Alfred Hitchcock, Dario Argento, Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Tom Holland: These are just a few bona fide Masters of Horrors, filmmakers who exerted major influence on the genre’s cinematic landscape from the 1960’s thru 90’s. But who are the next generation Masters; filmmakers who have invigorated and defined 21st Century horror?
Below, in no particular order, are 15+ directors (many of whom also write and produce) who have already made a significant impact on horror in the new Millennium, and each has an incredibly bloody career left ahead of them. These are names to watch!
Notable Films: High Tension (2003, Director), The Hills Have Eyes (2006, Director), P2 (2007, Screenplay), Piranha 3D (2010, Director), Maniac (2012, Screenplay), Horns (2013, Director), The Pyramid (2014, Producer), The Other Side of the Door (2016, Producer).
If you don’t know his name you definitely know his work. French native and purveyor of the New French Extremity subgenre, Alexandre Aja (Interview) has been the driving force behind some of Hollywood’s best remakes and just as many amazing originals. Pretty much everything this guy touches turns to gold. Aja’s definitely at the top of his class.
Notable Film: Crawl of Die (2014, Director/Screenplay/Cinematographer/Editor/Producer).
Oklahoma Ward is something of a legend in indie horror circles, having helmed the extreme claustrophobic shocker Crawl or Die. The low-tech sci-fi was a labor of love, and it shows! It’s bolstered by a knockout performance by Nicole Alonso as Tank (hailed as the most empowering female protagonist since Ripley). The duo are working hard to turn Crawl or Die into a Trilogy.
Notable Films: House of the Devil (2009, Director/Screenplay) The Innkeepers (2011, Director/Screenplay), V/H/S (2012, Director/Screenplay), The ABC’s of Death (2012, Director/Screenplay), The Sacrament (2013, Director/Screenplay), Wayward Pines (Director, 2016).
We can forgive Ti West for directing the infamously awful Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, as the rest of his filmography is downright stellar. His next flick, In a Valley of Violence, will hit theaters on October 21st; the western-themed horror movie stars Karen Gillan, John Travolta, and Ethan Hawke.
Notable Films: A Horrible Way to Die (2010, Director), You’re Next (2011), V/H/S (2012, Director), The ABC’s of Death (2012, Director), The Guest (2014, Director).
The biggest news to come out of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con is that Adam Wingard’s upcoming film “The Woods” (finger quotes) is actually Blair Witch, a sequel to the seminal found-footage masterpiece from 1999. You’re Next and The Guest were both penned by Simon Barrett (who also wrote Blair Witch); reoccurring portrayals of complex family dynamics prove the duo are masters of subtext. Wingard’s currently helming American remakes of Death Note and I Saw the Devil.
Notable Films: Cabin Fever (2002, Director/Screenplay), Hostel (2005, Director/Screenplay), Hostel: II (2007, Director/Screenplay), The Last Exorcism (2010, Producer), Aftershock (2012, Screenplay), The Green Inferno (2013, Director/Screenplay), The Sacrament (2013, Producer), Clown (2014, Producer), Knock Knock (2015, Director/Screenplay).
Few modern horror practitioners are as well-known and prolific as Eli Roth. While no stranger to controversy, Roth has had tremendous impact on the current genre landscape with way more supporters than detractors. His commitment to the horror community at large is commendable; he recently co-founded CryptTV, a digital platform featuring the internet’s best original content.
Guillermo del Toro
Notable Films: The Devil’s Backbone (2001, Director/Screenplay), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, Director/Screenplay), The Orphanage (2007, Executive Producer), Splice (2009, Executive Producer), Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010, Screenplay), Mama (2013, Executive Producer), Crimson Peak (2015, Director/Screenplay),
While he got his start in the 1990’s, Guillermo del Toro’s most significant contributions came in the 21st Century. Originally hailing from Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico, he’s credited with reinvigorating gothic themes and aesthetics in horror movies. His films The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth, and The Orphanage are considered an unofficial trilogy dealing with the extreme trials of childhood.
Jen & Sylvia Soska
Notable Films: Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2009, Directors/Screenplay), American Mary (2012, Directors/Screenplay), The ABC’s of Death 2 (2014, Directors/Screenplay), See No Evil 2 (2014, Directors), Vendetta (2015, Directors).
Canadian filmmakers Jen and Sylvia Soska have taken the indie horror scene by storm; they’re utterly captivating, but these beauties have teeth! Challenging notions that horror movies are derogatory towards women, these trailblazers are in your face and don’t give a fuck! It was recently announced that the “Twisted Twins” will be directing a remake of David Cronenberg’s Rabid.
