Within the horror genre, there exists a short list of directors who have left a lasting impact. Names such as Clive Barker, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Alfred Hitchcock and George A. Romero are prime examples of horror directors who understood the core elements of what scares people and translated those fears into the most terrifying, genre-defining films of all-time.
Successful directors, regardless of the genre, work to attain a deep understanding of the human emotions we all experience in life and convey these emotions through the characters and story they are attempting to tell, all in order to make a meaningful connection to the audience.
This is by no means an easy task and often times, directors miss the mark and never fully create a story that is both compelling and driven by the emotions conveyed by their characters.
Here are 5 well-known directors who have never made a horror film, but that I argue could create a unique vision for the horror genre…
Wes Anderson made his directorial debut with the 1996 film Bottle Rocket, following its success with Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and most recently, the animated film Isle of Dogs (2018).
Anderson has defined his career through creating quirky characters, snappy dialogue and odd situations delivered through external narrative. Most of his films can be categorized as comedy/dramas, but his knack for creating quirky characters and odd situations could be beneficial in creating a truly unique horror film unlike anything we have ever seen before.
Richard Linklater is a director who cannot be defined by one genre. He has shown great versatility as a director with films such as the cult coming-of-age comedy classic Dazed and Confused (1993), the uniquely bizarre sci-fi film A Scanner Darkly (2006), and the coming-of-age drama Boyhood, which was released in 2014, but was filmed over the course of 12 years with the same cast.
Linklater is a master craftsman with character development and creates relatable characters that connect with the audience. His ability to create a grounded story could lend itself nicely to the horror genre in creating a film that terrifies people in a very real way.
Joel and Ethan Coen
Collectively known as the Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan Coen are best known for cult classics such as Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998), and No Country for Old Men (2007). Similar to Richard Linklater, the Coen Brothers have shown great versatility in their directing efforts. However, unlike Linklater, the Coen’s are no strangers to portraying moments of extreme violence in their films (the woodchipper scene from Fargo; the motel shootout scene from No Country for Old Men).
The Coen Brother’s ability to tell compelling stories occupied by truly unique characters that have the potential to say and do anything at any given moment combined with their ability to use horrific, graphic violence as it relates to further exploring a character or drive a story arc would make for a truly special experience that could rival some of the best horror films to date.
Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson initially made a name for himself after the critically-acclaimed success of his 1997 film Boogie Nights. He has since continued to build on that success over the course of the past 20 years with films such as Punch-Drunk Love (2002) and There Will Be Blood (2007).
Anderson has never been one to align himself with one genre exclusively, but his consistency lies within his characters. His protagonists all tend to have inherent flaws that lead to self- destructive behaviors. His films are defined by the demons that lie within ourselves rather than external forces.
Anderson’s ability to focus on the flaws we see in ourselves could be the focus of a horror film that makes us reevaluate our own mental health.
Denis Villeneuve has made quite a name for himself within the Hollywood landscape over the past 5 years. Best known for sci-fi films such as Arrival (2016) and most recently Blade Runner 2049 (2017), Villeneuve has crafted a directorial career that thus far has touched upon the genres of sci-fi, crime/drama, and psychological thriller, with each film implementing specific elements of horror throughout.
Villeneuve has shown an innate ability to take a simple story structure and layer it in a way that keeps the audience engaged and guessing as to where he is going to take them next. He has a deep understanding of the visual aspect of filmmaking and uses it to create unique and often intense scenes that utilize symbolism and require the audience to draw their own conclusions rather than be told what to think. A psychological horror film would be right within Villeneuve’s wheelhouse and, if ever brought to fruition, could have a lasting impact within the horror community.