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With Halloween upon us – and the young people’s attentions turning to thoughts of ghoulies, goblins, black vans, and Whatchamacallits – we figured the time was prime for a list of this nature…
In truth, today’s exercise in PeekScorery was inspired by a recent discussion of the degree to which it’s often the case that artists involved in somewhat niche and/or “cult” concerns will lead a more robust online existence than celebrities with greater mainstream name recognition. This makes perfect sense, as the Internet revealed itself a long time ago now as an extraordinary tool for rallying and uniting, from far-flung locales, the like-minded of specific and esoteric interests, so that they might gather on message boards, social media hubs, and newsgroups, and contentiously bicker incessantly over the finer points of what are supposed to be mutual loves and interests. Indeed, this is one of the activities that many, to this day, most closely associate with the ‘net. Artists whose breads are primarily buttered by those lonely, sweaty souls prone to such futile, fannish in-fighting are wise to go straight to the source in promoting their wares.
We here at the PeekScore blog are big fans of horror films, and all manner of “feel bad” cinema, and are quite guilty of the type of bickering mentioned above when it comes to the same (our bickering is only made marginally less sad for our doing it face to face, but made all the more troubling due to the possibility that the staff of the PeekScore blog may actually consist of only one guy). We decided to marry this love of deliberately unpleasant films to our livelihoods, and see how the genre’s biggest names measure up on the PeekScore scale.
The list could have been quite a lot longer. While the PeekScores are impartial, the process by which we selected the names, it could be argued (or insisted), was somewhat subjective. We urge you to comment and yell at us about who we neglected to include. We will even bait you into commenting by suggesting that many hardcore horror fans are a bit disturbing and worrisome (terms such as “mouth-breather,” “maladjusted,” “sociopath,” and “mother’s basement” spring to mind). We’ll leave it at this for now, perhaps to revisit this subject later, but please do chime in.
||Rob Zombie||We now just take for granted that Zombie is one of the better known horror filmmakers working today, but – come on – how weird is it that he is? Regardless, while we’re not the hugest fans of all his films, The Devil’s Rejects is a quite solid and sufficiently upsetting effort.||8.75 / 10.00|
||Wes Craven||While best known for his creation of Freddy Krueger and the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, and likely best paid for his association with the Scream films, we can live with his nearing the top of this list given the still unspeakably (nearly unconscionably) harrowing and depraved The Last House on the Left, and the atmospheric and brutalThe Hills Have Eyes. 39 and 34 years later, respectively, these two films can still ruin your week.||8.70 / 10.00|
||David Cronenberg||A master at creating a very specific, and profoundly uncomfortable sort of anxiety, and once quite adept at being rather famously gross as well. While he abandoned prosthetics, goop and grue a while back, for the most part, to pursue a classier and more earthbound style, he still treads nearly exclusively in intense areas. He’s great and singular, and there’s not much else to add.||8.61 / 10|
||John Carpenter||A genre legend. It’s been a long while since he’s made something badass, but the original Halloween is very possibly better than you remember. The Thing, on the other hand, is every bit as good as you remember (as you likely remember it as being awesome). Also, while not horror, Escape from New York still stands as one of the best and most compulsively watchable action films ever made. J.C. is no joke.||8.48 / 10.00|
||George Romero||While we wish he’d stop making increasingly hamfistedly allegorical and didactic “Dead” films, the original trilogy still stands as masterful; not just within the context of “horror,” but simply within the grand scheme of all cinema. Great flicks such as The Crazies, Martin, and Creepshow only further cement the guy’s license to wait out the remainder of his career wallowing in mediocrity, if he so chooses. He’s got nothing to prove to us.||8.47 / 10.00|
||Eli Roth||While his evangelical efforts on behalf of horror, and his unapologetic love of the genre and being a director within it, are admirable, his films have largely left us cold. His work is impossibly violent, but somehow slick and antiseptic at the same time. He seems a likable and bright enough guy, and surely he’s a capable craftsman. We suspect that – whether he’ll ever make it or not – there’s a decent film in him somewhere.||8.40 / 10.00|
||Dario Argento||Incoherent, incomprehensible, ridiculous, stupid, disorienting, colorful, exciting, stunning, beautiful; all adjectives you’ll hear/read aptly attached to this guy’s frequently breathtakingly gorgeous body of waking nightmares and nearly stream of consciousness murder mysteries and supernatural thrillers. Sure, it’s been about 26 years since he’s made a genuinely good film, but – similar to others on this list – you make even one Suspiria, Inferno, or Deep Red, and you’ve earned the right to rest on your laurels and make as many unwatchable films as you please. His unassailable legacy was carved in stone decades ago.||8.37 / 10|
