Wes Craven, the director of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream, died Sunday afternoon of brain cancer, his family said in a statement. “It is with deep sadness we inform you that Wes Craven passed away,” the family said, according to the Associated Press. “Our hearts are broken.” He was 76.
Craven will be most remembered for two things: keeping legions of kids and teenagers up at night with his legendary Freddy Krueger character and reviving the moribund horror movie genre with Scream. The Ohio native directed, wrote, and edited his first feature film, The Last House on the Left in 1972.
Craven’s true rise to fame came in 1984 when he reinvented the teen horror genre with A Nightmare on Elm Street, which he wrote and directed. “Craven claimed to have gotten the idea for Elm Street when living next to a cemetery on a street of that name when growing up in the suburbs of Cleveland,” notes the Hollywood Reporter. The film was also notable for introducing the public to a then-unknown Johnny Depp, points out Deadline. Although others were responsible for directing most of the sequels, Craven was forever considered the father of the hit franchise.
Craven’s success soared again in 1996 when he released Scream, a movie that once again reinvented the teen horror genre and was a huge hit, grossing more than $100 million domestically. In between Scream 2 and Scream 3, Craven directed Music of the Heart in 1999* with Meryl Streep, which earned her an Oscar nomination. And that was the year he also wrote his first novel, Fountain Society.
In a piece for the Daily Beast last year, Craven listed his 10 favorite scary movies and explained he didn’t watch films as a kid because his “family was a member of a church that didn’t think movies were a good thing—they thought they were the work of the devil.”
Although his health deteriorated over the past three years, he continued working on several projects and had recently signed a television deal with Universal Cable Productions, notes Vanity Fair.
His death comes a week after New York published an interview with Quentin Tarantino in which he criticized Craven’s directorial chops on Scream. “I thought he was the iron chain attached to its ankle that kept it earthbound and stopped it from going to the moon,” Tarantino said.
*Correction, Aug. 30, 2015: This post originally misstated the release year of Music of the Heart as 1993. It came out in 1999.