The twenty-first century has seen a rise in horror directors who have pioneered in the genre ranging from Jordan Peele and Mike Flanagan to Robert Eggers.
The horror genre in cinema is one that has a history of directors that have made a name for themselves as auteurs. Filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock, Yorgos Lanthimos, and Wes Craven are just a few of the standout directors who have become legends in their own right for pioneering the genre.
However, we have seen within the twenty-first century that there have been notable horror directors who have since made a name for themselves through their horror films.
So much so that they have earned the right to be included in lists of the greatest horror directors. This includes the likes of Jordan Peele, Mike Flanagan, and Robert Eggers.
What is the no.1 horror film in the world?
This is a contentious take as there are more than a dozen horror films that come to mind. But according to Rotten Tomatoes, the no.1 horror film in the world is 1973’s The Exorcist directed by William Friedkin, which beats out other notable horror films like The Shining, The Conjuring, and The Ring for the title.
It garnered critical and commercial success as the first horror film to receive a nomination for the Best Picture at the Oscars.
The reason it is considered the best horror film in the world is due to the overall socio-political impact it had after its release, as there were reports of audiences fainting or having nausea spells during its theatrical release.
This, along with the hysteria and the fact that it is still as scary for first time watchers today as it was during its release, supports the suggestion.
Three of the most impactful modern horror directors
A number of horror directors have created a cult-following for themselves in this day and age, which has earned most of them the title auteurs in the genre, meaning that they have a signature that they have developed which fans can easily recognise and associate with the director.
1. Jordan Peele
Arguably the best to do this recently and our top most impactful modern horror directors is comedian-turned-director, Jordan Peele.
Now best known for his ability to blend-genres that are still anchored in horror as their storytelling plot device, Peele made his impact through his first directorial horror debut with the 2017 film and 2018 Oscar winner for Best Original Screenplay, Get Out.
The film provided a lens through which to appreciate his work that continues to have strong socio-political themes.
Whether it was his second offering with US, or how he reinterpreted already existing horror classics like The Twilight Zone, or the 2021 remake of the legendary Candyman.
Peele has proven to be a legend in horror as he is now dubbed the modern-day Alfred Hitchcock. This was affirmed by his most recent and anticipated release of Nope featuring Keke Palmer, Daniel Kaluuya, and Steven Yeun in the lead roles.
2. Mike Flanagan
Mike Flanagan is one of the most impactful modern horror directors as his focus has not only been on films. The director also has an extensive catalogue of horror television series.
His works are mostly categorised as psychological terror narratives, which are anchored by smartly-crafted characters who find themselves in unsettling and atmospheric settings where the action takes place.
His extensive catalogue includes the likes of his debut 2013 film Oculus, his horror television debut, The Haunting of Hill House, which premiered in 2018 and other notable projects like Before I Wake, Gerald’s Game, The Haunting of Bly Manor, and Midnight Mass.
3. Robert Eggers
Robert Eggers has three horror films under his belt so far, namely, 2015’s The Witch, The Lighthouse from 2019, and most recently, The Northman, though The Northman is arguably more of an action/adventure film.
All of his releases not only earned him commercial success, but they have allowed insiders to distinguish Eggers as an auteur, as his horror films are distinguished by his fascination with folklore and macabre fiction, which is consistently imbued in his work.
Moreover, like most horror directors, Eggers has a recurring group of actors with whom he works, including Anya Taylor-Joy and Willem Dafoe.
Karyn Kusama is also an honourable mention as the director has stated that she does not want to be classified as a horror director. But Kusama, a NYU film graduate, created one of the most iconic horror films of the 2000s – Jennifer’s Body, released in 2009.
However, Kusama’s fascination with subverting the popular gaze of women as vulnerable beings, and instead portraying them as the cause of the danger arguably started with her film debut from 2000, Girlfight.
This film explored the interplay between grace and violence. Moreover, while she is responsible for one of the most impactful horror films, she has also diversified her portfolio to include directing credits in action, drama, thrillers, and mystery projects.