Stephen King, Alfred Hitchcock, Wes Craven, John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, Tobe Hooper and George A. Romero are all names that spring to mind when I hear the word horror. We watch countless movies and read countless books but we forget to appreciate the masterminds behind these stories and the ones who bring them to life. This is without even considering the actors who bring these stories and beloved characters to life… but that’s for next week.
Specifically, in this blog post I’m discussing something very close to my heart, horror. I’ve grown up surrounded by thriller and horror movies, thanks to my mums influence, she was the first person to introduce me to the wonders of monsters and mysteries and I’m very thankful for that even if I am more than a little obsessed now! This post will concentrate on the writers and directors of this fascinating genre because I’m going to share my top three horror icons of all time…
First and foremost Joran Peele belongs on my list, he is the upcoming horror director of the 21st century having directed Get Out (2017) and most recently Us (2019). Jordan Peele is a strange and surprising horror director as he is primarily known for being a comedy actor, I knew him originally for his comedy sketch show Key & Peele (2012-2015) in which he stars with Keegan-Micheal Key on Comedy Central. Despite his talents in comedy Peele shines far brighter as a horror enthusiast, both of his breakout horror movies, mentioned above, have countless references and easter eggs to classic horror movies and characters. I see a lot of myself in him as a director, loving comedy but having a true respect for horror and not overlooking it as a tasteless genre but a significant cinematic treasure. Peele merges the sophistication of the horror genre with the light heartedness of comedy, mixing both these genres while avoiding the spoof or parody element is really important, which Peele does perfectly. Although you may not necessarily find either of Peele’s movies to be strictly ‘funny’ both hold elements of comedy for sure. Peele also prioritises underrepresented voices, especially when it comes to race and gender. He tells the stories of characters we’ve never heard before or who have never had the chance to be represented. I see Jordan Peele as a modernised, horror version of Spike Lee as both strive to tell the stories of primarily black protagonists that deserve to be portrayed. Despite all of these positive notes I have to say on Jordan Peele as a director it ultimately comes down to the fact that his movies are horrifyingly amazing! He has recreated the horror genre into an intelligent and political opportunity to send a message to the masses. Informing those who watch his movies that we need more representation of black actors, male and female in the horror genre but in cinema as a whole! He is changing the game every time he creates new material and I have a very high respect and expectation of him.
Jumping to my second place on the horror royal family, the man, the myth, the legend, Stephen King. I could happily stop writing there because nothing else needs to be said, King is the king of horror. He has created so many iconic stories, characters and moments that people in every day life reference to every day. He has influenced the horror genre with his writing but more importantly he has changed the game of cinema, his writing inspires new directors and actors everyday to try something new and try something different, which is amazing. His books have sold more than 350 million copies, many of which have been adapted into feature films, miniseries, television series, and comic books. King has published 61 novels and six non-fiction books which I have grown up with and fallen in love with. IT (1986), The Shining (1977), Misery (1987), Carrie (1974), The Green Mile (1996), Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (1982), Firestarter (1980)… the list is endless. Only a true talent can create stories like these that inspire so many other artists to create their interpretation of his work, this writing sparks so much creativity and I talk from my own experience. The first time I read IT (1986) I was totally and completely transported into his world and it was terrifying! Don’t even get me started on the first time I watched the 1990 movie staring Tim Curry because I was also, very terrified! His ingenious novels make me so happy and inventive. I discuss how Jordan Peele has become a game changer in the horror genre in the previous paragraph but realistically we would never have directors like him without Stephen King’s writing! Peele has openly discussed how much Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) inspired his creative process whilst making Get Out (2017) which again… without King that movie would never have existed, whether he liked the final product or not. Which by the way, King hated Kubrick’s interpretation of his work and honestly I can see why but regardless of that, King is revolutionary.
Last but not least, the next horror director who belongs on my list is very hard to decide. I’m stuck between John Carpenter and Wes Craven, some may say these two directors/writers are an obvious or easy choice for this list but regardless they both belong on here nonetheless. My choice to place these two on this list is because the 1970s and 1980s shaped the horror genre into something brand new. Both these directors created movies that inspired so many after them and inspired so many to follow in their footsteps. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Halloween (1978) are two horror films that I adore, especially Halloween. Both movies have these powerfully villains that cannot be defeated no matter how hard you fight, although these movies are seen as slightly comical or inadequate to a modern audience that means nothing to me. These movies are iconic because of those imperfections which are judged so harshly by a 21st century audience. Imagine the horror genre without Michael Myers? You could never. Imagine the horror genre without Freddy Krueger? Never! John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), one of the single most disgustingly horrifying movies I have ever seen, not much makes me stomach turn but this movie shocked me beyond anything I was expecting. Finally, I wanted to give a special thanks to Wes Craven’s Scream (1996). The Scream franchise I hold very close to my heart because I of how meta is it, what horror movie references the formula of a horror movie? It is genius! Everything about the Scream movies makes me very happy, I watch them over and over again and I never get bored. Not everyone would agree that Scream is a sensational horror movie but at the end of the day it changed the genre and allowed people to mix in elements of comedy whilst referencing to the wider community of horror movies.
Overall, this blog post is the start of a conversation I would love to continue. This is only part one, part two will be coming next week and I will be discussing actors within the horror genre. I hope you enjoyed reading and enjoyed learning about some of my favourite writers/directors in the horror genre. Disclaimer, this is all my own opinion and I would love to know who your top three would be.
(Here’s a special thanks to Alfred Hitchcock. He is not strictly horror so therefore he does not belong on this list but Hitchcock is a revolutionary director and will forever be in the royal family of cinema, in my mind)