With the recent release of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of MadnessMarvel fans were given a glimpse into the twisted mind of horror legend Sam Raimi. While the film is still a Marvel movie at heart, Raimi was given enough leeway to add his trademark horror elements, from resurrected corpses to Bruce Campbell beating himself up. Despite his horror pedigree, it was Raimi’s second foray into the Marvel universe after directing the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy.
Despite its continued success at the box office, horror is often considered a cult genre. While some horror directors stay within the genre for their entire career, some of the biggest names in horror have branched out and made an assortment of genre-expanding films, from moving dramas to Sci-Fi blockbusters.
James Wan – Death Sentence (2007)
When it was reported back in 2013 that James Wan would be directing the seventh film in the Fast and the Furious franchise, it was described as a dramatic genre shift for a director known for his horror work. However, it was not the first time Wan had branched out of the genre that made him famous.
Death SentenceWan’s third film, is a gritty revenge thriller that stars Kevin Bacon as a mild-mannered family man who witnesses the brutal slaying of his teenage son in a gang initiation. Unable to move past the tragedy, the grieving father becomes a vigilante as he hunts down those responsible, spiraling into a darkness that he and his remaining family may never escape from.
Scott Derrickson – Doctor Strange (2016)
Something about the mystical world of the Sorcerer Supreme makes it a perfect fit for horror directors. Scott Derricksonknown for horror hits Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose was chosen to bring Marvel’s resident wizard to the big screen. Derrickson leaned into his horror experience to create a surreal visual spectacle through a Marvel lens.
Derrickson was on board for the sequel, until creative differences forced him to step away from the project, resulting in Raimi’s hiring. Derrickson has since returned to his horror roots, directing the upcoming The Black Phone.
Doctor Strangeis available to stream on Disney +.
Guillermo del Toro – Pacific Rim (2013)
Beginning his career with straight-up horror films Cronos and Mimic, Guillermo del Toro then turned to comic books while still keeping his horror sensibilities with Blade II and Hellboy. He brushed all that aside with Pacific Rimthe director’s tribute to the classic kaiju films from Japan.
The best version of a modern Godzilla film we are likely to receive, Pacific Rim finds a ragtag group of humans piloting giant robots in an attempt to save the world from an alien threat. The film succeeds by combining over-the-top kaiju action with del Toro’s gift for storytelling and is an underrated entry in the celebrated director’s filmography.
Pacific Rim is available to stream on HBO Max.
Alexandre Aja – Oxygen (2021)
A staple of the horror genre in the late 2000s, Alexandre Aja directed one of the best horror remakes, The Hills Have Eyes. The French filmmaker is also responsible for an assortment of solid, gory fright flicks, such as High Tension, Mirrorsand Piranha 3D.
After releasing the Sam Raimi-produced Crawl in 2019, Aja turned his talents to Sci-Fi with Oxygen. The film follows a woman (Melanie Laurent) who wakes inside a locked cryogenic chamber, desperate to escape before her oxygen runs out. The claustrophobic thriller calls to mind other single-location films such as Buried and Phone Booth.
Oxygen is available to stream on Netflix.
George A. Romero – Knightriders (1981)
An under-looked entry in zombie king George A. Romero‘s filmography is the biker drama Knightriders. Ed Harris stars as the leader of a group of bikers, who travel around the country competing in jousting competitions at renaissance fairs.
Harris’ Billy longs for the times of King Arthur and leads his gang as if they were a crew of motley knights. This bizarre mix of biker gangs and medieval times calls to mind exploitation films of the past, but instead, it is a smart film that explores the inner workings of its characters and their desires.
Knightriders is available to stream on Tubi.
Eli Roth – The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018)
Rising through the horror scene during its ‘torture porn’ phase, Eli Roth directed such horror films as Cabin Fever and Hostel. Known for his dark humor and emphasis on over-the-top gore, it was a shock when Roth was announced as the director of the children’s book adaptation. The House with a Clock in Its Walls.
Noticeably less violent than his horror efforts, the film still offers some darker elements that hint at Roth’s pedigree. Jack Black and Cate Blanchett both starred in the film, and Roth is reuniting with them for his upcoming adaptation of the Borderlands videogame series.
John Carpenter – Elvis (1979)
Baz Luhrmann‘s upcoming Elvis biopic is not the first film to focus on the King of Rock and Roll, as John Carpenter released this television movie a year after his breakout hit Halloween. As far as the director could get from his babysitter-stalking boogeyman, the film follows the icon’s early years.
The film is a showcase for Carpenter’s filmmaking talents outside the horror and science-fiction genres that made him famous. Kurt Russell stars as the singer, and he would go on to appear in some of Carpenter’s most famous films such as Escape from New York and The Thing.
Wes Craven – Music of the Heart (1999)
Somehow the man who gave the world such horror classics as Scream, A Nightmare on Elm Streetand The Last House on the Left is also responsible for this touching drama. Meryl Streep stars as a music teacher who teaches disadvantaged children in New York.
Music of the Heart is the only non-horror movie from Wes Cravenalong with a contribution to the anthology film Paris, I love you. He was inspired to make the film after hearing about the real-life Roberta Guaspari (whom Streep plays) and production took place between Scream 2 and Scream 3.
Rob Zombie – The Munsters (2022)
While the upcoming film from Rob Zombie still has its roots in the horror genre, The Munsters makes for a dramatic change of tone for the polarizing director. A modern adaptation of the 1960s sitcom, The Munsters follows a family of horror creatures in a similar vein to The Addams Family.
Zombie’s films usually feature deranged criminals committing unspeakable acts of violence, so it was a surprise when it was recently announced that The Munsters has been rated PG. As the first Zombie film to hold that rating, it will be interesting to see how he operates in a more family-friendly realm.
The Munsters will be released in theaters and on Peacock later this year.
David Cronenberg – A History of Violence (2005)
When Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), the owner of a small-town diner, foils a robbery at his establishment, he becomes a local hero. This newfound spotlight brings back old enemies however and Tom is forced to confront the darkness of his past to protect his family.
David Cronenberg is famous for body horror films such as The Fly, but all that is thrown out the window as he crafts a taut thriller that lets its well-crafted screenplay and talented cast shine. Cronenberg himself describes the film as a “meditation on the human body and its relationship to violence”.
A History of Violence is available to stream on Tubi.
NEXT: 9 Superhero Directors Who Got Their Start in Horror