The Bergman Film That Inspired Wes Craven

Virgin Spring

Wes Craven, who died this week at age seventy-six, was a horror master with few equals in contemporary American movies. The director of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream may not often be spoken of in the same breath as the classic auteurs of European art-house cinema, but his career in feature filmmaking began under the influence of none other than Ingmar Bergman. Craven’s first film, The Last House on the Left (1972), was conceived as a remake of Bergman’s 1960 The Virgin Spring, a film that had made a huge impression on the young Craven. In adapting to a grimy B-movie aesthetic Bergman’s austere, medieval-set, Oscar-winning film about a father who exacts bloody vengeance on the men who defiled and murdered his daughter, Craven ended up making a vastly influential movie in its own right, one that kick-started the cycle of ’70s rape-revenge movies that has become one of horror’s most recognizable and notorious subgenres. Revisiting Bergman’s startling original now, you can see why a horror director like Craven was enamored; The Virgin Spring has a chillingly barbaric sensibility. Watch this astonishing clip of Max von Sydow as the father preparing to mete out justice to the unsuspecting villains.

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