One would think that with a name like Wes Craven - his real name, by the way - that a life as a director of horror films would be the man's inescapable fate from the very start. While the 66-year-old Cleveland-born Renaissance man has created some of the most revered films of the modern genre like A Nightmare On Elm Street and the breakout Scream trilogy, there is more to him than that. He studied writing, psychology, philosophy and literature at Wheaton College and Johns Hopkins University, taught college, and did not even start working in the film industry until the age of 31 as a sound editor.
It was in 1971, though, when his path would intersect with that of another future horror legend - Friday the 13th creator Sean S. Cunningham. Their meeting first resulted in the largely forgotten Together, footnoted only because it starred a 19-year-old woman named Marilyn Briggs (who consequently met brothers Artie and Jim Mitchell, who rechristened her Marilyn Chambers and made her a porn icon in Behind The Green Door). However, the collaboration made fellow tyro Cunningham want to work with Craven again. The next year saw the release of the Cunningham-produced, Craven-directed The Last House On The Left, a remake of Swedish titan Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring, believe it or not, a raw and grimy low-budget effort about a pair of murdering rapists who unknowingly hole-up in the house of the parents of one of their victims. The film became a cult favorite and launched Craven's career in movies.
Craven's second film, the savage and effective 1977 survival tale, The Hills Have Eyes, was about a family who, while traversing the desert, encounters a group of inbred maniacs who prey on these seemingly helpless castaways. Nearly three decades later comes the first remake of Craven's own work, with the new version helmed by French it-director Alexandre Aja (High Tension), released in the U.S. on March 10. Craven, who produced the film for Fox's boutique arm Fox Searchlight, was cool enough to call me at home for an impromptu chat. After I insulted his parentage and suggested a scenario in which he couple with a Cheerio (thinking I was being pranked by my friend Eric), I apologized and basked in fanboy glory for the remaining 22 minutes of our phoner.