||Roger Corman||Amongst all the talk of Corman the businessman, producer, distributor, and raconteur, sometimes the fact that he was a very good filmmaker gets lost. Stylish, brooding, and atmospheric flicks such as Tomb of Ligeia and The Masque of the Red Death – associated by some of us with nothing so much as New York television’s decades-ago canceled The 4:30 Movie – still hold up as legitimately unsettling and moody masterpieces.||8.36 / 10|
||Takashi Miike||Again, hardly a horror filmmaker in any true sense, his body of work nonetheless contains many horrifying films. Not only famously one of the most prolific, but also simply one of the greatest filmmakers working today. This narrow space could not accommodate the gushing, so we’ll move on.||8.30 / 10|
||James Wan||In addition to co-creating the incredibly lucrative, and astoundingly silly Saw juggernaut, he also brought us the somewhat irritating, “jump scare”-happy carnival attraction that is this year’s good, but overrated, Insidious.||8.23 / 10|
||Alejandro Jodorowsky||Not a horror director at all, we know, although his brilliant Santa Sangre arguably qualifies. We’ve included him here because he has definitely been influential to the genre, and even more so because he’s a genius. He’s no spring chicken, and we’re not sure of how many chances to include him in PeekScore lists we’ll get.||8.22 / 10|
||Alexandre Aja||His nearly great Haute Tension was assed up by an unnecessary and infuriating twist ending, which didn’t play at all fair. But his (gratuitous on paper) remake of The Hills Have Eyes was surprisingly terrific.||8.16 / 10|
||James Gunn||Gunn (who, like many on this list, is hardly strictly a horror filmmaker) is truly someone who has increased his profile through the use of his personal website and social media, and making himself incredibly accessible to fans online. While he has had some tremendous success as a screenwriter of mainstream films, as a director his work has been purely cult, genre stuff. His use of the internet to get his work to the people who would appreciate it best is impressive.||8.15 / 10|
||Neil Marshall||He’s revealed himself to be more of a genre pastiche director – with each film a hyper-violent tribute to a different type of film he’d grown up loving – than a proper horror director, but The Descent scared the hell out of us, when very little does. So, for that alone, he’s on this list.||8.13 / 10|
||Takashi Shimizu||For a period of time that whole “contorted little kids wearing white face, with long black wigs and mouths full of black goop” thing seemed fairly in vogue. Most of us have never seen these films because they look stupid, but we figured at least one representative of this very popular genre of Japanese cinema (and American remakes) should be represented.||8.08 / 10|
||Ruggero Deodato||This lunatic is best known for directing the oft cited, and legitimately shocking, Cannibal Holocaust, and the vile and nihilistic The House on the Edge of the Park.||8.04 / 10|
||Pascal Laugier||The French director of 2008′s ridiculously pretentious, and insanely gruesome Martyrs, which is surprisingly to have a Hollywood remake soon. His Hollywood debut, The Tall Man is to come out later this year. We’re trying to keep an open mind.||8.03 / 10|
||Alexandre Bustillo||He, in collaboration with Julien Maury (directly below), directed 2007′s amazingly bleak and brutal (and brutally, bleakly amazing) À l’intérieur (English titleInside); which is, in our opinion, one of the very best pure horror films to come out in years and years. (Warning: If you’re pregnant, or even thinking of becoming pregnant, do not even Google the film.)||8.00 / 10.00|
||Julien Maury||Co-directed 2007′s À l’intérieur (English title Inside) with his buddy Monsieur Bustillo above. After being courted by Hollywood – and attached in the press to a film or two there, which ultimately resulted in nothing – they wound up returning to France to finally make their incredible debut’s follow-up. Titled Livid, the film debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, and is to be released here in the states next year.||8.00 / 10.00|
||Jee-woon Kim||While not strictly a horror director at all, as is the case with most on this list, films such as the brilliant A Tale of Two Sisters are close enough to justify our including him here.||7.79 / 10|
||Jos√© Mojica Marins||If you’ve not seen the Brazilian Zé do Caixão (roughly translated from Portuguese to Coffin Joe) films, then you are in for a treat. His flicks – the two best known of which are At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, and This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse – are ambitious, zero budget affairs, abundant in imagination and a queasy, blasphemous, dark-hearted surrealism which finds them often suggesting almost a sort of shoestring, drive-in Jodorowsky or Buñuel. They stand as testaments to how boundless imagination can trump money, or even technical skill, where art is concerned.||7.19 / 10|
||Herschell Gordon Lewis||When the government cracked down on the “nudies” he and his producer – the legendary, late David F. Friedman – were making to turn a quick profit, the two had to figure out a new, tawdry attraction to exploit. They settled upon sickening violence and gore, which to that point (the early 60s) had never really been seen in cinema. In the view of some, a dubious innovation, surely. Nonetheless, the man is a legend, and his films gloriously terrible, yet self-aware entertainments which harken back to a more innocent time (and the joys of shocking the hell out of it).||7.07 / 10|