was behind-the-scenes in X-rated movies. But in the 1970s, he went mainstream - sort of - with such explicit and controversial drive-in cult classics as, "The Last House On The Left," and "The Hills Have Eyes." He struck gold and box office success by writing and directing 1984's "Nightmare On Elm Street," co-starring a young Johnny Depp. Then he helped launch another self-aware horror franchise in 1996, with "Scream," currently spun-off as a TV series for MTV. Today we'll listen back to three of Wes Craven's FRESH AIR interviews with Terry Gross. The first goes all the way back to 1980, when FRESH AIR was still a local show. And Terry is here to tell us how that particular interview came about.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Well, David, the story of this interview begins on my vacation in Montreal with my now-husband, Francis, in 1980. We wanted to go to the movies, and the repertory house there was showing "The Last House On The Left." Now, it so happens Francis had read an essay about horror films that mentioned "The Last House On The Left" and talked about it as being an homage to the Ingmar Bergman film, "The Virgin Spring."

BIANCULLI: (Laughter).

GROSS: Pretty classy, right? So we go to the movie, and I was totally unprepared for what I was going to see. The movie is about two escaped convicts who are incredibly sadistic. They kidnap two teenage girls, and proceed to rape, torture, disembowel, shoot, amputate - just, like, every horror imaginable. And it looks basically like a snuff film. It's so cheaply-made that it looks like two sadists who have no idea how to make a movie are documenting their own sadistic acts. And at some point I just - I couldn't take it anymore. I thought, why am I watching this? So I left the theater. I came back in eventually because - well, in part because Francis was still there.

(LAUGHTER)

BIANCULLI: You had left something behind.

GROSS: Yes. So I ended up watching - eventually - the rest of the film. But when I got back to Philly, I thought, I've got to talk to the person who made this film and find out, like, why did you do this? What kind of person are you? And when I called him up, I wasn't sure what I'd find on the other end, like, maybe a monster or a madman. And it turned out he was this, like, thoughtful, reflective, smart, articulate guy.

BIANCULLI: OK, thanks for dropping in to explain that.

GROSS: My pleasure David.

BIANCULLI: So here we're going to go to - all the way back to 1980, when FRESH AIR was a local show, the first time that you interviewed Wes Craven.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

GROSS: You were commissioned to do the most violent movie possible. I wonder how you reacted to accepting an assignment like that.

WES CRAVEN: Well, I didn't feel so hot about it, to be frank. In fact, I had a lot of qualms about doing such a thing. However, at the time, I was driving a cab in New York, out of work and had a wife and two kids, and I was, at the same time, really excited about the idea of being offered a motion picture to write, direct and edit, especially since my last job had been, you know, a very rudimentary job in a film. In other words, I was very new to the business and this was an extraordinary stroke of luck that they offered a film to make from top to bottom. So I had very mixed feelings about it. I didn't want to do - particularly, a violent film. On the other hand, I did want to do a film very much.

GROSS: Let me tell you about my reaction, and tell me what you think of this. I was sitting there saying, gosh, this is really awful. I don't want to see this. This is just going to give me images for nightmares. Who needs this? Why am I doing this to myself? And I figured my alternative reaction was to work really hard at detaching myself from what was going on on the screen. And I figured, well, why should I use all that energy to undo an emotion that's probably really appropriate? I mean, I figured it was probably appropriate to really be horrified at what I was watching.

CRAVEN: Well, it sounds like a healthy reaction to me. You know, I really think that's it's not the sort of movie that I would go to, I don't believe. At the time that I made it, it was not the sort of movie I went to. My feeling when I was making it is, OK, if these people are going to be paying money to go in and see somebody killed - which, in effect, you're doing when you're - anybody is doing if they go to a movie that they know is a murder thriller. Then they're going to see what I feel this business is really like. As I mentioned to someone once before, it was during the height of the Vietnamese War, and I felt like America as a whole country - myself was becoming immune to violence. We were watching it - I literally was watching people dying on my television screen while I was eating dinner, you know, and several times caught myself, you know, with mouthfuls of food and nausea coming over me with - what? You know, this is horrible. I mean, this is really horrible.

