The Most Influential Horror Filmmakers: From John Carpenter to James Whale

The Most Influential Horror Filmmakers: From John Carpenter to James Whale

Oct 31, 2013

Happy Halloween! For the rest of today we'll be celebrating one of our favorite holidays by posting the sorts of things that make sense for this gloriously spook-ified day. Some new, some old, but all of it worth checking out. 

Last Halloween put together a four-part series we called the Most Influential Horror Filmmakers. We think you can guess what it was about. This year we've decided to dedicate all of Halloween day to horror-movie content, but instead of just republishing these entries individually, we thought it would be better to offer them in one refresher course.


Alfred Hitchcock

In a career that spanned five decades, he only made three genuine horror movies (and to be fair, two of them are masterpieces), so putting him in a lineup of the "greatest horror directors of all time" feels disingenuous. But this isn't the "greatest horror directors of all time," this is "the most influential horror directors of all time" and Mr. Hitchcock's fingerprints can be found all over a genre that he he rarely directly worked within. Take a moment and compare the horror cinema of the first half of the century with that of the second. You'll find a changed landscape that Hitchcock helped cultivate.

Read the rest of our piece on Hitchcock here.


David Cronenberg

There are a handful of names that will arise with reliable frequency when the discussion turns to the greatest and most influential of horror filmmakers. The thing about uttering the words David Cronenberg in that discussion, apart from being wholly apt, is that it will be accompanied by a tinge of sadness. David Cronenberg created some of the most innovative and memorable horror titles ever, but... his dalliance in our beloved genre is itself a memory. Cronenberg stopped directing horror films in the late 1990s. And yet fans remained loyal, and now not only is he revered, but indeed droves of admirers pine for his return to the bloody area that made him a legend. So how did he earn that legend?

Read the rest of our piece on Cronenberg here.


John Carpenter

Maybe the most underrated and unheralded achievement of John Carpenter’s career– he managed to make what is arguably the greatest H.P. Lovecraft-inspired film that wasn’t actually based on Lovecraft. For the uninitiated, Lovecraft was one of the greats of horror fiction and his elder-gods mythos (which gave us monsters like Cthulhu) endures to this day. As such, filmmakers over the years have tried (and largely failed) to bring Lovecraft’s horrific visions to the screen. Carpenter bucked that trend with 1995’s In the Mouth of Madness. The film centers on an insurance-fraud investigator (Sam Neill) sent to a small town in search of a missing horror author. When he arrives, he discovers that the town is exactly like the one described in the author’s novels – and that there are very dark things afoot.

Read the rest of our piece on Carpenter here.


James Whale

Much has been written about how sympathetic the Frankenstein Monster is, but to look at all of Whale’s monsters, you begin to realize that they’re all fully formed characters. The Invisible Man may be a homicidal nutjob, but his motivation comes from prickly feelings of low self-worth (which becomes raging egomania with just a hint of power) and paranoia. By infusing his monsters with actual personality quirks and emotional motivations, he’s created villains we can all relate to. They aren’t just killers -- they’re actual people, and people, no matter how villainous, still run through the same full range of emotions that are part of the human condition. 

Read the rest of our piece on Whale here.




Categories: Features, Horror
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