We just lost a giant in the field of horror filmmaking last week, when writer/director Wes Craven passed away at the age of 76. Craven made his mark with a long list of indelible horror films over the course of four decades, starting with The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes in the ’70s, all the way through to the Scream saga in the ’90s and the suspense thriller Red Eye in 2005.
But without a doubt, his most famous and enduring creation is Freddy Krueger from the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. Has there ever been a boogeyman more popular and enduring in pop culture? Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees might come very close, but if you ask me, the crown still goes to Freddy (regardless of whatever Freddy Vs. Jason might tell us).
I was too young to ever see any of the original Halloween or Friday the 13th movies until they hit TV, but A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors was the first R-rated horror movie I saw in a movie theater at age 12 (yeah, I snuck in). Craven didn’t direct Part 3, but he wrote and produced it, which is probably why it still stands as the best of the sequels. I’ll never forget the audience erupting in cheers and applause when Freddy made his first appearance on screen, getting ready to cut a young Patricia Arquette to pieces. In just three years, Wes Craven’s creation had become that big of a pop culture icon.
But it all started with that first, low budget film from 1984. Wes Craven’s original A Nightmare On Elm Street is still the best in the series, and so much of it has to do with Craven’s brilliant direction. And part of that brilliant direction was the film’s incredible sound design, which is filled with tons of unnerving screeches and noises, made to keep you the right kind of unsettled.
Now a fan by the name of Jacob T. Swinney has put together a video supercut that focuses on the sound design of the original A Nightmare On Elm Street, and here is what he had to say about creating it, and the impact of Craven’s film:
“The first horror movie I ever watched was Wes Craven’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. Being a child, the film frightened me so badly that I didn’t view another horror film until my teen years. Despite the obvious tormentors of a man with a burned face, gravity defying whirlpools of blood, and a dying teen being dragged around the ceiling, I believe one of the reasons the film affected me so heavily was Craven’s use of sound.
As Freddy Krueger haunts the dreams of the film’s characters, he is almost always accompanied by some sort of sound, whether it be eerie ambient noise or his non-diegetic theme. Craven made masterful use of the stinger, adding a whole new dimension to the jump scare. After the initial burst, a mechanical shrill of chirps would often linger for a few moments, creating an audio hellscape of nightmarish, arcade-like sounds. Here is a brief showcase of how Craven used sound to shape the atmosphere of his 1984 classic, “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. Rest in Peace, Wes Craven.”
You can check out Swinney’s video tribute below. Just remember, whatever you do….”Don’t. Fall. Asleep.”