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The Horror Director That Fans Have Voted As The All-Time Best

Recently, horror fans on Reddit participated in a poll to attempt to answer a question as old as the genre itself: Who is the best director to ever do it? Who most effectively held their audiences in thrall, making them cringe, jump, and scream their way through a couple hours of cinematic terror, before sending them home to stare at the ceiling while wondering what might be about to slither out from under their beds?

It is, of course, nearly impossible to arrive at a definitive answer. For one thing, some of the most effective horror films ever made were fielded by directors who were merely dabbling in the genre; think The Ring (directed by Gore Verbinski, who among other projects helmed three films in the Pirates of the Caribbean series), The Exorcist (the work of William Friedkin, whose varied filmography includes such hard-boiled crime classics as The French Connection and To Live and Die in L.A.), or Jaws (a very early theatrical feature from some guy named Steven Spielberg). Among directors whose main interest is in fright flicks, though, Reddit came up with four names most deserving of mention.

The lowest vote-getter, with 17 votes: Tobe Hooper, whose 1974 provocation The Texas Chain Saw Massacre remains one of the absolute finest examples of the genre. Hooper also helmed the underrated 1981 slasher flick The Funhouse, the classic 1982 supernatural horror Poltergeist (which some assert was actually ghost-directed, no pun intended, by Spielberg), the 1985 space vampire flick Lifeforce, and the bonkers 1986 sequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, among others.

The next-lowest, with 65 votes: George A. Romero, who literally invented the zombie genre as we know it with 1968's Night of the Living Dead. Along with its five sequels (including the stone-cold classics Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead), Romero also fielded the 1982 Stephen King anthology Creepshow, the 1988 psychological horror Monkey Shines, and the underrated 1993 film adaptation of King's The Dark Half, to name a few.

Now, onto the winners.

Second runner-up Wes Craven is a true legend

With 179 votes, the second runner-up is ridiculously deserving. The great Wes Craven began his career with a pair of low-budget exploitation shockers that put his name on genre fans' radars in a hurry: 1972's The Last House on the Left and 1977's The Hills Have Eyes, both of which stunned audiences with (for the time) graphic violence and a grimy, grounded aesthetic. A trio of features followed, including the 1981 slasher Deadly Blessing, a 1982 adaptation of the DC Comics property Swamp Thing, and a Hills sequel, but it was 1984 that saw Craven catapult to legendary status with the release of the instant classic A Nightmare on Elm Street, which introduced the world to Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund).

For the next decade or so, Craven was a reliable purveyor of crowd-pleasing fright flicks; 1988's The Serpent and the Rainbow, 1989's Shocker, and 1991's The People Under the Stairs are all well worth a watch. Then, in 1996, Craven singlehandedly ushered in a new era of hyper-aware, self-referential horror with Scream. Despite all these dumb things in Scream that everyone ignoresthe flick became yet another instant classic, and literally made every other filmmaker working in the genre stop and reassess what they were doing.

Craven revisited that classic three times, with 2011's Scream 4 being his final picture; he passed away in 2015 at the age of 76, his legacy forever secure as one of the greatest filmmakers to ever work in his chosen genre. At the same time he was doing his best work, though, so was the man ranked number one by Reddit. Craven even hilariously pointed out the fact that the two were often confused for each other with a brilliant throwaway line in Scream: "You're starting to sound like some Wes Carpenter flick!"

Fans named John Carpenter the greatest horror director of all time

With a whopping total of 360 votes — just over twice the total garnered by Craven — Reddit rightly named John Carpenter, whose 1978 classic Halloween gave birth to modern horror, as the greatest director to ever repeatedly, mercilessly scare the pants off a theater full of strangers. So profound was Halloween's influence on the genre that Carpenter's place among the all-time greats would have been secure even if it had been his only credit. Spoiler alert: It was not.

Carpenter didn't work exclusively in horror; his credits also include the 1981 dystopian sci-fi thriller Escape From New York, 1984's intriguing sci-fi romance Starman, and the completely insane (and amazing) 1986 action-adventure Big Trouble in Little China. His horror features, though, rank among the finest films in the genre — beginning with 1982's The Thing, which confounded viewers and critics upon its release simply because it was so far ahead of its time. Truth be told, that's the real reason John Carpenter's The Thing flopped at the box office. Thanks to its fantastic performances (especially that of leading man and frequent Carpenter muse Kurt Russell), claustrophobic atmosphere, and ingenious special effects courtesy of VFX maestro Rob Bottin, the film has undergone a whiplash-inducing critical reappraisal. It's now widely considered to be among the greatest horror movies of all time, and rightfully so.

Other vital entries Carpenter has bestowed upon the horror genre include 1980's creepy ghost story The Fog, the 1983 King adaptation Christine, 1988's paranoid sci-fi horror masterpiece They Live, and his ingenious, terrifying 1994 riff on the works of H.P. Lovecraft (and love letter of sorts to King, his good friend) In the Mouth of Madness

His output may have slowed to a trickle in the last two decades, but it matters little; we're in complete agreement with Reddit on this one. When it comes to horror cinema, nobody has ever done it better than John Carpenter.