The first movie that ever terrified me was Stranger in Our House. It haunted my nightmares for two decades until I finally saw it again in the late nineties. Not being five-years old anymore made me see this 1978 made for TV-movie rather differently (I thought it was bad). Seeing it again last year when I was no longer a cynical twenty-something, I viewed it differently again, and though it no longer frightened me, I enjoyed its deliberate humor, no-bullshit pacing, and story line that does tap into a primal fear (being the only person who recognizes a monster). Would you expect anything less from a horror craftsman like Wes Craven.
I wouldn't exactly call myself a serious Wes Craven fan, though even movies that I don't personally love--such as Scream or The Hills Have Eyes--are clearly made by an artist who knows his audience and how to satisfy and upset its expectations. In the case of A Nightmare on Elm Street, he made a truly great horror picture for the ages, once again giving his eighties audience what they wanted--lots of dead teens--and what they didn't realize they wanted--an interesting monster, an interesting hero, a witty script, and well-brewed atmosphere. Still, that movie never scared me like Stranger in Our House did (read more about that in Psychobabble's currently-hibernating series Things That Scare Me).
Craven's work in the eighties was so contemporary and fresh, I briefly forgot that he'd been at it for some 15 years before Nightmare on Elm Street, so my jaw dropped when I read about his death this morning. When I saw he was 76, I was surprised by my surprise, though the fact that the cause was brain cancer makes me feel that Wes Craven still went too young. I'll miss him every time I have a bad dream.