GROSS: I really understand what you're saying, and I know that the movies I grew up on - even, like, the World War II and World War I movies, people were killed without any blood ever coming out.

CRAVEN: That's right.

GROSS: I think there's, like....

CRAVEN: And even when blood does come - did come out - when it first came into the movies in a big way with Peckinpaw, he used slow motion, and the squibs somehow weren't really...

GROSS: Very stylized.

CRAVEN: So it was very stylized and ballet-like. And I still felt like you didn't really get down to the essence of the act, and that was depriving a living thing, a human being, of its life, of its very life force. And, you know, it went beyond a simple matter of pulling the trigger. It went down into the - you had to look at that thing struggling to maintain that life, even though it had been shot or stabbed...

GROSS: Right.

CRAVEN: ...Or whatever. You know, it went back to something that happened to me when I was a kid. I don't know whether you'd be interested in hearing it, but, at one point in my life, when I was living in, you know, kind of a poor neighborhood. We lived next to a railroad yard and I don't think I - probably looking back on it - was very happy with my life. But anyway, one thing I found to sort of get rid of my craziness was, I got a mail-order bow and arrow set. I mean, you know, a legitimate one. And I started hunting. And the only thing to hunt there was rats because the railroad yard had this area where they kicked grain out of cattle cars. And there were a lot of rats. And I started - almost by accident - started hunting rats. And I went a whole year before I got near to even hitting a rat. It turned out they were extremely canny, very, very alert. And I never got close to one for the first six months because I wasn't that good a shot. But I kept practicing, I kept hunting these things and kept wishing I would get one. Finally one evening, almost dark, I took a shot at a rat after stalking it for half an hour, after sitting quietly and waiting for it to come out just right. I shot and I hit the thing. And instead of - at that moment, this little tiny animal let out this enormous scream that echoed over all the boxcars in the stockyard and chilled me to the bone. I realized that what I had been thinking and fantasying was totally different from what I had actually done. And not only that, but the thing was still alive. And I went down and I said, well, it is a rat, you know? I - nobody likes rats, but I had to kill it. And it took a lot of killing to kill that rat and it continued screaming for a long time. I'll tell you, when I was done I was totally drained. I was totally shocked by what - not only what I had done for amusement, but how fiercely that thing struggled to stay alive. And that moment never left me. You know, I never again hunted, never killed. But I remembered how hard just a rat struggled to be alive. And somehow I was able to transfer that to, you know, the thought of any human being - anything, how fiercely we all hang onto life. You know, I...

GROSS: I understand what you're saying about films being bloodless sometimes or being too stylized and you don't really understand what murder is really like and how horrible it is and how difficult it actually is to kill someone, but I was looking around in the audience when I saw "Last House On The Left," and somehow the range of reaction that the audience seemed to have was somewhere between immunity to the violence and actually digging what was happening. And I don't know what kinds of audiences you've seen your film with, but how do you feel about that type of reaction to it - immunity or enjoyment?

CRAVEN: Well, I've never seen immunity, frankly. I've seen people - everything from shocked to disgusted to nauseated and - or anger, it's a lot of anger. And the other reaction I've seen sometimes is cheers when what those people would call the good guys - the parents and so forth - turn the tables and kill the bad guys. You know, I find it scary. I've heard about audiences like that, where they're all up on their feet and cheering and so forth. I've never seen an audience that was cheering when the "bad guys," quote-quote, were killing the girls. But, you know, I would find that chilling. That certainly wasn't what I intended. But I've heard about that.

BIANCULLI: Filmmaker Wes Craven, speaking to Terry Gross way, way back in 1980. Coming up, another conversation featuring the two, this time from 1987. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. Today we're listening back to some of Terry's interviews with filmmaker Wes Craven. The man who revitalized and redefined the horror genre with his "Nightmare On Elm Street," and "Scream," movie franchises died Sunday at age 76. Terry interviewed Wes Craven again in 1987 and asked again about his breakthrough horror film, "Last House On The Left."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GROSS: The violence in "Last House On The Left," and the scenes of rape and mutilation and torture are so intense. I mean, I ended up walking out of the theater for that scene 'cause I just felt that I didn't want to have to remember it if I saw it. And I wonder if that's the challenge that you took on for yourself - to make something more graphic and more realistic than had ever been done before.

