G-S-T Quick 5 – Great Filmmakers Who Began in Horror

I’m no film historian but I have noticed something consistent in the films I’ve seen. While there’s no surefire formula for success in Hollywood, it’s a good bet that if you want to make it big, you have to start in horror. Now many people may not enjoy horror films but there are a number of uberly talented people working with buckets of blood, fake limbs and scary power tools. In many cases, those productions could just be their ticket to the big leagues.

One day, I’d bet, we might just see one of those unknown, unsuspecting directors walking across the stage at Oscar night for something they’ll do later on down the road. So until we find out who is the next “big thing”, here’s a look at the people who, early on, have been bit by the horror bug and it has changed their lives (and film) forever.


James Cameron – The one, the only James Cameron made a little ‘B-movie’ called Piranha 2: The Spawning and the film world would never the same. From cybernetic organisms to (despite their bland moniker) Aliens, from Titanic to, most recently, planet Pandora. Very few people have risen to the heights and become “King of the World”…too bad he gets robbed at Oscar time. We know he’s great, he knows he’s great so we’ll move on.


Sam Raimi – Yes, Mr. Evil Dead himself has quite a talent for horror and making the most out of minimal budgets. From the Evil Dead series, to a feel good Kevin Costner baseball (surprise) movie, to one of the most successful comic book franchises ever put on film, this guy has really done it all. Also, if anyone thinks that by changing it up so much you lose your touch, tell me Drag Me To Hell and that hospital scene in Spider-Man 2 didn’t have vintage Raimi written all over it. “Groovy!


Zack Snyder – Well Snyder really got his start with TV commercials, but when his remake of the coveted Dawn of the Dead hit theaters it did more than raise the recently deceased. Stock in Snyder skyrocketed and sent him on a whirlwind filmmaking adventure going from from one smash hit to another. 300, Watchmen and the upcoming Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, Snyder knows how to tell a story, can handle an epic and is multifaceted. He’s probably my favorite director working now and I hope he’ll be around for a while.


John Carpenter – While he originally set out to make Westerns (funny, but true), I guess we fans should be so thankful that the genre was dead at the time. That caused him to change his focus…and what did we get as a result?? That’s right, Halloween. I guess this proves the old adage “when one door closes, a window opens” is still so very true especially when you have a sociopath crashing through said window. While his passion and talent primarily exist in horror (The Thing being simply exceptional), he still has some great forays now and then into comedy and action, including my personal favorite Big Trouble in Little China.


Tobe Hooper – The creator of the original and classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre himself began an impressive career with that low budget slasher flick. I bet he had no idea it could be come one of the iconic titans of the genre. But while he (like Carpenter) mostly remained in the genre he has some shining spots in his resume that don’t necessarily include power tools to make the movie memorable (i.e. Poltergeist). Hell, as a long time friend of Steven Spielberg, he was even offered the chance to direct E.T. Oh, imagine what might have happened if he did.



Bob Clark – Directing probably the most popular film associated with the Christmas season, Clark, who died in 2007, went from Holiday horror (Black Christmas) to Holiday hilarity (A Christmas Story). Quite a jump in style considering both films happen right around the same time of year. Also, he showed he has a knack for comedy with the coming of age cult classic Porky’s, but we’ll forgive him for Rhinestone and Baby Geniuses. I wonder if TBS ever gave him royalties for the “24 Hours of A Christmas Story”.


So that’s all I know about. Anyone have anything to add to this list??


  1. FRC Ruben says

    John Carpenter movies definitely smack of westerns — they just usually involve some sort of creature.

    • I was going to fully agree with you until I thought about “In the Mouth of Madness” and Christine. But as far as The Thing, BTILC and Assault on Precinct 13, They Live, Star Man…even Ghosts of Mars you’re right on Ruben!

      • FRC Ruben says

        Vampires (which is my favorite John Carpenter film that no one likes) and both the Escapes would and should count.

        • I missed the boat on the first Escape so it, like Assault were just too dated for me to get into and really get the appeal. Haven’t seen LA or Vampires…but enough people told me to stay away so I did:P

          • FRC Ruben says

            As a movie blogger, you are obligated to watch the whole catalogue. Good or bad 😉

            After all, I see The rise of Cobra on your list of reviews

          • Hahahaha, OK Ruben, you win…I’ll get back you you when I know more about Snake Plisken and am fully versed in Vampire killing tactics:) Though from the previews I do love the idea of harpooning them and dragging them out into daylight.

  2. Great post, Marc, that’s interesting that they all started in horror flicks. I don’t think I’ll have anything to add as I horror isn’t my genre. I did see Evil Dead and found it kinda funny in parts, well what do you expect with Bruce Campbell 🙂

  3. Would Peter Jackson count? I know he did The Frighteners and Dead Alive… just wondering if you had considered him and ruled him out or something maybe.

    • Actually he wasn’t omitted, I just never thought about PJ. But thanks for the suggestion, he definitely deserves a spot here!