While some may tell you that the genre is stuck in a stale state, but I couldn’t possibly disagree with that more. In 2017 we have more active, highly talented filmmakers than we probably deserve, and there’s something about the batch of superb filmmakers carving out a path through our beloved macabre landscape that feels eerily reminiscent of the late ‘70s up, well into the ‘80s.
Yesteryear gave us masters like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, George Romero, David Cronenberg, Stuart Gordon, and David Lynch. These days the names have changed, but the quality remains intact.
Take a look at 10 picks for future Masters of Horror, in direct regard to filmmakers (excluding screenwriters and performers) exclusively.
Mike Flanagan may be the most valuable talent in the field today. He’s yet to hit his ceiling, though he’s already directed some future classics. His major breakthrough, Absentia was a brilliant shoestring affair, and he’s done nothing but grow since, giving us gems like Oculus, Hush, and Ouija: Origin of Evil. The fact that he’s got an episode of the highly anticipated series transfer of The Haunting of Hill House in addition to an adaptation of Gerald’s Game already wrapped, has us all tremendously excited by the prospect of more top-notch work from this animal.
If Mike Flanagan isn’t leading the current charge, James Wan is. Wan shocked the world more than a decade ago with Saw, and since then he’s delivered consistently strong pictures and developed a few franchises that won’t be forgotten by fans any time soon. Insidious, The Conjuring, and The Conjuring 2 are all exhilarating affairs, and there’s more on the way from Wan.
Fede Alvarez only has two major feature length credits on his ledger, but he’s already proven that he’s got a certain panache that some filmmakers never tap into, even after lengthy careers. Alvarez is a genius behind the camera, and he made that known with the amazing Evil Dead remake and his unbelievably taut follow-up, Don’t Breathe. A remake of Labyrinth and a sequel to Don’t Breathe are in the works, and it’s likely that both will only further solidify the man’s position as a modern-day great.
When it comes to this list, David Sandberg may end up being the guy with the highest ceiling. He’s a still-developing director, but his immense growth from one film to the next – Lights Out to Annabelle: Creation – was mind-blowing. He’s already mastered the jump scare, and now he’s developing a slow burn scare that has serious juice behind it. It looks like Sandberg will step away from the genre to enter the superhero world with Shazam! next, but don’t expect him to stay too far distanced from horror – it certainly seems to be his bread and butter.
Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead
This is a duo that still have a lot to prove, if they’re looking to leave a lasting impression on the genre. That said, their work thus far has been absolutely stellar. Resolution is a mind-blowing and unique picture. Spring feels as much like a piece of art as a fantastic horror film, and while I’ve yet to see The Endless, it has the promise of something truly special. Benson and Moorehead aren’t the most experienced, or prolific on this list, but they share some amazing visions that could lead to more jaw-dropping genre works.
Jeremy Saulnier really reminds me of a young David Lynch. He does a terrific job of blurring genres, but always produces deeply disturbing material. Murder Party is a thoroughly entertaining, pitch-black horror comedy, Blue Ruin is a compelling mashup of horror, thriller and drama, but it proves to be unsettling for all the right reasons, and Green Room isn’t just dark, frightening and tense, it’s one of the best films made in the last couple decades, likely to be remembered as a profound genre offering. Hold the Dark is next for Saulnier, and from the sound of it, it’s probably going to be a fantastic thriller/survival horror piece.
Jordan Peele has just one single film under his belt: Get Out. It just so happens, however, that Get Out is one of the best horror films available today. The social commentary often bounces back and forth between in-your-face and subtle, and Peele’s ability to terrify while speaking on a profoundly important topic is extremely atypical (the last great to do it with such impact would be the recently passed George Romero). We’ve known him to be a funny man for the vast majority of his career, but it turns out he’s also a highly intelligent filmmaker with relevant messages to spread.
Adam Wingard is among the most seasoned filmmakers on this list, and his work is consistently impressive, terrifying and wonderfully entertaining, simultaneously. A Horrible Way to Die, You’re Next, and The Guest are all striking works. Depending upon your opinion of the found footage genre, you may also love his sequel to The Blair Witch Project, simply titled Blair Witch, as well as his daring segment Phase I Clinical Trials in the second V/H/S flick. A remake of I Saw the Devil screams of potential, and it, along with Death Note and Godzilla vs. Kong are all in the works.
M. Night Shyamalan
The O.G. of this lot, M. Night Shyamalan has enjoyed his professional ups, and he’s hit a few professional downs. What he’s proven in the process is that he’s not just a visionary, he’s unwilling to bend to anyone else’s will, and he thrives to deliver refreshing horror. The Sixth Sense, Signs, Unbreakable, The Visit and Split are all amazing pictures, and his first big crossover film, Glass will bring the players of Unbreakable together with the players of Split, and it stands to be an absolutely amazing experience.
Honorable mentions: Ti West, Christopher Smith, Robert Eggers, Guillermo del Toro (who I consider something of an in-betweener in terms of generational work and impact) and Alexandre Aja.