CRAVEN: It was. It was very specifically the philosophy of it. You know, I had a certain ambivalence towards doing this sort of genre. As I said, it was not something that I loved, but I was intrigued by the idea of presenting anything that was exceptionally truthful because I felt that most of the films that I'd seen that were made in America for popular audiences were distortions and, quite often, would present violence in a way that was either operatic or balletic or simply ellipted so that, you know, you would fade away before any true violence was done. Or the act of violence would be very simple and antiseptic. Someone would be shot, clutch his chest and fall down and die. A stab wound, you know, always killed with the first thrust.

And parallel to the process of filmmaking, in my own mind - in the minds of Sean too - were the mass of media inputs from the Vietnam War so that we were seeing reality of violence on our television sets, going into our theaters and seeing distorted, filtered reality. So Sean and I set off to say simply, let's not cut away and let's not do violence that is entertaining. And I didn't, you know, I simply did not cut away. And one stab did not do it and one shot did not do it. Once the violence began, the violence was treated absolutely really and thus the outrage. The audiences were, in a sense, tricked. They went in to a movie expecting to be entertained in the pure action or horror sense, where the blood is ketchup and the violence is simple and cartoonish. And instead we said, now that we've got you here, by the way, this is what violence is really like.

GROSS: What's the benefits of seeing that though?

CRAVEN: I think the benefits of seeing that is that it reaffirms reality rather than reaffirming a fantasy. Too much of American cinema dealt with reaffirming fantasies. It was a Disney-like approach to the entire spectrum of our reality. And at the same time, in the "real world," quote-quote - whatever the hell that is - we were seeing more and more of the veils stripped away, you know? The myth of American supremacy and infallibility. The myth of, you know, bombs dropped to win wars and you don't see the people that they hit. The reality that the American soldier was heroic in all cases and never did anything that was terribly disturbing. All those were being stripped away in the public forum, but in cinema it was still desperately trying to reaffirm the myths. And my feeling was, it's time to stop dreaming. And I guess that's become the theme of my entire work - it's time to wake up.

GROSS: I think, in some ways, that "Last House On The Left," became a forerunner of slasher films, and I wonder if you think that other film directors have taken the kind of graphic violence that you started to extremes that you find disturbing.

CRAVEN: Well, I don't think it really was a forerunner to slasher films. I mean, there were the films of Stuart Gordon, a long time before I made "Last House." I think it more or less stands on its own. I mean, the genre in the sense of, you know, a man with a knife has been around - Hitchcock did it. And, you know, Hitchcock always boasted that you never saw the knife touch the flesh. Well, in my mind, as good as Hitchcock was - and I would never deny his genius - he denied the essence of the moment. And I always go on, there was a French philosopher that once said it's all right to lie, that's what art is all about, but it's not all right to lie about the essence of the of the matter. And I've used that as my credo of making films.

GROSS: So you don't think that other people have taken what you've done to extremes that disturb you?

CRAVEN: No, I don't think other people are that weak or, you know, artistic Xeroxes. I think everybody goes off and does their own vision. And I don't take responsibility for other people's work, frankly. It's bad enough taking responsibility for my own.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: Well, has that been hard, I mean, really? Have people made false assumptions about you based on your movies?

CRAVEN: I don't know whether they're false or true...

GROSS: (Laughter).

CRAVEN: ...I mean, you know, sometimes the truth hurts too. But I certainly have had my experiences of people getting up and walking away - not only from my movies, but from me. You know, I was anathema in polite society after I made "Last House." People literally would grab their children and run from the room. And I always found it an irony that, you know, the same people that would support a war or, you know, live a lifestyle that would require entire third world countries to be put in near-slavery would, at the same time, be appalled by somebody that did something that was only effective within a certain closed, dark room called a movie house. It was very interesting. I've experienced a great deal of, you know, ostracism from the making of films. It's only been in the last, you know, four or five years that I've received real nice things from it.

