"Wes Craven: The Man and His Nightmares" Book Review
Written by Chris Shamburger
Published by Wiley
Written by John Wooley
2011, 272 pages, Non-Fiction
Released on March 8th, 2011
Wes Craven once said, "All of us have our individual curses, something that we are uncomfortable with and something that we have to deal with—like me making horror films, perhaps." It's a dead-on quote from a man who, despite everything you may have heard, never pursued a career directing scary movies, but embraced—or at the very least, accepted—the idea as an affliction.
In his biography, Wes Craven: The Man and His Nightmares, writer and frequent Fangoria contributor John Wooley explores the roots of Craven's career condemnation. Much of the book has been written around a single interview between Wooley and Craven (early attention is given to Craven's overly religious childhood and, at one point, Craven compares Baptists to vacuum salesmen). But a majority of the book has horror fans in mind and focuses on Craven's work as a filmmaker, a career spanning nearly forty years and almost thirty titles.
Wooley's writing is detailed but concise, often taking direct quotes from the interview and letting Craven tell the story for himself. Readers will learn how the early death of Craven's father influenced his films; how Craven put together a college newspaper (and killed it in the same issue due to its controversy); how George Romero's Night of the Living Dead—the first movie he ever recalls seeing—served as a template for Craven's later films; why he chose the film projects he did knowing their inferiority (there's a reason he did the sequel to The Hills Have Eyes); and how, at the time, a simple TV movie (1981's Deadly Blessing) felt like the biggest, most professional job of his career.
The single best thing about The Man and His Nightmares is that once you're through it (and it shouldn't take you long if you're as interested in the material as this reviewer), it gives you a new appreciation for the great—and even not-so-great—films in Craven's library. Shocker, Craven's much-maligned slasher from the late '80s, might not seem like a must-own title, but after reading The Man and His Nightmares, Craven followers might see how purchasing that film over his many others could lend him the most support.
At 272 pages, Wes Craven: The Man and His Nightmares retails for $16.95, but you can get it much cheaper through Amazon (where they also sell an eBook edition). The book comes highly recommended to fans of Wes Craven and his wide-ranging catalogue, even to those who think they won't possibly learn any more than they already know.
Because trust me—you will.
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