Sommerleigh Pollonais – Senior Writer
When horror fans get together to talk movies besides discussing who would survive a zombie apocalypse (my plan involves holding up in my local cinema until the snacks run out), the conversation inevitably turns to who are the best horror directors of all time.
Of course nostalgia brings out the iconic names like John Carpenter, Wes Craven and George A. Romero, just to name a few, but in recent times there have been some truly stellar horror movies made, proving that there are a whole new batch of icons on the horizon and I’m all for that.
Here are my TOP 5 FAVOURITE MODERN HORROR DIRECTORS:
#5 Leigh Whannell (The Invisible Man, Upgrade, Insidious: Chapter 3)
Most of the people on this list are jack-of-all-trades and while Leigh may be more prolific as a horror writer (20 credits and counting!), his skill behind the camera is nothing to laugh at. He has a gift for taking small stories and making them larger than life (ask anyone who’s seen Upgrade) and his most recent foray as director saw him take The Invisible Man and put mega studio Universal to shame compared to their versions of these classic monsters. Hell, they CANCELLED their Invisible Man movie, when the trailer for Whannell’s dropped!
Leigh has made horror fun again and I can’t wait to see what he takes on next.
#4 Robert Eggers/Ari Aster (The Lighthouse, The Witch/Midsommar, Hereditary)
The only reason I put these two together is they’re both relatively new to audiences. That said, Robert Eggers and Ari Aster have created the kind of surreal and cerebral horror which will be dissected and discussed for years to come. Eggers shows the kind of details in his movies that would’ve made Stanley Kubrick smile (no easy feat) and Aster’s dark “fairy tales” are totally unique, while evoking memories of Roman Polanski’s work in films like Rosemary’s Baby and Repulsion.
Horror movies with style and substance? Sign me up every time!
#3 Andy Muschietti (Mama, IT Chapter 1 & 2)
I first discovered Andy M when I saw the VASTLY UNDERRATED Mama. He took what was initially a movie-short on YouTube and turned it into a movie that’s equal parts terrifying and touching. Then he did the seemingly impossible and made Pennywise the Clown a box-office smash and one of the most well-known horror monsters of the modern era.
Andy Muschietti proved horror movies can have mass appeal when the story and the characters are treated with love and respect. One of his next projects is the anime Attack on Titans, an apocalyptic world with giants that enjoy chowing down on humanity.
I’ve never been so excited for a live action adaptation in my life.
#2 James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring, Insidious, Dead Silence)
James Wan burst on to the horror scene with Saw. A movie that shock the crap out of everyone, the first time they saw it and went on to have multiple sequels (and even an upcoming reboot/revival).
He cemented his place in the horror universe by creating the genre franchise powerhouse that is The Conjuring Universe (as well as the Insidious one, to a smaller degree). I was tempted to put James and Leigh together (they’ve worked together on multiple projects) when writing this list, but both men have proven they are more than capable of delivering the scares and screams, in their own unique ways.
So kudos to you James Wan (and thanks for Aquaman too!)
Honourable Mention: Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us)
There’s a thin line between horror and comedy and as a comedian turned writer/director, Jordan Peele has a great understanding of this fact. He’s new to the game and has already made the kind of impact on the genre that some can only dream of. And his upcoming remake of Candyman looks to be another win for both Peele and horror fans alike.
#1 Mike Flanagan (House on Haunted Hill, Gerald’s Game, Doctor Sleep, Hush)
There are only two directors (in this fan’s humble opinion) who have ever done justice, to the writings of Stephen King: Frank Darabont (The Mist, Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile) is the first. The second one, and my personal super-hero of horror, is Mike Flanagan!
What’s the big deal you ask? Well, not only did he direct arguably, the scariest, most well-acted, well paced and edited haunted house television show I’ve ever seen (Haunting on Hill House), he took one of my favorite novels, a novel most people said could NEVER WORK as a film and made it into (again my opinion) the best adaptation of a Stephen King novel ever put to screen with Gerald’s Game.
He’s a director capable of making sequels that are better than the original (Ouija: Origin of Evil), a feat we can all agree, is never an easy one, and I for one thought Doctor Sleep was great (fan service and all) especially when you factor in a follow up to Kubrick’s The Shining, was never gonna be an easy endeavour.
Flanagan has a great eye for horror as a director, editor and writer and as he continues to bring new stories to the genre, with his upcoming Midnight Mass and The Haunting of Bly Manor (the next installment of the Hill House anthology series) he’s most definitely on his way to becoming an icon in horror for generations to enjoy.
There are so many talented directors popping up in horror now. John Krasinski, Guillermo Del Toro, Radio Silence and Oz Perkins, just to name a few. With the legends of old inspiring the generation of this century, I think we can safely say we’ll be watching (and discussing) awesome horror flicks, for a long long time to come.
‘Till the next one folks!
For my Top 10 Horror Movies of the Decade you can click here.
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes. Double Tap Baby!