GROSS: You know, well, Wes Craven, you are from - I understand from a Fundamentalist Baptist background and you had a pretty strict upbringing.

CRAVEN: Oh, well, that explains it all. (Laughter).

GROSS: No, no, no, no, no. I'm not trying to psychoanalyze you. No, no, no, no. (Laughter).

CRAVEN: I'm smiling, I'm smiling.

GROSS: No. OK, OK. No, but I wonder, you know, if - it does seem to me, however, that you did kind of get a chance to unleash some pent-up feelings when you got into the horror film genre. I mean, for a man who didn't even get to see any movies till he was in college, you really - you really went at it once you got into them yourself.

CRAVEN: That's true, that's true. And I'm sure that did have a real - a very profound influence on my energies and mind, you know, it's a lifestyle. I mean, I don't want to defame any religion or religious posture, but it is one based on, you know, a view of the world that is very dark, very prescriptive - proscriptive - and, you know, can leave you with a tremendous sense of rage once you're out of it because you feel like you've been denied your youth, your joy.

GROSS: What made you fall in love with movies when you started to see them?

CRAVEN: They're so beautiful. (Laughter). I don't know, I always had an active dream life, and there's something so profound and wonderful about a movie. It's so alive. It's so shared. The thing of sitting in an audience and going into a dream-like state with several hundred other people that are sharing exactly what you're feeling is a profound event. I think it's really - to me, it simply was something that nothing else quite did for me. And it also was something that I proved after many years of sort of searching for a voice. I mean, I did many things in my life - I painted, and I'd play guitar, and wrote and did many things. But it all seemed to come together in making movies, and almost accidentally. I mean, I was pursuing a career in writing and went to New York to make movies almost out of desperation of finding something that I really felt happy at. And all of a sudden, I just was good at it really fast. I made my first feature, you know, a year and a half after not knowing anything about making a movie whatsoever. So it simply was there and I was there, and we crossed and we - it was love at first sight between me and movies.

BIANCULLI: Filmmaker Wes Craven, speaking to Terry Gross in 1987. After a short break we'll listen to another of Terry's interviews with Craven, who died Sunday at age 76. We'll also have a music review by Milo Miles of a new collection of vintage tango recordings by Carlos Gardel, Argentina's most famous pop-star. And we'll have some thoughts about parenting by journalist Jessica Grose.

I'm David Bianculli, and this is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIANCULLI: This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, in for Terry Gross, back with more of today's appreciation of Wes Craven, the filmmaker who died Sunday at age 76. He was responsible for two very popular and influential horror franchises - "Nightmare On Elm Street" and "Scream."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SCREAM")

NEVE CAMPBELL: (As Sidney) Tatum, just get in the car.

ROGER L. JACKSON: (As Ghostface) Hello, Sidney.

CAMPBELL: (As Sidney) Hi. Who is this?

JACKSON: (As Ghostface) You tell me.

CAMPBELL: (As Sidney) Well, I have no idea.

JACKSON: (As Ghostface) Scary night, isn't it? With the murders and all, it's like right out of a horror movie or something.

CAMPBELL: (As Sidney, laughter) Randy, you gave yourself away. Are you calling from work 'cause Tatum's on her way over?

JACKSON: (As Ghostface) Do you like scary movies, Sidney?

CAMPBELL: (As Sidney) I like that thing you're doing with your voice, Randy. It's sexy.

JACKSON: (As Ghostface) What's your favorite scary movie?

CAMPBELL: (As Sidney) Oh, come on, you know I don't watch that [expletive].

JACKSON: (As Ghostface) Why not, too scared?

CAMPBELL: (As Sidney) No, no. It's just what's the point? They're all the same - some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can't act, who's always running up the stairs when she should be going out the front door. It's insulting.

JACKSON: (As Ghostface) Are you alone in the house?

CAMPBELL: (As Sidney) Randy, that's so unoriginal. I'm disappointed in you.