James Wan & Leigh Whannell
Notable Films: Saw (2004, Director & Writer), Dead Silence (2007, Director & Writer), Insidious (2010, Director & Writer), Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013, Director & Writer).
Out of Australia, filmmaking duo of James Wan and Leigh Whannell often work separately (Wan directed The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2, for example), they’re an unstoppable force as a team. They launched the Saw franchise, perhaps the most successful series of the 21st Century. They’re both extremely active as horror movie producers as well.
Notable Films: Murder Party (2007, Director/Screenplay), Blue Ruin (2013, Director/Screenplay), Green Room (2016, Director/Screenplay).
While Murder Party is an awesome horror-comedy romp, Jeremy Saulnier’s later films, Blue Ruin and Green Room, have defined the young writer/director as profound and serious filmmaker. Green Room, especially, is notable for its genuine characters and extreme violence. I can’t wait to see what this guy comes up with next.
Duane Graves & Justin Meeks
Notable Films: The Wild Man of the Navidad (2008, Directors/Screenplay), Butcher Boys (2012, Directors), Kill or Be Killed (2015, Directors/Screenplay).
Another filmmaking duo with unusual promise, Texas natives Duane Graves and Justin Meeks love horror—and they love their home State! Texas features so prominently in each of their films (cities, swamps, and deserts) it’s practically a character itself. Their films span diverse themes and subgenres, and are set in different eras, from the present back to the 1800’s. What binds their filmography is a unique and unflinching approach to storytelling—and an obvious commitment to quality.
Notable Films: Kill List (2011, Director/Co-writer), Sightseers (2012, Director), The ABC’s of Death (2012, Director), A Field in England (2013, Director), High Rise (2015, Director).
No one on this list has a filmography more diverse in terms of themes, execution, and visual aesthetics than Ben Wheatley. Each film seems to exist in a vacuum with little or no affiliation to what came before it or what will follow. The only thing they have in common is the daring and artistic spirit with which Wheatley attacks his projects.
Notable Films: May (2002, Director/Screenplay), The Woods (2006, Director), The Woman (2011, Director/Co-writer), All Cheerleaders Die (2013, Director/Screenplay), Tales of Halloween (2015, Director/Screenplay).
California native Edward Lucky McKee grew up in abject poverty with little access movies or television; still, at age 12, he and a close friend managed to film their own version of A Nightmare on Elm Street. His first feature, May, is considered a modern gothic masterpiece (by me at least). McKee has already been dubbed a “Master of Horror” having participated in the Showtime anthology series with his contribution Sick Girl (2006).
Notable Films: Hatchet (2006, Director/Screenplay), Frozen (2010, Director/Screenplay), Hatchet II (2010, Director/Screenplay), Hatchet III (2013, Screenplay), Digging Up the Marrow (2014, Director/Screenplay).
Adam Green has created one of the most prominent horror icons of the 21st Century so far; Victor Crowley from the Hatchet Trilogy is a conglomeration of just about every 1980’s nightmare villain, yet somehow still original. His meta-film, Digging Up the Marrow, is a personal favorite; it focuses on an obsessed man’s search for an underground society of monsters.
Notable Films: Dread (2009, Director/Screenplay), Cassadaga (2011, Director), Last Shift (2014, Director/Screenplay).
Anthony DiBlasi got his start in the industry as protégé to legendary fear practitioner Clive Barker; his adaptation of the author’s short story, Dread, is one of the best ever released as part of After Dark’s 8 Films to Die For series. Last Shift enjoyed an incredible resurgence when it hit Netflix, and was widely considered one of the year’s best. According to IMDB, he recently completed a psychological thriller called Her Last Will.
Notable Films: House of 1000 Corpses (2003, Director/Screenplay/Soundtrack), The Devil’s Rejects (2005, Director/Screenplay), Halloween (2007, Director/Screenplay), Halloween II (2009, Director/Screenplay), Lords of Salem (2012, Director/Screenplay/Soundtrack).
Whether you love his films or despise them, there’s simply no denying that Rob Zombie is a visionary. He marches to the beat of his own heavy metal band with an in-your-face bravado that won’t be ignored. His impending clown horror, 31, is one of the most anticipated genre films of 2016; while heavily dinged by the MPAA, Zombie promises a shockingly violent DVD release.
Who do you think is a 21st Century Master of Horror? Did your favorite make the list? Sound off in the Comments section!