Probably one of the more insightful interviews Wes Craven participated in was on the late ‘80s talk show “What’s Up, Dr. Ruth?” with fellow horror creator Clive Barker and sex therapist/host Ruth Westheimer.
The throwback talk show clip was first brought to our attention thanks to Clive Barker’s website. The “Hellraiser” and “Nightbreed” director posted it as a tribute to Craven, who died Sunday. It’s easy to see why this particular interview gem was highlighted; together the two break down the horror genre and its complexity with interesting analysis about sexual desire, primitive fears and even the joys of expressing -- not repressing -- and how horror has allowed them both to do this. Ruth has no problem tackling dated, mainstream concerns with the often-considered-salacious genre and allowing both creators to speak rather eloquently about each topic.
Ruth prods them both on their relationships with the “Bad Daddy” Freddy Krueger and why, despite the horrific deeds this monster relishes in, Krueger is a character that the kids love to love. And not hate. To which Craven responded that it could all be a primitive act of adoring and embracing the thing that scares you the most. Then there’s the flip side of understanding why and what about monsters and horror are attractive to us.
But mostly the two celebrated the release that comes with making their movies and the celebration of the unrefined expressionism that is horror: “I’ve always felt that when I was a kid all of this stuff was bubbling up inside of me, all of the imaginary stuff, all the dark stuff,” Barker said on the show. “And what happens is your teachers and your parents tell you not to do that anymore. They tell you that your imagination is bad. They tell you that the real world is the thing that has to be faced. I think that the imagination can not only be a very healing thing for us, but if it’s actually repressed it can actually do us harm. I don’t have nightmares, ever.”
Craven had a pretty compelling answer when Ruth asked why their movies be must so “gross,” citing a very David Cronenberg-like body horror mentality when it comes to gore.
“It’s very, very simple, it’s down to the body,” Craven explained. “Which is the simplest thing that we all possesses and have to depend on is our own body. So if that’s threatened, that is ultimately threatening. We want to know, in a sense, that it has real guts to it. That it has insides and we know that it’s fragile. And a film that has that in it, it’s not civilized. It doesn’t have to do with that very processed reality. It’s unrefined and in that way it’s refreshing.”
We reached out to Barker for comment, who replied via email: “From the first time we met Wes was a friend, generous in his support of my work and wonderfully witty when talking about the deceits and nonsenses he’d faced as he fought for his unique cinematic vision. Wes was a gentle iconoclast, a man whose sudden absence from the world has left me sad beyond words but grateful to have known him while he was with us.”
Let us remember this filmmaking legend for giving us the chills, but also encouraging us all to express, not repress! And maybe clutch on to a person or two in the theater.