JACKSON: (As Ghostface) Maybe that's because I'm not Randy.

BIANCULLI: Terry Gross spoke to Wes Craven several times, most recently in 1998 after "Scream" and "Scream 2" had established the Wes Craven brand all over again. At that time, she asked him why he thought his hybrid of horror and satire worked so well.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

CRAVEN: I think the fact was that horror had reached one of its sort of classical cyclical stages of ennui on the part of the audience. You know, it had just gone so far along the same lines that people were bored with it and kind of knew what to expect. And it kind of was in that place where it needed to be satirized, at least before you went onto something new. You have to sort of acknowledge this is where we've been. I know you're all bored, and I know you think you know what's going to happen.

So that became kind of the charm of it. In that sense, it's kind of a release, you know, it's like a joke about anything. And there's kind of a rush of relief that it's being talked about very frankly, you know? So in the sense that you say we know horror films have been either boring or stupid or predictable, there's kind of a rush of relief because they know, well, at least they're in the presence of somebody who is smart enough to figure that much out. Now let's see if they can do something new.

GROSS: Now, tell me what you found most predictable. Your characters have some opinions on that (laughter). What's your opinions?

CRAVEN: Well, you know, you could quote some of the characters, you know, the big-breasted girl who runs upstairs instead of out the front door when there's a threat and, you know, who always goes to investigate and, you know, sort of does the stupid thing rather than the smart thing, the classic situation of the girl running away from the monster and always falling down. You know, there's all those cliches in horror films that, you know, we wanted to avoid and also acknowledge or stand on their head.

So I think it was a large part of that, just the sort of stupidity, sort of a built-in sexism quite often, a sense of gore for gore's sake and also a very heavy emphasis on the sort of killer at the expense of any characterization of - you know, of the more normal people, if you will - and also a complete lack of recognition of the fact that these were events that were happening within the context of a society that had movies about these subjects. You know, people in the movies of this sort had never commented on the fact that they were in a situation very similar to movies that we all know and could easily talk about.

GROSS: Right, and that they could use that knowledge to help them (laughter).

CRAVEN: Exactly.

GROSS: Now, I know you didn't see many movies as a kid. I think your parents were very religious...

CRAVEN: Right.

GROSS: ...And what were their fears about movies?

CRAVEN: Well, I think that - as much as I can put it together because it was never expressed so much as it just was a fait accompli, when, you know, we just didn't go to movies - was that they were just too worldly, using that term that is used in that fundamentalist world. And that basically, I think, meant they were too sexual and too - I think probably the sexuality of it more than anything else was what disturbed them. But, you know, the fact of the themes and the subjects were too risque, too sexual, too whatever for - to be of any good to the mind and body, which was considered the tabernacle of the Holy Spirit. So, you know, there was kind of a panoply of things that were not done or allowed. You know, smoking, drinking, playing cards, dancing - all of those things were forbidden, were simply not part of my life. And it wasn't a huge problem for me. I mean, you know, if you're not aware of something, it's simply not there in a way. And I was...

GROSS: Well, where did you grow up? I mean, and how...

CRAVEN: Cleveland, Ohio. It's - you know, it wasn't like I was living out in the middle of, you know, Holy Roller territory. It was just a fundamentalist Baptist Church, and there were a lot of other churches that also believed the same thing, so it was - and at that time - and I wouldn't be surprised if there are still churches that have those general guidelines. It just was not, you know, something that was done. And my mother was very, very involved in the church and the church was virtually the core of our social lives. You know, we went all day Sundays and on Wednesdays for prayer meetings and church camps and church daily vacation Bible schools and everything else. It was my world until I broke out of it, so, you know, it was just - I was guided towards books and became a bookworm and, you know, got my joy of storytelling out of, you know, reading novels, basically.

GROSS: Do you feel that any of your horror films have addressed your innermost fears?

