Horror Maestro Wes Craven Passes On

Brain cancer took life of pioneering film director Wes Craven

Wes Craven, who directed popular horror flicks like "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Scream," died Sunday at age 76.

The New York Times reports that, according to Craven's family, the cause was brain cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, the odds of being diagnosed with a malignant tumor of the brain or spinal cord in your lifetime are less than 1 percent.

The odds of duplicating a life like Craven's are even smaller.

"Nightmare on Elm Street" villain Freddy Krueger emerged from the 1980s as one of the horror genre's most iconic and recognizable characters. The film ultimately spawned six sequels, only one of which was helmed by Craven. Other early work — namely "Last House on the Left" (his first feature) and "The Hills Have Eyes" — inspired other directors to craft recent remakes.

Craven remained busy decades after his debut, however, notably kicking off the "Scream" franchise in 1996. He stuck around to direct three sequels and was the executive producer of a television spinoff on MTV.

"Right now, in the marketplace, there is not a week that goes by where there is not a new horror film opening, but in 1996 the genre almost died out," producer Bob Weinstein explained in a piece for Deadline Hollywood. "Wes Craven brought the genre back with the start of the 'Scream' franchise. It is considered a seminal film in the anthology of horror movies, and the overwhelming credit goes to the master Wes Craven."

Few filmmakers can boast such enduring, relevant careers. From causing psychological unease to portraying violent mayhem, Craven was a master of pulling his viewers' strings.

"Horror movies have to show us something that hasn't been shown before so that the audience is completely taken aback," he told author David Konow in 2012, per the Times. "You see, it's not just that people want to be scared; people are scared."

Craven's insights into the darker corners of the human mind were no fluke. He was well-educated, receiving his bachelor's degree from Wheaton College and earning a master's in philosophy from Johns Hopkins University. According to The New York Times, his earliest gigs included a brief stint as a professor and even some work directing, writing and editing pornographic films.

The beginnings may have been humble, but the career that followed was anything but.

The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 22,850 diagnoses of malignant cancer of the brain or spinal cord in the US this year. An estimated 15,320 in the US will die from such tumors in 2015.