According to Wes Craven, it is not what is "out there" we should worry about, but the "unknown familiar". Which explains why the striped-jumper worn by Freddy Krueger in Nightmare On Elm Street can make him appear as the more familiar Dennis the Menace. When you consider that Krueger was based on a child who bullied Craven, the spine begins to tingle. He admits to finding inspiration from very real horror - when he was asked to defend Scream, which is about a high school murderer, he pointed to the recent shooting at a school in Arkansas and how survivors talked about the shooter as a classroom buddy.

Craven refused to do sequels, with the exception of Scream 2, because it dealt with the issue of horror film sequels and copycat murders. "They're always trying to distance themselves," he says about people who explain away his celluloid creations as the result of bad dreams or a terrible childhood. According to Craven, they are often based on real-life stories. For instance, People Under the Stairs was written after he read about three children who had never been outside their house. "I thought, that makes a beautiful symbol of a society that looks for crime on the outside but needs to look at the inside more."

Exposing the unknown familiar

It is fitting that the above phrase about horror is a good description of himself. Who would guess the unknown depths of imagination from the former humanities teacher? He twists and turns as many times as his plots; he resists attempts to analyse himself, but admit his films do this anyway. "It's like looking at yourself and humanity with your pants down, with all your primal urges and fears hanging out." And, while he shows signs of a control-freak in his writing, directing and editing of the seminal Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, he relinquishes control of sequels.

Teen screams

About the criticism of teen horror movies, Craven says: "What threatens them or enrages them or what makes them feel like they must protect youth is intensity. So the more real something is, the more intense it is, the more they want to cut it out." The first scene in Scream was changed seven times before it got an R rating. This is possibly why Craven is now looking at more adult projects. Currently, he is writing The Fountain Society, about a government conspiracy, a TV pilot and a true-life film.

Wes Craven's `Wishmaster' is released today