Jewish Journal

Wes Craven: from Wheaton to Elm Street

by Brad A. Greenberg

May 2, 2010 | 4:37 pm

I’m having a bit of a nightmarish studying weekend, though even without it I don’t think I would have seen the remake of “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Still, I was intrigued by this appeal in The Daily Beast for filmmakers to stop remaking classic horror films in a “world they’re ill-equipped to scare.” It’s an interesting premise, and I was surprised by just how many horror remakes there have been lately.

But what really stopped me was this line about West Craven, which of course comes without explanation: “Born into a strictly religious household that forbade him from watching movies”

So I did a little searching, and it turns out that the creator of a great many horror classics, and even that classic horror reimagining “Scream,” went to Wheaton. In 2001, Craven talked with RNS about his upbringing:

Craven recalled his Wheaton years as a period of both searching and rebellion. “I really frankly was in trouble a lot,” he said, explaining that he and about a dozen classmates, while considering themselves Christians, chafed under the college’s restrictive interpretation of the faith.

“We were ... threatened with everything from expelling to being asked, `why don’t you move to another school?’” Craven said. “There wasn’t an open dialogue of ideas.”

The director remembered sneaking off to another town to see “To Kill a Mockingbird” because the college prohibited students from going to movies.

Besides bucking the rules, Craven recalled his internal struggles as he began questioning the narrow approach to Christianity he had grown up with and that Wheaton seemed to enforce.

“I was going through a very slow, but definite ...questioning of my own inner realities,” he said.

The soul searching took different forms. Sometimes Craven told himself, “I am bad because I am rejecting the Holy Spirit of Christ.” But at other times, the doubts served more positively as signs that he needed to rethink reality.

Asked if he considered himself a religious person now, Craven responded, “I don’t do anything in an organized way.” Rather, he has come to see filmmaking as the most significant way to express his beliefs and longings.

Craven said he found something in the whole process of crafting a film, from the business nuts-and-bolts to “wrestling with my inner demons and inner glimpses of light,” that was more satisfying and beneficial than anything he could have done in traditional venues of religious service.

“I think that’s ... the best approach to (the) spiritual ... I’m capable of,” he said.

Read the rest here.

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