Superhero Directors Who Started in Horror
Ever since superhero movies exploded into the mainstream in the early 2000s, producers have turned to directors from all walks of life to helm their films. It’s a practice that keeps genres fresh, and superhero movies certainly aren’t the only ones doing it. For every David F. Sandberg that makes the leap from small-scale horror to superhero tentpole, a Gareth Edwards makes the same leap from intimate sci-fi to mega-budget Godzilla browse. Either way, it’s great to see filmmakers being given the opportunity to let their imaginations run wild with a bigger budget.
In the case of superhero movies, one genre that seemed to be drawn from more than any other was horror. It could be something about the heightened realities of horror movies that translate well to superhero movies. Whatever the reason, many horror directors have brought their own unique brand of cinema to the superhero genre. Here are nine superhero directors who got their start in horror.
Before bending space and time with his first strange doctor film, Scott Derrickson made a name for himself with the home video horror film, Claim. That film spawned a sequel, but it wasn’t even Derrickson’s first horror film. For his directorial debut, Derrickson directed the fifth installment of the hellraiser franchise Hellraiser: Inferno. The long-running franchise proved to be the perfect testing ground for Derrickson to develop his directorial skills. His movie after that would be The Exorcism of Emily Rose and this year he returns to horror and re-teams with Ethan Hawke for The black phone.
David F. Sandberg
After making a name for himself creating popular horror shorts and video essays, David F. Sandberg decides to adapt one of his shorts, Curfew, for his first feature film. The film was a success and led to him landing a directing job for the first sequel to the annabelle franchise. Annabelle: Creation was a welcome upgrade from the original, and Sandberg would then use that success to jump into the world of DC Comics and lead the Zacharie Levi-LEDs Shazam! Next year, Sandberg should deliver the sequel to this film, Shazam! Fury of the gods. The film is sure to capitalize on its expanded budget and cast (which includes the likes of West Side Story to burst Rachel Zegler and oscar winner Helen Mirren) to bring a sequel jam-packed with entertainment.
Sam Raimi is often credited with helping start the superhero boom that Hollywood still relishes to this day. While other superhero projects existed in the late 90s and early 2000s like x-men and Bladeit was Raimi’s Spider Man which sparked the world’s obsession with the genre. However, Raimi Spider Man the trilogy isn’t the only time he changed the game. In 1981, he released diabolical death, a brutally violent horror film that forever changed the genre. Even all these years later, movies like cabin in the woods still reminiscent of Raimi’s original horror classic. Raimi is about to return to the world of superheroes with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness which seems like the perfect opportunity for the director to blend his horror and superhero sensibilities into one bonkers flick.
Before making his first film, Gunn lent his writing skills to two action films. scooby-doo films and also wrote the screenplay for Zack Snyderhis debut as a director, dawn of the dead. And based on its recent success in both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC, you might find it hard to believe that james gunn began his directing career with a sci-fi horror film like To glide. His early days feature hints of the aesthetic and brand of humor that would later become staples of his work, but overall, To glide feels like light years away from the jokes and kaleidoscopic color palette of Guardians of the Galaxy. He made a slight return to body horror from his roots in the DC Comics TV show Peacemaker. However, overall, Gunn is a great example of a director starting small and maintaining an idiosyncratic core even as it continues to grow exponentially.
For the number of franchises that James Wan started or part, you’re probably not surprised to learn that Wan started running. When he debuted in 2004 Seen was released in theaters, the film was an immediate success. And after spawning a myriad of sequels, Wan had two box office disappointments before starting another franchise with Insidious. And even after launching two major horror franchises, they both pale in comparison to what followed. In 2013, Wan published Conspiracy, an instant horror classic that would spawn not just two sequels, but an entire universe of spinoffs. But even after that, Wan wasn’t done. At this point, having launched three colossal horror franchises, Wan has brought his talents to existing franchises, where he has breathed new life into the fast furious franchisee with Furious 7 and delivered on DC Extended Universe their first billion dollar movie with Aquaman. It looks like Wan has no intention of slowing down as he’s about to step out. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom Next year.
First name Zack Snyder developed an almost mythical quality after his time at DC, so it may be hard to believe that his directing career began less than 20 years ago. As mentioned earlier, Zack Snyder started his career with a remake of the George A. Romero classic, dawn of the dead. Snyder would follow this film with a rather eclectic collection of films before becoming firmly involved in the DC world. Between watchmen and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, Snyder has proven his ability to create distinct worlds and adapt beloved source materials. When Steel man rolled, Snyder seemed eager to try and push himself in his adaptations. This trend continued both Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Then Snyder is ready to create his own world with rebel moonan original idea based on a pitch for star wars Snyder developed many years ago.
Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo del Toro is at an interesting stage in his career because it looks like he’s passed both the superhero and horror genres. After a string of ghostly movies to start his career, Del Toro quickly made the leap into horror-themed comic book movies with Hellboy and Blade II. Then he spent the next decade swinging between big-budget blockbusters like Pacific Rim and intimate gothic horror like Crimson Peak. Now, Del Toro has settled into his prestigious brand of horror-tinged dramas. At a time The shape of water and alley of nightmaresDel Toro continues to reuse elements from his early career, but he seems eager to keep pushing himself beyond what he’s already proven he can do.
Before he gets the ball rolling for the Venom franchisee at Sony, Ruben Fleischer directed the zombie comedy zombieland. The film showcased Fleischer’s ability to create a very accessible and entertaining horror film, without leaving the film toothless. Between his horror and superhero films, Fleischer released 30 minutes or less and gangster squad, two less successful films that still managed to show that he was no one-trick pony. After the success of VenomFleischer seems more than happy to continue working with bigger budgets as he directs the long-awaited sequel to his first film, Zombieland: double tap as well as this year’s potential new franchise starter, Unexplored.
Another horror director who adapted his own short film for his feature debut, Andy Muschiettiit is Mom burst in 2013. Muschietti will then replace Cary Joji Fukunaga for the remake of Stephen Kingit is This. When that movie turned out to be a hit, Muschietti was sure to finish the second half, It: Chapter 2. Although Muschietti has yet to release a superhero movie, his long-awaited solo film for Ezra Miller the flash is sure to be a fascinating watch. The film passed through the hands of several renowned directors, including Rick Famuyiwa (who led Dope as well as episodes of The Mandalorian) as well as John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (who led game night and wrote the screenplay Spider-Man: Homecoming). While Muschietti’s film was recently delayed to June 2023, it’s sure to be his name attached to the project once it comes out.
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