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Thread: The 15 Best Horror Directors Working Today

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    The 15 Best Horror Directors Working Today

    Figured this was worth splitting from the Sangre thread, since it's something more self-contained and not out-and-out discussion per se.

    15. James Watkins
    (Eden Lake, The Woman in Black)
    What I loved about the potential for ghost stories, there's a purity in the grammar of them... it's a real challenge, because you're trying to get the pacing right and judge the scares and atmosphere. This incremental sense of dread. It's a very technical challenge.
    - James Watkins



    Where to Start?
    The Woman in Black (2012)

    Can we start out this whole thing by talking about the collective awesome of recent UK horror? Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), Joe Cornish (Attack the Block), Chris Smith (Black Death), Neil Marshall (The Descent), Ben Wheatley (Kill List). Irish flicks like The Eclipse, Grabbers, and Citadel? And how about James Watkins? Director of two archetype-heavy horror thrillers. 2008's Eden Lake is a brutal twist on the "vacation gone bad" (think The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Wolf Creek). 2012's The Woman in Black is about a mansion that... okay, look, it's basically The Haunting. Before you can say "Gaw blimey," these films swing into old horror standards like a woman rushing through a dark forest and a man wandering through shadowy hallways.

    In both films, Watkins displays a casual control of the horror set-piece as he moves heroes from point A to point Worse, threats hinted at more than witnessed. Eden Lake sees hero Jenny (Kelly Reilly) continually escaping tormentors, listening for their distant voices. The Woman in Black shows Arthur (Danielle Radcliffe) moving from one damn decrepit room to another, danger communicated by how long he holds his shots - when is something gonna happen?! In both films, there's a stately style to how the shots linger, hold steady, how Watkins uses wide shots to miniaturize his characters against imposing environments.


    Between the two films, I prefer The Woman in Black. I jive more to its old-school atmospherics, even if the front half is overloaded with hacky jump-scares. Aah! It's... just a crow. Aah! It's... a running faucet. Eden Lake shoots through its scuzzy storyline with energy and unapologetic nastiness (the heroine at one point hides in a waste container and pops out covered in shit), but its ending overloads on the social commentary, making some weird, maybe-bigoted points on class.

    Watkins has his best films ahead of him, possibly including upcoming lake monster thriller The Loch, but what Eden Lake and The Woman in Black offer up so far is sturdy horror-craft with uncommon control, craft that reinvigorates classic thriller tropes and reminds us a bit of how they felt the first time around. Cheers to that, mate.


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    collecting tapes Skitch's Avatar
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    Whoa, I should watch both of those. Subscribed.

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    Quote Quoting Skitch (view post)
    Whoa, I should watch both of those. Subscribed.
    Neither is great, but both are good. Although I've heard some fair criticisms of Eden Lake from people on this board.

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    Winston* Classic Winston*'s Avatar
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    Eden Lake


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    Winston* Classic Winston*'s Avatar
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    Cool thread btw.

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    Hah! :lol:

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    14. Adrián GarcĂ*a Bogliano
    (Penumbra, Here Comes the Devil)
    I always thought that to open a movie with a couple having sex. In this case, I thought that was great because that’s what the film is about. It’s not about horror. It’s not about supernatural elements. It’s about sex and sexual repression.
    - Adrián GarcĂ*a Bogliano



    Where to Start?
    Here Comes the Devil (2012)

    Argentine director Adrián GarcĂ*a Bogliano's just now breaking into the USA with upcoming werewolf-in-a-nursing-home thriller Late Phases, but the man's worked in the South American horror scene for over a decade. I've seen only two of his films and one short, but they bubble with a weird energy like nobody else working today. Example. The man loves an aggressive cross-cutting. His "B for Bigfoot" segment in The ABCs of Death plays a child hyperventilating in bed against his babysitter breathing hard during sex, and Here Comes the Devil has a similarly opposite-of-subtle sequence where two pubescent kids enter an ominous cave while their father enters their mother's cave.

    The big thing about Bogliano? A complete disregard for tonal consistency. South Korean directors like Bong Joon-Ho and Park Chan-Wook have no problem veering wildly from thriller melodrama to absurdist comedy. One scene in Bong's stunningly bleak procedural Memories of Murder sees an idiot cop get frustrated during an interrogation and jump-kick the man he's questioning. Bogliano's effects are less severe but plenty jarring. A scene of a woman following her zombie-like children in Here Comes the Devil is packed with Sam Raimi fast zooms to her worried face. Why? To disorient the viewer, I think. To avoid lulling them with a steady tone.


    His astrological-cult thriller Penumbra also upsets expectations. The film's heroine is hardly likable, the villains rarely as uniformly threatening as you'll find in something like Ti West's The House of the Devil. There's no mystery to them, as Bogliano shows them sneering behind the heroine's back almost immediately, like cartoon characters or old silent movie villains. Also, one of the villains goes to the trouble of greasing up heroine Marga's boobs, and I still don't know what that had to do with the penumbra thing.

