[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="180" caption="Director George Romero courtesy of cinefantastiqueonline.com"][/caption]
Best Horror Film (so far): Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Though Hitchcock's films could be called "horror" in some sense, Romero was the one who invented the modern definition of the term. With 1968's independent gem Night of the Living Dead, he created the zombie movie as we know it today. The acting leaves something to be desired, sure; and his later films may improve in production quality and skill. But his first foray into filmmaking proved to leave his greatest impact, driving his own career and the careers of plenty of other start-up filmmakers.
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="239" caption="Director Wes Craven courtesy of comicbookresources.com"][/caption]
Best Horror Film (so far): The Last House on the Left (1972)
Again, feel free to criticize me for not saying Nightmare on Elm Street or, even worse, Scream. But, though Craven became the master of mainstream horror in the 80's and 90's, he built his skill in the 70's independently. It may be a semi-remake or rip off of Herzog's The Virgin Spring, but The Last House on the Left is a terrifying look at pure evil and revenge. What would you do if you inexplicably gained power over someone who had harmed your family?
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="178" caption="Director John Carpenter courtesy of rihaphoto.com"][/caption]
Best Horror Film (so far): The Thing (1982)
Yes...Carpenter's best horror film is not 1978's Halloween. Deal with it. Four years after his first major success in the movie industry, he released The Thing, a mind-blowing, claustrophobic tale of a shape-shifting alien attacking scientists in Antarctica. It's exciting, terrifying, and Carpenter pulled great work out of a near no-name cast led by Kurt Russell, in one of his better performances. Sure, it's a remake. But you would never know if watched the films back to back, because Carpenter's is far and away the superior work.
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="246" caption="Director Dario Argento courtesy of claudiocaprara.it"][/caption]
Best Horror Film (so far): Suspiria (1977)
Italian horror films always seem to be creepier for some reason. Maybe it's me. Or maybe it's just Dario Argento. Argento is the master of European horror, specifically with this tale of a ballet school run by a coven of witches. Suspiria displays a strange type of beautiful horror, because Argento's settings are so vivid. The special effects don't really hold up today, but the ominous overtones are uncanny and unsettling. Besides...look at him. He was born to make horror films.
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="237" caption="Director David Cronenber courtesy of gordonandthewhale.com"][/caption]
Best Horror Film (so far): The Fly (1986)
Cronenberg rivals David Lynch in terms of twisted storylines in his films. But, while Lynch tends to go the surrealist route, Cronenberg makes his fear and terror all the more real, though it is dramatically horrific. In The Fly, he tells a slow-moving, excruciating story that you can feel under your skin, with excellent performances from Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis.
So, pick up a film this Halloween from one of these directors and see how it should be done. Films are scarier when the fear is in your mind, not shoved in your face with special effects and 3-D graphics.