Very few things can shake us from a deep, peaceful slumber like a vivid nightmare. Director Wes Craven (76), who died August 30 in Los Angeles after a battle with brain cancer, was in the business of keeping people awake at night—and he was terribly, horrifyingly good at it (“Sometimes I scare the Dickens out of people, to put it politely,” he once said).
Known as the Guru of Gore, Craven was responsible for horror franchises including A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream as well as films like The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and Swamp Thing (1982), but he was not a one-note filmmaker; Craven was tapped by Bob and Harvey Weinstein to direct 1999’s Music of the Heart, a film about an East Harlem violin teacher (Meryl Streep) who reaches underprivileged students through music. He also filmed a segment for Paris, je t’aime (2006) in which a young couple is visited by the ghost of Oscar Wilde.
While the former earned Streep an Oscar nomination, Craven had a tough time shaking his slasher-film rep—which didn’t bother him. “Sometimes you fight what you are, what you’re doing,” he said in 2010. “At a certain point you say, you know, I’m really good at this and people really seem to enjoy what I do, and I’ve definitely left a mark on American cinema of some sort or another.”