    Bogliano levies the potential awkwardness by stuffing his eccentricity into prepackaged horror ideas. Here Comes the Devil is essentially an occultized (sic?) Village of the Damned, one of those are-the-kids-evil? movies where the kids are so clearly evil that watching the film borders on redundancy. Penumbra riffs on Rosemary's Baby. I first noticed Bogliano two years ago when I watched Penumbra and thought it didn't quite work. After watching Here Comes the Devil, Penumbra's shifts make more sense. Bogliano's convinced that a horror film should elbow viewers in the ribs as it shoves them toward the cliff.


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    collecting tapes Skitch's Avatar
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    My problem with Here Comes The Devil involves that poster.

    [
    ]

    But that may just be me. My buddy really liked it.

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    Replacing Luck Since 1984 Dukefrukem's Avatar
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    I wanted to like The Woman in Black. I really did. I even gave it a positive review after seeing in theaters, but I can't support ghost stories where the ghost poses no threat.
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    Quote Quoting D_Davis (view post)
    Uwe Boll movies > all Marvel U movies
    Quote Quoting TGM (view post)
    I work in grocery. I have not gotten sick. My fellow employees have not gotten sick. If the virus were even remotely as contagious as its being presented as, why haven’t entire store staffs who come into contact with hundreds of people per day, thousands per week, all falling ill in mass nationwide?

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    U ZU MA KI Spun Lepton's Avatar
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    This is gonna end with Ti West in the top three and I'm gonna feel like a schmuck for poking fun of him, right? Damn it.

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    Replacing Luck Since 1984 Dukefrukem's Avatar
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    Ti West and Brad Anderson FTW. Maybe Neil Marshall squeezed in there.
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    Quote Quoting D_Davis (view post)
    Uwe Boll movies > all Marvel U movies
    Quote Quoting TGM (view post)
    I work in grocery. I have not gotten sick. My fellow employees have not gotten sick. If the virus were even remotely as contagious as its being presented as, why haven’t entire store staffs who come into contact with hundreds of people per day, thousands per week, all falling ill in mass nationwide?

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    Quote Quoting Spun Lepton (view post)
    This is gonna end with Ti West in the top three and I'm gonna feel like a schmuck for poking fun of him, right? Damn it.
    Egg all over your face. Seeping into your eyes, making you tear up in pain and regret.

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    The Pan megladon8's Avatar
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    This is an AWESOME thread. Mega-subscribed

    Have to admit I'd never even heard of Bogliamo before. Must check this stuff out...

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    Quote Quoting megladon8 (view post)
    This is an AWESOME thread. Mega-subscribed

    Have to admit I'd never even heard of Bogliamo before. Must check this stuff out...
    Give him one shot; he sticks to his mode, and I doubt it's to all tastes. And the few directors I've listed so far I find good, not great.

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    pushing too many pencils Rowland's Avatar
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    You may have been the only person who listened when I recommended Penumbra a few years back DaMu, so it's nice to see that I'm not his only fan around here.

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    Quote Quoting Rowland (view post)
    You may have been the only person who listened when I recommended Penumbra a few years back DaMu, so it's nice to see that I'm not his only fan around here.
    Dude, I remember how helpful those recommendations were! It always seems like you're getting first word on names to watch for. Your comments were the first time I heard the words "Ben Wheatley." (What sweet words those are.)

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    Here till the end MadMan's Avatar
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    I really am still behind on modern horror. I blame the fact that not only am I diving into 90s horror this year but that I am too busy loving the shit out of 80s and 70s horror. With some 60s thrown in.
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  18. #18
    Here till the end MadMan's Avatar
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    Also as evidenced by my avatar I am a huge Ben Wheatley fan. And I love House of the Devil and The Innkeepers even though West's V/H/S segment sucked.
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    13. Franck Khalfoun
    (P2, Maniac)

    There’s a real mix of homeless, and artists, and wealthy people all mixed in the middle of downtown all sort of interacting with each other. That seemed like... a more logical setting for the character who is an artist, who ended up meeting another photographer artist, and that a relationship might start. And what a great place for a hunter, for a stalker, to find victims.
    - Franck Khalfoun


    (this man hats very well)

    Where to Start?
    Maniac (2013)

    Urban horror remains a mostly-untapped sub-genre of horror, when it really ought to be dominating these days. We no longer live in the frontier-laden world of horror that began with Poe's distant house of Usher and pretty much ended with Poltergeist transplanting every horror trope into the middle of town. While many horror directors struggle to accommodate modern life - mostly by dragging heroes back into the woods or apocalypse-ing the whole damn world - Franck Khalfoun's two horror films, P2 and Maniac, live in the center of the big city, and both work.

