The Horror genre has made its mark on film history. As it continues to be reimaged and reinvented into new forms or terror, many directors have made the transition from iconic scary movies to the new trend in filmmaking with comic book adaptations. Today, comic book films have gone from being action or adventure movies to a genre of its own. While we have been graced with work from Christopher Nolan and his Dark Knight Trilogy or The Russo Brothers and their visceral Avengers movies, there has been a new trend of captivating filmmaking a horror director brings to the comic book genre. An understanding from these directors of visual crafting and turning some supernatural into a realistic point of view. These are the horror directors that have successfully made the transition from pulse pounding thrillers, to faithful adaptations of legendary characters.
Kicking off his career with random episodes from memorable television shows between 1960 and 1975, Donner was finally given his big break and with a large enough budget to create one of the horror vault’s most important films with The Omen in 1976. Telling the story of a child who is place into the care of woman who recently lost their stillborn baby, and given the opportunity to raise a child after its mother died during birth. However, strange occurrences start to happen as it revealed that their adopted son might actually be the Antichrist. The film went on to win an Academy Award for its haunting score. Donner made a sudden switch when he released Superman The Movie shortly after The Omen. Creating one of comic book movies most important films, by introducing us to Christopher Reeve and making us believe a man could fly. Although there were complications with the making of the sequel Superman II that forced Donner to leave the film unfinished, it was eventually given a proper cut of the movie in 2006 with Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut.
Although Snyder has been a topic of controversy for his work on the DC Extended Universe, it was the remake of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead that launched Snyder’s career and turned him into one of the most visually pleasing directors in Hollywood. As a strange group of survivors hide inside a shopping mall to protect themselves from the undead takeover. Written by James Gunn, Snyder successfully adapts Romero’s work with his own style of terror. Crafting something that pays tribute still stays original and unique. However, his follow up movie came in the form of Frank Miller’s graphic novel 300, which brought a new groundbreaking style of filming intense battle sequences. Snyder brought that style with him when he then took one of the greatest graphic novels ever made with Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Years later, Snyder would then launch the DCEU with Man of Steel, following up with Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and the long awaited Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
Guillermo Del Toro
The Master of creating memorable monsters, started his resume with 1997’s Mimic. Years later he would create an emotional mystery surrounding a young boy as he uncovers haunting dark secrets surrounding the orphanage he inhabits. A year later, Del Toro would release the sequel to 1998’s Blade with Blade II. However, it wasn’t until 2004 that Del Toro really managed to prove his love for creating monsters with Hellboy, based on the comics created by Mike Mignola. Now with more creative freedom, he then directors the cult classic Pan’s Labyrinth and introduced us to one of the most memorable monsters with the Pale Man. Del Toro would then come back to the comic book world with a worthy follow up to his work on Hellboy with 2008’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Then finally in 2018 Guillermo Del Toro rightfully took home two Academy Awards for Achievement in Directing and Best Picture with 2017’s The Shape of Water, a reimagining of the classic tale Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Infamous for his work with Marvel in Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Before he lent his talents to the superhero genre, his directorial debut was with 2006’s Slither. A film about alien worms that turn a residence in a small town into zombies and other types of mutants. Although he hasn’t directed a horror movie since, he still works as a producer and writer for other horror movies such as The Belko Experiment and Brightburn. Even collaborating with Zack Snyder with 2004’s Dawn of the Dead as the screenplay writer. Gun doesn’t seem to be putting his talents towards any more horror films as of now, however he will continue his work with comic book characters in 2020’s The Suicide Squad and 2023’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. As much as we love his work with comic book films, we wouldn’t mind to see him dive back into horror anytime soon.
You might be shocked to see this legendary horror director on this list, probably wondering which comic book movie he made. While his comic adaptation was not well regarded, he still created a live action adaptation of DC Comics Swamp Thing in 1982. Although the Protector of the Green may contain some horror like elements, it was The Last House on the Left in 1972 and The Hills Have Eyes in 1977 that kicked off Craven’s career. While do failure of Swamp Thing put Craven’s career in question, he later reinvented himself with 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street and once again with 1996’s Scream. Despite never making another comic book film again, it was Swamp Thing that made him realize that his talents belonged in horror and ended up giving us one of the most iconic horror villains. Despite his tragic death in 2015, his legacy lives though his creations of Freddy Krueger and the Ghostface Killer.
