I love a good debate.
So I’m ecstatic to see a regular “Horror Debates” feature on Horror Blogger Alliance.
On Friday, February 19, 2010:
In our next debate, Carl from I Like Horror Movies will be teaming up with Rhonny Reaper from Dollar Bin Horror to cover both sides of the topic at hand. The rules as always are to keep it civil, keep it thoughtful, and keep it under 500 words:
Is Wes Craven a hack that got lucky?
…Were it not for the perfect timing of LAST HOUSE’S release during a period when Exploitation was a thriving new market, Craven may easily have been written off and forgotten before HILLS or NIGHTMARE were ever conceived. Luck and timing had everything to do with his future success as a filmmaker, and not skill.
“No” Rhonny Reaper:
…Hacks get lucky once and ride off the successes of that one glimpse of greatness, Wes Craven has proved several times over that he knows what he’s doing, and does it well.
Well, I’m gonna have to side with Rhonny on this one.
How many artists come out of the gate with greatness? Not many. Every “great” artist had to start somewhere and rarely has that been at the top of their game. Plus, those who do come out with a mega hit from the get-go, tend to have a hard time living up to the bar set by their initial work.
An artist’s skills are not the best they will ever be the first time he attempts something. If Wes Craven’s films never changed, didn’t progress, then he’d be a hack. But I see his growth as a filmmaker; plus, his work is relevant to the times in which it’s released. You cannot have a career that spans almost 40 years and be considered a hack. No amount of debate or discussion will ever convince me otherwise.
Do you believe the average moviegoer would guess the man who directed The Last House on the Left (1972) was the same man who directed Scream (1996)? I think not. The two films are polar opposites in theme, atmosphere, gore, cinematography, score, and target audience. That requires skill.
And I think “luck and timing” have a lot to do with every artist’s breakout success, whether that’s with film, print or canvas. Thus, I disagree with “luck and timing” as tools to aid and abet the so-called hack. Why wouldn’t a film be released at the optimum time for its widespread acceptance and approval by the audience? If audiences want exploitation today, you don’t wait until next week to give it to ’em.
When a new market is thriving, “the man” is going to make sure that market is soon saturated with more than enough supply to meet the demand. It’s not the fault of the artist, who is able to fill that demand, just because his work happens to fit the wants and desires of the audience. That is what he’s supposed to do if he intends to make a career of it.
All of this discussion about Craven’s first film is moot really. I mean, do you seriously think “the powers that be” would’ve turned down The Hills Have Eyes (1977) or A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) had there never been The Last House on the Left?
But, for the record and full disclosure, A Nightmare on Elm Street was the first horror movie I ever saw, so I’m slightly sentimental when it comes to Wes Craven. Also, I think The Last House on the Left is a successful horror movie because it accomplishes all of its goals. As such, I do own the Last House DVD as well as the entire Nightmare collection. Yes, I consider Wes Craven one of the masters of horror.
I wonder, based on Carl’s response to the HBA debate question, if he’d also consider Tobe Hooper a hack who got lucky?