Welcome to this little Halloween series on how to make money scaring the crap out of people. Movies have been making people peak over pillows for a couple of centuries at this point, so per capita movies have scared more people than any boogie man in the history of humanity. This article will identify the sickest of sick puppies that have dedicated their lives and made it their job to scare the hell out of you, prepare yourself, these are career Nightmare Makers.
Yes, yes, I’m starting this list with the most painfully obvious choice of horror film director…but not for the obvious reasons. Sure he directed such psychologically twisted movies as The Birds, Psycho, The Rear Window and Vertigo, but he embodied horror by being a horrifying human being. Hitchcock would sexually harass his female stars, and torture them both physically and mentally. Oh, and to top it all off he couldn’t even look at his wife while she was pregnant! Sounds like a great chap!
OK, so from the most obvious to the least obvious, Peter Jackson is best known for his brilliant versions of the J.R.R. Tolkien epics The Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit as well as an awkward adaptation of King Kong (which ironically in 1933 was intended as a horror flick). However, the Hobbit-lover started his career making relatively low budget gore-flicks one of which Meet the Feebles features puppets. The most noteworthy of which, Trevor the Rat, runs a porno movie business. I shit you not here’s the IMDB synopsis. Another movie that is famous from his pre-Rings day is Dead Alive, a zombie movie which features an infamous lawnmower scene…you know what? I’ll include it below, it’s Halloween, just don’t tell my boss. Also, if you’re disgusted by bucket-loads of prop blood and body parts, you might want to skip over it.
I believe his name should be changed to Tobe Pooper because he is responsible for more soiled undergarments than convenience store burritos. Original right? Actually this prolific director has consistently scared generation upon generation and is arguably responsible for the chainsaw murderer trope in horror cinema.
His first movie The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, shot in an extremely raw gonzo format, has become a standard fright flick of slumber parties since its release in 1974. He wasn’t content with just scaring the parents, though, he also wanted the children to tremble and found himself behind the helm of the original (and only one worth mentioning) Poltergeist. How does this man sleep at night?
George A. Romero
Are you tired of all the zombie movies, series and video games of the last decade? Well, the man responsible for every single one is Mr. George A. Romero and his first film The Night of the Living Dead. His low budget 1968 zombie film has garnered cult status in recent years due to the popularity that the zombie genre. Of course, since this list is about Nightmare Makers don’t expect any one trick ponies, Romero also produced (and also probably created) the creepy-murdering-hillbilly movie The Crazies in ’73 and a terrifying remaking in 2010.
In a sad turn of events, the movie that launched an entire genre on its own (Night of the Living Dead) made Romero, who was the director and screenwriter, very little money. At the time of release he had limited knowledge regarding distribution, resulting in the distributors making the bulk of the money…and honestly what is more terrifying that lost profits?
If you were to personify a Nightmare Maker, it would probably be Freddy Kruger, who literally invades dreams and makes them murderous nightmares. Well, the man behind the many iterations of the blade-gloved slasher is none other than Wes Craven. But not unlike Romero, Hitchcock and the other directors on this list Craven made it his job to find as many ways as possible to scare the hapless movie-going public.
Craven has also terrified us with movie such The Hills Have Eyes another movie of the creepy-murdering-hillbilly type, Scream and the truly disturbing The People Under The Stairs which bears a scary resemblance to a certain Austrian man called Joseph Fritzl who locked his daughter in a secret dungeon for 24 years. If you don’t know about that incident, you are probably better off not finding out. The weird thing is that the movie came out in 1991, and Fritzl was caught in 2008.
This is the horror auteur that opened the floodgates of what has come to be known as “torture porn”. His foray into this visceral (and viscera-laden) type of horror film was the movie Saw, which depicted individuals that had little respect for their lives, trying to escape elaborate traps, but their release came at a bloody cost. Wan went on to direct two more possession films under the main title The Conjuring and was an executive producer for all the other Saw films. Oh, speaking of gruesome “torture porn”:
When it comes to origin stories, Roth probably has the most twisted. The director has been quoted as saying he decided to become a producer/director after watching Ridley Scott’s Alien movie and vomiting…because as we know that is how people react to finding their calling. Eli Roth’s first full-length film for screen Cabin Fever was so well received that it’s been said that Peter Jackson stopped the filming of L.O.T.R. three times to screen the movie and even endorsed Roth with publicity quotes.
From there he directed the movie that is every traveler’s worse nightmare Hostel, which shows a group of backpackers being tortured for a fee, by affluent Western European people…is there some symbolism I’m missing there? I kind of feel like there’s some symbolism I’m missing there. Anyhow all the scenes are extremely explicit, graphic and in your face, creating the effect of morbid curiosity and aversion at once. A true master of the zoomed in dismemberment shot.
A contemporary creator of horror classics Zombie is ironically best known as a musician. Ok, ok, so he is also known for his brutally violent movies and dynamic camera work. Zombie, inspired by the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, made House of 1000 Corpses which is the third creepy-murderous-hillbilly movie on this list (or is it the fourth I lost count) with the distinction that this is a creepy-murderous-backwoods-redneck-movie-with-a-terrifying-six-foot-300-pound-clown-as-their-leader movie.
The soundtrack was also produced by Zombie, and honestly it adds immensely to the general uncomfortable feeling of the film. The film was panned by critics upon its initial release, even though the actors were all commended on the roles they played. But, since then it has garnered a strong cult following.
Did I leave any macabre masters off my list? Let me know in the comment section below.