A while back, I wrote an article about non-horror directors who should take a stab at the horror genre (including Matthew Vaughn and LA LA LAND’s Damien Chazelle), and it got me thinking about some of the directors best known for other genres who did helm a horror flick. Here are five of my favorite scary titles from the last people you’d expect.
Known For: THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1986), STAND BY ME (1987), WHEN HARRY MET SALLY… (1989)
Also Directed: MISERY (1990)
I always like to kick off my lists with a big’un. Reiner is one of those directors who is lucky enough to be more or less a household name, but a lot of people forget that the man behind Princess Buttercup and Spinal Tap also directed MISERY in 1990. His second Stephen King adaptation (STAND BY ME was also based on a Stephen King story), MISERY is a harrowing little shocker with a stunning villainous turn by Kathy Bates as an obsessed fan who will go to violent lengths to maintain her grasp on the author she loves. The same man responsible for the Elijah Wood vehicle NORTH also crafted one of mainstream cinema’s most sickening moments (that unforgettable hobbling scene), and that is something that makes my twisted mind very happy.
Known For: LIFE-SIZE (2000), A CINDERELLA STORY (2004), THE PERFECT MAN (2005)
Also Directed: THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW (1983)
We’re looking at a man who has not only directed approximately half of Hilary Duff’s filmography (including quite a few episodes of LIZZIE MCGUIRE), but also helmed the seminal Lindsay Lohan hit LIFE-SIZE, where Tyra Banks plays a Barbie who magically comes to life. And yet this is the same brain that birthed the classic slasher THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW, which includes a scene with a severed head in a toilet. I’m pretty sure he struck that title from the ol’ CV when he was pitching projects to The Disney Channel.
Known For: TOMORROW NEVER DIES (1997), TURNER & HOOCH (1989)
Also Directed: TERROR TRAIN (1980)
Now, here’s a director whose name won’t necessarily ring a bell, even if there’s nobody in the contiguous United States who hasn’t at least seen the poster for the dog-cop buddy comedy TURNER AND HOOCH. But before he was directing Tom Hanks (and Pierce Brosnan as James Bond), Roger Spottiswoode was chasing Jamie Lee Curtis down the cramped corridors of a locomotive with the 1980 slasher TERROR TRAIN. Fun fact: John Alcott, the cinematographer of TERROR TRAIN, was even more overqualified, having shot many a Stanley Kubrick film including THE SHINING, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.
Known For: CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG (1968), CASINO ROYALE (1967)
Also Directed: NIGHT SCHOOL (1981)
Hughes is the second Bond director on this list, but I’m far more intrigued by his contribution to classic children’s cinema: CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. The man behind the whimsical story of a magical flying car would conclude his career with the massively underrated NIGHT SCHOOL, about a killer in motorcycle gear decapitating co-eds at a Boston college. Perhaps his dip into horror was predicted by CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG’s terrifying Child Catcher character, who gave many a young boy and girl nightmares back in the day.
Known For: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (2008), 127 HOURS (2010), TRAINSPOTTING (1996)
Also Directed: 28 DAYS LATER (2002)
It’s not every day that a director who is a familiar face at the Oscars releases a movie that permanently alters an entire horror subgenre. 28 DAYS LATER, as much as it was an experiment in digital cinematography and a rumination on civilian and military behavior in extreme situations, was also the catalyst for the “rage zombie” phenomenon. All of a sudden, the undead revenants in flicks like [REC] or WORLD WAR Z were strapping, rabid athletes who beat the pavement at a hundred miles per hour. All this from the guy who directed the biopic on Steve Jobs.
So those were some of my favorite entries! What other horror movies can you think of that came out of left field from a director known for something else entirely? Sound off in the comments below!