His proclivities and perversions notwithstanding, the man has made some of the best psychological thrillers, mysteries and even comedies of any filmmaker alive. I can think of no one else whose films reflect such a deeply nuanced comprehension of paranoia and claustrophobia, whose work resonates with such an immediate understanding of the mechanics of human fear. His Repulsion ranks as one of the most viscerally unsettling movies I have ever seen, and it features almost no dialogue, only one central performance, and not even a whole lot of actual incident or action.
There are so many superior thrillers with his name attached, it's near-impossible to even name them all without IMDB handy. There's so much to say about Hitch's genius, I could write 100 blog posts, but what I've always appreciated about his sensibility best is his playfulness. He was making movies about murder, spycraft, intrigue and betrayal, and yet all of his films find ways to work in humor and a sense of fun, letting you know that there was someone behind the scenes having a terrible amount of fun.
There's just some aspect of human life that is only explored in horror films like those of David Cronenberg - the odd collision of biology and psychology, of brain and flesh, and a sort of universal existential paranoia often referred to as "body horror." Cronenberg films pit protagonists not against some external enemy, but against their own bodies and minds. The enemy is within ourselves, which in many ways is scarier than any sort of black lagoon creature or invisible man. Plus, the man is just a natural filmmaker whose movies are trippy, genuinely frightening, full of tremendous effects work and visual imagination, and even eerily beuatiful in spots.
Like Big Trouble, and with the exception of his massively creepy remake of The Thing, Carpenter films aren't typically that scary, but they were always amazingly fun to watch, sly and creepy little treasures suffused with Carpenter's sarcastic sense of humor and healthy fondness for camp.
George Romero invented the modern zombie movie, and for that we all owe him a massive debt of gratitude. But what's truly special about Romero films aren't just the fantastic gore effects, the Savini-style blood-soaked shots of flesh being chewed off of neck bones that have become so famous. It's his sardonic wit, the fact that his zombie and horror films are actually incredibly astute, subversive satires delivered in the most ridiculously fun format possible.
Hey, I love Evil Dead 2, okay? Love it. We're talking a formative movie here, a standard, one of those films that helped to define my personality and tastes. And Raimi's not limited to the zom-com. We all know abnout his work with a certain mutant spider, so I needn't even get into that, but he's had some successes with smaller films that are often overlooked, particularly the taut, beautifully-acted thriller A Simple Plan. And his Darkman is an oft-maligned, misunderstood gem. And need I mention that Mr. Raimi co-wrote the Coen Brothers' masterful The Hudsucker Proxy?
The greatest director from Hammer Studios, the British film company that produced some of the best horror films ever made during the 1950's and 60's. Fisher's take on the classic monsters (like Dracula, Frankenstein's monster and The Mummy) are often the best filmed interpretations of these stories, and made international stars of legendary actors Peter "Grand Moff" Cushing and Christopher "Dooku" Lee. The Gothic, period costumes, sets and designs of Fisher's films are unrivaled in the genre.
My favorite of the classic Universal horror directors, Whale's films aren't so much scary as witty, audacious and strange. These films were made around 70 years ago, and they are still eye-popping marvels of ingenuity, particularly the 1933 classic The Invisible Man. It's clearly one of the greatest effects films ever made. Whale is one of the more underrated directors on the entire list, a guy I never see on lists of the greatest directors who has clearly earned his place in the pantheon.
Guillermo's my favorite superhero movie director because his films are the only ones to capture the manic energy and adolescent wit evident in the comics. Surprisingly, his low-key Spanish-language horror films are even better, trading in the gleeful spazziness of his candy-colored graphic novel adaptations for unsettling stillness, shadowy atmosphere and slowly-encroaching dread.
No one alive makes better, more stylish slasher films than Dario Argento. Granted, he kind of made the same slasher film over and over again for 35 years...But, hey, why mess with a perfectly good formula?