Although horror directors don’t always get respect outside the genre community, the reason their works have become enduring classics is because they’re genuinely great filmmakers. John Carpenter could have applied his mastery of the frame and keen ear for film music to westerns or romances or prestige dramas, but he worked in horror, and we’re very lucky he did. However, there are some directors out there who have the opposite problem. They’re mighty talented at crafting a good film, but they’ve barely touched the horror genre. This is a shame, and it’s time to publicly beseech five of those directors to turn their talents over to the dark side. And I couldn’t help but do a little speculation about what their entries in the genre might look like…
Known For: PULP FICTION, RESERVOIR DOGS, KILL BILL
Let’s get the controversial pick out of the way first. Tarantino has certainly dabbled in the genre with DEATH PROOF (his contribution to the GRINDHOUSE double feature), not to mention the fact that he both wrote and starred in FROM DUSK TILL DAWN. But the man has yet to turn his talent for arch dialogue and bombastic violence into an honest-to-goodness horror film, with the primary purpose being to provoke fear and chill the spines of the audience. DEATH PROOF had some great, shocking moments, but it was more of a revenge movie throwback. I’d love to see Tarantino get down and dirty in the genre, pulling all the skeletons out of his closet and blasting us with a stream of pure cinema terror.
What It Might Look Like: Almost certainly, the BLACK CHRISTMAS-loving Tarantino would try his hand at a slasher film, something that has almost happened time and time again over the years. Let’s be honest, it would probably be three hours long, but he would commit to the blood and guts with requisite gusto. And maybe there’s a massacre in a Big Kahuna Burger drive-thru.
Possible Title: KILL, BABY!
Known For: KICK-ASS, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE
What Matthew Vaughn has managed to capture in his filmography is a kinetic blend of action and violence buoyed with a charming sense of humor. Now that Sam Raimi mostly sits in the producer’s seat these days, Vaughn might just be the perfect person to step into his massive shoes. At least one of them.
What It Might Look Like: He has never made a movie that wasn’t based on a comic or a novel, so it’s really a matter of finding the right source material for him. I wish he’d had a chance to try out Stephen King’s CELL before somebody else got to it, but I also think he could make something lively and stirring out of the creepy Richard Matheson short story “Witch War.”
Possible Title: WITCH WAR: A STORM BREWS
Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Known For: THE REVENANT, BIRDMAN, BABEL
This pick might seem a little out of left field, but anyone who’s watched the early scene from THE REVENANT depicting a skirmish between the trappers and a group of Native Americans will understand where I’m coming from. A quiet idyll is suddenly shattered by a shocking and brutal display of violence that, even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the movie as a whole, I’m still thinking about over a year later. If he brought that incredible sense of making you feel the visceral impact of violence to the horror genre, he could have the next LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT on his hands.
What It Might Look Like: A classic Polanski film. It’s an atmospheric slow burn that has you wondering if it’s even horror until it douses you with adrenaline during a twisted, nightmarish climax.
Possible Title: TANTALUS
Known For: VOLVER, THE SKIN I LIVE IN, WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN
This Spanish director is one of the biggest personalities in foreign cinema, and while he’s brushed up against he genre in several of his Antonio Banderas-starring thrillers including LAW OF DESIRE, TIE ME UP! TIE ME DOWN!, and especially THE SKIN I LIVE IN, he needs to stop dipping a toe in the water and just make the plunge. His films are never anything less than radical, introducing tones, characters, and ideas rarely seen anywhere else, and it is exactly this kind of fearless filmmaking the genre could use right now.
What It Might Look Like: Much like all of Almodóvar’s movies, it could go one of two ways: either a respectable, colorful CRIMSON PEAK-esque ghost story (the man did produce THE DEVIL’s BACKBONE, after all) or a gleefully transgressive gross-out movie á là DEAD ALIVE. Personally, I’m rooting for the latter. Also, the entire cast would be women and bright red blood would constantly splash onto colorful wallpaper.
Possible Title: MUERTO POR DENTRO (DEAD INSIDE)
Known For: WHIPLASH, LA LA LAND
Probably the best up-and-coming director we have right now, Chazelle has written genre exercises before (including THE LAST EXORCISM PART II and 10 CLOVERFELD LANE), and he’s proven that he has the ability to blend classic genre elements into something vibrant and new (he could be a tremendous contemporary for James Wan), but aside from some shots of a bloody drum kit, he hasn’t directed a frame of a horror film. With his ability to craft engaging antiheroes and his penchant for endings that pack a wallop, he’s perfect for a stint in the genre.
What It Might Look Like: The man’s obsessed with jazz, so you know that would have to be in there somewhere. Maybe a shadowy figure stalks the smoky lamplit streets of Harlem, seducing young pianists and draining them of their talent and vitality in an attempt to become the best jazz musician that ever lived… forever.
Possible Title: THE 89TH KEY