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Q&A: The King of Scream, Wes Craven, Talks Race and Horror

Q&A: The King of Scream, Wes Craven, Talks Race and Horror

Appropriately known as the Master of Horror, Wes Craven is the cinematic genius behind classics like Nightmare on Elm Street, Vampire in Brooklyn and the Scream franchise.

Published April 14, 2011

Appropriately known as the Master of Horror, Wes Craven is the cinematic genius behind classics like Nightmare on Elm Street , Vampire in Brooklyn and the Scream franchise. Ten years since Scream 3 , the tortured souls of Woodsboro are back for the fourth incarnation. In Craven’s first interview with, the Ohio native talks Scream 4 , a People Under the Stairs sequel and tackles the longstanding question, why do Black folks always die first in horror films?

How will Scream 4 capture a new generation of horror fans?
It’s essentially set in the world of this generation, which is distinctly different than the generation that watched Scream 3 . The types of movies that have been out in the past 10 years are quite different. There’s been torture porn; there have been a lot of remakes and reboots. Just electronics in general with smart phones and computers, Twitter and Facebook—all of those things didn’t exist in any shape 10 or 11 years ago.

I don’t see a lot of racial tension with characters of horror films. Do you think horror films transcend racism?

We try to treat people of color the same as everybody else. Especially for the younger generation, there’s much less tension than there was even in the previous generation. People are going to school and growing up with each other. There is such a racial mix, at least where I live in California; it just seems a natural part of life.

What do you think of the notion that Black folks always die first in horror films?

It's funny. Anthony Anderson said one of the things he liked about the script is that he wasn't the first person to die. We kind of took cautions not to do that. It was like that in Scream 2 . There was one character [Duane Martin ] who said, "This is where the Black person always dies," and he basically leaves the film until the very end.

Why do you think that perception exists?
Everybody is afraid of the unknown. Everybody is afraid of the people that they've done terrible things to! [Laughs ] I’m sure in some place whites are considered inferior by people of color. But the most common, the thing that we're most used to, obviously, is African-Americans being treated badly, the history of slavery. That is a deeply sad cultural prejudice that is shifting, but it takes a long time.

People Under the Stairs airs here on BET. Any truth to rumors of a sequel?
It's kind of complicated. The ownership of it is split between myself and two other entities. More than that, I started to feel by the time we got to Last House on the Left that I was taking myself out of my principal creative task, which is directing. I thought, I'm doing things that benefit a lot of other people, it helped me financially climb out of some of the losses from the crash of the market, but at a certain point, I knew I had to get back to directing. I had to make a choice: Am I going to spend my time remaking stuff that I've already done, kind of helping other directors, or am i going to go back and do what I do best?

How do you feel about the torture-porn genre of horror?
Not a fan. I went to see the two hallmark of that genre, Hostel and Saw . They were better than I thought they were going to be. I just don't like torture much. The idea of it kind of makes me angry and sick, if there is even such a thing.

Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett-Smith were in Scream 2. Do you have any memories working with them?
Omar was a good sport, his role was relatively short. Jada obviously ended up having to really sell it. I think she just put that thing over the top. To me, that's one of the most iconic scenes in the Scream series.

What is the last thing that made you scream?
It was Paranormal Activity , when she got grabbed and dragged down the hall—I just let out a yell. [Laughs ]

Are you afraid of dying?
I was paralyzed from the chest down when I was 19 so I kind of put my head together about dying and I think I've come to terms with it.

When you get to heaven what is the DJ playing?
[Laughs ] I don't believe in heaven, so he's playing Miles Davis' Kind of Blue . It's one of my favorite albums. I think it's beautiful, an American classic.

Scream 4 is in theaters nationwide today. Click here for our interview with Anthony Anderson .

(Photos from left: Kevin Winter/Getty Images, The Weinstein Company)

Written by Clay Cane


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