    Well, they mostly work. P2 might not be to all tastes. It's one of those fast-paced single-setting suspense pieces, like Phone Booth or Red Eye. A girl gets stuck in a parking garage, and Wes Bentley of American Beauty is the demented security guard who won't let her out. The film offers no larger commentary, no deep meaning. It's just a heroine out-thinking a killer in an eerily banal setting for around 90 minutes. At least a third of what makes this movie worth watching is a scene where a blood-soaked Bentley plays Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas" over the garage intercom and shakes his hips and lip-syncs with the King.


    Maniac, however, is something more, an achingly sad depiction of the compulsion of serial killing. The film's selling point sounds like a gimmick: nearly all the action in the film is shot from the point-of-view of its main character, Frank (Elijah Wood). But instead of growing tiresome, the limited perspective (camerawork sinuous instead of herky-jerky) forces the viewer to see how Frank sees. This leads to some ingenious techniques. Flashbacks stand directly next to present actions, and a few moments dislodge from Frank's perspective and smoothly circle around him. Is he having an out-of-body experience? Does it represent how killers must "detach" themselves from empathy?

    In a way, there's something necessary about such a film, given how news media and popular culture are so eager to alternately romanticize and demonize serial killers without considering them as human beings who got lost along the way. Such people don't require our sympathy, but they do demand our understanding. Along with P2, Maniac shows Khalfoun's interest in finding real tension and horror in the middle of civilization, in the minds of normal-looking people. One of his next films is a reboot of The Amityville Horror. Let's hope the out-of-the-way mansion is as frightening as the city at night.


  20. #20
    Replacing Luck Since 1984 Dukefrukem's Avatar
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    Awesome Urban horror off the top of my head:

    Creep, Midnight Meat Train, Land of the Dead, Attack the Block

    Adding P2 to my queue.
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    Quote Quoting TGM (view post)
    I work in grocery. I have not gotten sick. My fellow employees have not gotten sick. If the virus were even remotely as contagious as its being presented as, why haven’t entire store staffs who come into contact with hundreds of people per day, thousands per week, all falling ill in mass nationwide?

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    The Pan megladon8's Avatar
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    P2 aka watch Rachel Nichols' boobies bounce for 90 minutes.

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    Quote Quoting megladon8 (view post)
    P2 aka watch Rachel Nichols' boobies bounce for 90 minutes.
    I didn't even notice. Heck, I'm so egalitarian, I didn't even realize she was a woman.

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    collecting tapes Skitch's Avatar
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    I hated P2 with a passion that still burns. Really liked Maniac remake though.

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    I feel it's more important that someone like Maniac than P2.

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    12. Stuart Gordon
    (Re-Animator, From Beyond, Edmond, Stuck)

    Roger Corman was making Poe movies and it was those movies that really got me to read Poe. I’m happy that maybe some of the films I’ve done with Lovecraft have done the same for someone.
    - Stuart Gordon



    Where to Start?
    Re-Animator (1985)

    Where has Stuart Gordon gone? His last filmed piece of work was "Eater," a highlight of single-season horror anthology Fear Itself. That was back in 2008. Six years he's been absent from our precious glowing rectangles. Leaving his fans to clutch their limited edition Re-Animator video discs and sift through the overabundance of cheap Lovecraft adaptations on Netflix. Abandoning the minor masses that hold him as a paragon of horror's glory years and as a specific stylist of low-budget classics.

    His films Re-Animator and From Beyond damn near created the sub-genre of gore-comedy "splatstick" (an ownership he shares with Sam Raimi's Evil Dead II and O'Bannon's Return of the Living Dead). He made Pacific Rim before Pacific Rim with Robot Jox. He created a nasty "urban horror" trilogy in the 2000s with sour candies King of the Ants, Edmond, and Stuck. And he directed the best episode of the Masters of Horror series, "The Black Cat," which put Jeffrey Combs in the shoes, suit, and alcohol-drenched misery of legendary author Edgar Allan Poe.


    That episode inspired Gordon to create a play called Nevermore, a one-man-show that's played in Los Angeles since 2009 and again stars Jeffrey Combs as the troubled dreamer. Along with that success, Gordon's also produced a stage musical version of his own Re-Animator. This is only fair. Stuart Gordon began his drama career working for Chicago's Organic Theater, where - and I never get tired of typing this - he locked the doors on patrons during the more intense plays. What a dick. While Gordon's currently thriving on the stage, he's also developing a hyper-sexualized version of Lovecraft's "The Thing on the Doorstep." Had he directed anything in the past six years, he'd be much higher on the list.

    Previous entries this month focused on recurring themes in directors' works, and that's because most of the entrants so far only have a few movies on their resume. Gordon's filmography is overwhelming, as he's one of the few '80s horror directors to not only survive to the present day, but to thrive. It's hard to point to one single unifying idea, although I've discussed his interest in joining sex and scares for more than just the usual exploitation gags. Part of the fun with Gordon is the sense that there are no limits, not in the type of movie he makes, not in how far he'll to go to make you squirm.


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