Sunday, October 30, 2005


Masters Of Horror

It’s the night before Halloween and I have another list on my mind. I recently read that the new Showtime series “Masters of Horror” – an anthology of one-hour horror films, made by some of the leading directors in the genre today -- was born from a series of dinner meetings these directors had in L.A. over the course of months. So, it got me to thinking: Who are the best horror directors of all time. Here’s my top five:

5) Tobe Hooper: His film debut, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and his wonderful team-up with Steven Spielberg, Poltergeist alone put him on this list.
4) James Whale: The subject of his own movie biography Gods and Monsters, Whale is truly the father of the gothic horror film. The imagery he created in Frankenstein and its superior sequel Bride of Frankenstein exist in gothic horror films to this day.
3) George A Romero: His film debut Night of the Living Dead is not only a claustrophobic horror masterpiece, it also has a strong social subtext about minorities’ place in a community. Creepshow, his team-up with Stephen King, is great visceral horror, just like the comic book mentality that inspired it. Dawn of the Dead is a horror epic, taking the audience through a series of emotions as the apocalyptic reality of the story creeps in. Also of note: The Crazies, which seems more relevant now then it did when it was filmed.
2) Wes Craven: A Nightmare on Elm Street and the monster Freddy Krueger came to us via Craven. And just when the series seemed to have no more life, he created Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, a horror version of Fellini’s 8 ½. Following that, Craven gave us the self-referential Scream and its knowing, winking sequels, making us laugh and scream a the same time. This year he released Red Eye. A true master of the genre.
1) John Carpenter: His masterpiece, Halloween, like a fine wine, is richer with every repeated viewing. The initial shock value may lessen, but the real terror beneath bubbles to the surface. How brilliant was it to set this film on Halloween when anyone can don a mask and walk the streets unfettered? It is also infused with classic motifs (such as bell tolling = death). It is the prototype by which all inferior “slasher” horror films are measured. Carpenter’s cannon also includes the classic ghost story The Fog, the Stephen King adaptation of teen alienation Christine, and the superior remake of The Thing.

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