As a filmmaker, Wes Craven (1939-2015) changed the face of Hollywood horror. Craven was known for his pioneering work in the horror genre, particularly slasher films, where he mixed horror clichés with humor and satire. This is especially the case for his iconic character Freddy Krueger, a razor-blade-wielding villain from 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' who stalks his victims in their dreams, but kills them in reality. Despite the movie’s low budget, it was an instant commercial success and has spawned nine sequels. Craven later launched the successful Scream franchise in 1996, co-creating the signature, masked Ghostface character that was based on the famous Edvard Munch painting 'The Scream.' The four films in the series (the last of which was released in 2011) have combined to gross more than $600 million worldwide. Craven's first feature film, 'The Last House on the Left,' which he wrote, directed, and edited, was released in 1972. The cultural impact and influence of his work have often led Craven to be referred to as a “Master of Horror.” In 1995, the filmmaker was awarded the Life Career Award for his accomplishments in the horror genre by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films.
Before terrifying audiences across the nation, Craven took his writing studies to Baltimore and enrolled at Johns Hopkins. As a graduate student he studied directly under Elliott Coleman, the founder of the department of writing, speech, and drama at Hopkins. In addition to being a great scholar, Coleman was also a superb poet who knew literature inside and out, and had personally known James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, and E.E. Cummings. Coleman's influence on Craven would be great. Although not yet pursuing a career in the film industry, Craven’s creative fiction produced at Hopkins demonstrated his skills within the horror genre. For his thesis, he wrote a novel called 'Noah's Ark: Journals of a Madman.' 408 pages long, the work is essentially a horror novel written in journal-entry style from the perspective of a madman who lives in an old cathedral tower. After Coleman read it, the professor told Craven, "You know, this would make a terrific movie. It’s so visual." Indeed, the highly visual element within Craven’s culminating work at Hopkins hinted at the type of art he would one day produce. In 1964, Craven earned a Master of Arts degree in philosophy and writing from Johns Hopkins.
Although Craven's busy schedule usually kept him far away from his alma mater, the filmmaker still remained connected to his old stomping grounds. At least twice he appeared in issues of Johns Hopkins Magazine, usually in order to address his work in Hollywood. Over the phone, while promoting "Scream 4" in 2011, he spoke fondly of his days as a student at Johns Hopkins. On top of that, the novel he wrote for his master's resides in the Sheridan Libraries’ Special Collections & Archives, waiting to inspire the next generation of horror enthusiasts.