CRAVEN: Oh, I think they all have. You know, I think there's a great deal in there that has to do with that. And, you know, I know that Freddy Krueger - and this is not to be - you know, this is the sort of thing that, you know, one's mother in Cleveland can hear by third-hand and be horrified by. But I think there was - there's a certain - a fear that I had for my father, for instance, that comes out in, you know, in a grotesque form in, like, a Freddy Krueger who was, like, the ultimate patriarchal nefarious character, you know, who is dangerous and takes delight in sort of scaring the younger that - not that my father chased me around with a glove full of knives. But it was just like - to me, he was a scary person.

I - he was not around a great deal, and he had a sharp anger, you know, a bad temper. I remember being quite afraid of him. I'm sure I translated some of that - those feelings as a small child into those kinds of characters. And a lot of my films have to do with sons facing - for instance, in "Shocker," you know, facing the father who was a killer and who says basically you're going to be the same thing. So, you know, I don't think they would be anywhere nearly as strong as they have been if they were not in some way reflecting issues that were, you know, from deep inside myself.

GROSS: I know when I was growing up in the '50s and '60s, horror film meant usually a supernatural film, you know, "Frankenstein," "Dracula," "The Wolf Man." You're one of the people who made the horror film more about teen anxieties and, you know, slashers who prey on teenagers. Sometimes those slashers are fellow teenagers. Sometimes they're more supernatural kind of figures, you know, like Freddy Krueger. So tell me a little bit about how you think the meaning of horror films became transformed.

CRAVEN: Well, it's - I think they're quite profound films. You know, they are dealing with fear, which is certainly one of the primal, primal emotions and one of the most immediate signals of danger and the necessity for taking action or else not surviving, you know? So you can't get much more basic than that. And they always sort of perceive, you know, where there's sort of that subcutaneous, subconscious fear that's in the culture at the time. You know, there were lots of films of the '50s about, you know, the effects of atomic energy. There were early on films, I think, even at the dawning of science about, you know, the effects of science on human conduct, for instance, like, "Frankenstein," you know, where you have - it's all based on what can be done medically, you know, to this person and how that is either in control or not in control.

And there was a long period of sort of psychosis as, you know, sort of the key element of fear because it seemed like there were so many things that had happened in society. I think even post-World War II where you had culture coming out of the sort of - coming out of shock of what they had just seen of an entire world at war and these sort of horrendous events being perpetrated by, you know, by the Nazis and, in a sense, by everybody that, you know, went to war against each other.

GROSS: So "Psycho" would be a good example of that.

CRAVEN: "Psycho" was a great example of that, and I wanted to mention that, you know, because that is a pure case of not a monster in the sense of a, you know, Godzilla or something. But it's a human monster. I think, you know, horror films like "Godzilla" and "King Kong" are kind of a relief in a way because they are so removed from our reality they're a little bit more of a popular entertainment. Although, I think, in some ways, that they speak also to a sort of a subconscious dread that we have botched nature so much or offended it so much that it's going to come back and get us and destroy our city, you know, because we are, you know, sort of a carbuncle (laughter) on the skin of nature, you know?

But certainly with "Psycho" you had that idea of the crazy person being the wildcard that we would have to deal with even though we didn't want to, that it didn't fit into civilization at all, but certainly it was there in a significant way. And that continued on through, I think, the '70s, you know, where it was psychotic people like "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," you know, with the rural family that had sort of gone back to some primeval state. "The Hills Have Eyes" was something like that, too. And there was a shift towards almost a mythological-type father figures with the Michael Myers - the people behind the mask - and the Freddy Krueger and then since Jason, too, where they were not really human, but some sort of almost quasi-human killing force, you know, that was completely outside morality. That's also - it's kind of a spinoff, I think, of the psychotic figure. And I think part of the innovation of the "Scream" series - and its, you know, it's sort of a tryptic conceived by Kevin Williamson, the writer - is that when it really - when the mask was off, it was not, you know, sort of a mythological creature like a Freddy Krueger who was almost - was not really truly human, but it was the kid next door - your boyfriend.

BIANCULLI: Filmmaker Wes Craven speaking to Terry Gross in 1998. He died Sunday at age 76. Coming up, music critic Milo Miles reviews a new collection of recordings from Argentina's most famous tango singer. This is FRESH AIR.

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