When it comes to filmmaking, movie directors have received the most visibility, second only to actors. The principal reason directors have attained rock-star vibes is that a good, talented director literally “brings to life” a story on paper. It is up to the film director to visualize a writer’s script, telling a compelling story visually and through motion. The best directors show rather than tell, an edict common in writing classes around the world.
The best directors working in the horror genre are able to evoke deeply held emotions in their audience. Like directors who work in the comedy genre, horror directors must walk a fine line, as what is scary for one may not be all that scary to another. The worst horror directors rely on sleight of hand to generate what are called “jump” scares, fake scares that do nothing to advance the story. The best directors create chills, evoke uncomfortable tension, and of course generate bloodcurdling horror.
Talk about a hard list to compile. There have been many great horror directors, from the obvious like James Whale, Sam Raimi, Mario Bava, and Tobe Hooper to the less-than-obvious like Frank Henenlotter, Larry Cohen, Lucio Fulci, and Michael Haneke. For me, the best horror directors are the complete filmmakers, those capable of writing their own scripts and bringing them to life. Few can consistently produce success after success, but there are those who have made a successful career in the horror genre by establishing a cadre of hardcore horror aficionados who consistently flock to watch their movies.
The following list chronicles the top-five horror directors in no particular order. These men have a knack for the darker visions in life. More importantly, they have been able to consistently communicate those dark visions to audiences in screens all over the world.