Before faithfully adapting Marvels walk Wall Crawler, Sam Raimi directed one of the bloodiest movies of its time. Raimi’s directorial debut began with the horror cliché of five friends on vacation to a remote cabin in the woods, where they find a demonic relic that brings forth evil from the beyond in 1981’s The Evil Dead. Renowned as a cult classic, it has since spawned two sequels with the Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, a remake in 2013 and a television show in 2015 titled Ash vs Evil Dead. However even before he took on the web-head, he created his own superhero in 1990 known as Darkman. A film about a scientist who is left for dead but resurrected and seeks revenge on those who burned him alive. But finally in 2002 Raimi was given the chance to adapt one of Marvel’s most popular characters, Spider-Man. The film success spawned two more sequels, with the second one being considered one of the best comic book films ever made. Today, Raimi teams up with Marvel once again to create 2022’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
David F. Sandberg
One of the few new directors on our list. David F. Sandberg was best known for creating some of the most terrifying short horror films, starting with 2013’s Lights Out. The film garnered so much attention and praise, Warner Brothers gave Sandberg the opportunity to make a full feature length adaptation of his short film with the same title in 2016. After Lights Out success Warner Brothers also gave him the opportunity to continue The Conjuring universe with 2017’s Annabelle Creation, becoming another hit from Sandberg. Having had two successful directorial debuts Warner Brothers decided to push him even further by giving him the opportunity to adapt Shazam! in 2019. Even going as far as allowing him to direct a follow up film for 2023 with Shazam! Fury of the Gods. Sandberg continues to make terrifying short horror films while also creating amazing superhero films. While he works on the comic book sequel he is also working on a predecessor to Lights Out.
Taking chances with both horror and science fiction before he adapted the first live action appearance of the Sorcerer Supreme. Derrickson began his career with a follow up direct to video film with Hellraiser: Inferno in 2000. He then went on to create an underrated demonic possession movie with The Exorcism of Emily Rose. His first big budget film was in 2008 when he was tasked to remake the renowned science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still. But Derrickson didn’t get his chance to really scare audiences until 2012 with his highly renowned thriller Sinister. Derrickson continued his career in horror with 2014 Deliver Us From Evil, until he had the chance to work with marvel in adapting Doctor Strange. With the success of Doctor Strange, Derrickson was given the opportunity to direct the sequel but step down do too creative differences, passing the mantle along to Sam Raimi instead. While Derrickson has no interest in furthering his career in comic book films, he is progressing it with horror. Keep an eye out on his short story adaptation by Joe Hill titled The Black Phone in 2022.
With a similar story to David F. Sandberg, this Hispanic director goes from short horror film to taking on DC’s most popular speedster. In 2008 Mushietti released a three minute short film titled Mama, about a young girl attempting to awaken her sister to find something sinister lurking in their home. The film was later greenlit for a full feature length film in 2013 with the same title. Happy with Mushietti’s success, Warner Brothers decided to give him the opportunity to remake Stephen King’s crazed child eating clown It. Both It and the sequel It Chapter Two, Mushietti had established himself as a promising new horror director. However, Warner Brothers had other plans for him. When they announced that Mushietti would be creating the first feature length film for DC’s Scarlet Speedster. The Flash is currently in production, with Ezra Miller returning as The Flash and both Michael Keaton with Ben Affleck returning to the roles as Batman. A film which is set to explore DC’s multiverse and potentially alter the future of DC films.
Saving the best for last, we take a look at the filmography of the new face in Horror Cinema. Another story of the small screen to the big screen, James Wan and Co-Creator Leigh Whannell originally created a small film about a man being kidnapped and forced into a game of survival. Eventually the project was funded by Lionsgate to Wan to produce a full length film of his short movie and was titled Saw. However, his career didn’t stop their, when Wan freaked out audiences once again in 2010 with Insidious. Just when we thought we saw everything this talented director had to offer, he came out with the next big film in horror with The Conjuring. Wan returned to the world of Insidious in a sequel, as well as The Conjuring after taking a stab at the Fast and Furious franchise with Furious 7. But it was in 2018 when Warner Brothers finally decided to give him a shot at a DC property with the King of Atlantis, Aquaman. Reinventing the character and turning an unlikable superhero into a fan favorite. Currently Wan continues his passion for horror with an upcoming film titled Malignant. While also collaborating once again with Warner Brothers with an Aquaman sequel.
From horror to comic books, something we have taken a notice too is a horror filmmakers knack for making incredible comic book movies. Now that we have seen what they are capable of, perhaps we will see more horror directors take on comic properties. Who knows what we could see from other filmmakers like Ari Aster, Jordan Peele or Mike Flanagan. We are excited to see this trend continue with Matt Reeves, going from Cloverfield and Let Me In to the highly anticipated The Batman, scheduled to release on March 4, 2022.