Since we’re still in October, let’s continue exploring the seasonal potential of the month with another article centred around things that terrify us for their tendency to go “boo!” in the dark. We’ve had a number of film recommendations, we’ve had a list of horror festivals, so now it might be a logical step to proceed by talking a little bit about some of the most distinguished creators of these forms of entertainment. Two mentions, before starting: the list is in no particular order, and Japanese filmmakers are not mentioned here simply because there should be an entire list in its own right honouring them and the unique style of horror that they have created.
1. John Carpenter
We start off with one of the most recognisable names in the horror industry. John Carpenter is one of the many high-profile directors to have adapted one of Stephen King’s works (Christine in 1983), but he is more widely known for Halloween (1978) – which sparked two terrible remakes by Rob Zombie – and The Thing (1982) – which also ‘enjoyed’ a useless and uninspired remake in 2011. His later productions – Ghosts of Mars (2001) and The Ward (2010) have been much less inspired, but his name and reputation as one of the industry’s greats remains untouched.
2. George A. Romero
John Romero did zombie flicks before it was cool! The half-Cuban, half-Lithuanian American director immediately made a name for himself with Night of the Living Dead (1968), a film concerning a group of survivors who barricade themselves in an old farmhouse once the dead start coming back to life. Some of his later productions are called Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead. One can rather easily assume by the titles that they’re not exactly gleeful productions celebrating life.
3. Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock, in his long career, has mastered so many genres that it’s not fitting to call him the master of any particular genre. He did, however, direct two projects, which both set new standards to the horror genre. First there was Psycho (1960), a psychological horror which revolutionised sound design and still has one of the most memorable scenes ever created, and The Birds (1963), especially noted for the astonishing visual effects for the time.
4. Guillermo del Toro
The renowned Mexican director comes with his own particular flavour of horror, with a much more Gothic approach reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe rather than a more contemporary jump-scare based adrenaline-inducing style. His 3 Oscar-winning film Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), as well as the more recent and less well-received Crimson Peak (2015), are both testament to this.
5. James Wan
James Wan, while not as recognisable as the other names on the list, couldn’t be omitted because he’s the one who revitalised the horror genre in the early 2000s through his low-budget cult classic Saw (2004). The Australian director of Malaysian descent gave birth to the iconic character of Jigsaw and directed the first (and best) entry of the long series which is due to be continued with another entry, after a sizable break, in a week or so. He went on to create two other horror franchises, Insidious (2010) and The Conjuring (2013), which have been well received as well – I’m personally not a fan of either, but they are superior to most other similar products on the market.
6. Stanley Kubrick
This legendary filmmaker, much like Hitchcock, has explored such a diversity of themes in his productions, that it’s hard to fit him into a certain category. From historical films to war productions, sci-fi movies and comedies, he has more or less aced every genre he’s tried his craft at. One of Kubrick’s most renowned productions, however, is The Shining (1980) – a psychological horror built upon the book with the same name written by the literary master of horror, Stephen King. The book remains by far the superior product, at least in my opinion, but Kubrick’s film does contain some absolutely astonishing moments in terms of both cinematography and atmosphere-building.
7. Wes Craven
Four years ago I attended a Halloween special screening of a Nightmare of Elm Street (1984) at Cineworld Glasgow. I hadn’t seen the film in a long time, and its viewing made me realise how much the genre has evolved, at least in technical terms, in the last decades. Wes Craven wrote and directed other distinguishable films which recently got reboots: The Last House on the Left (1972) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977), as well as the Scream series (1996, 1997, 2000, 2011).
8. Tobe Hooper
Last, but not least, Tobe Hooper’s most notable contribution to the world of horror productions is represented by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and its continuation from 1986, which spanned several other entries in the series in the 21st century. He’s also known for adapting another Stephen King book, Salem’s Lot, into a TV movie (1979), as well as directing the extremely well-received and 3 times Academy Award nominated Poltergeist (1982).