Masters of Horror - The Directors

Masters of Horror was an American anthology style television series created by director Mick Garris for the Showtime cable network.  It originally ran for two seasons between 2005 and 2007 using some of the best and/or best-known directors in the horror genre, then was followed up by the similar series (also by Mick Garris) Fear Itself the next year, which was originally going to be season 3 of Masters and uses many of the same directors, so I'm including it on this page as an extension of the show.  Here's an overview of the directors and their pedigree.

Also, I haven't included any reviews, but the quality of the series, while consistently well-funded, varied from one episode to the next.  The episodes that are most worth checking out are marked with a (!).  You can take your chances with the others, but those were the best.  The IMDb ratings of the episodes are a pretty good approximation of how I would have rated most episodes.

Season 1
01 - Incident On and Off a Mountain Road(!)
Don Coscarelli - He's best known for the Phantasm series (five films starting in 1979 to 2014... so far) as well as Bubba Ho-Tep (2002), but he also directed the sword and sorcery classic The Beastmaster (1982).

02 - Dreams in the Witch-House(!)
Stuart Gordon - He's considered the go-to guy for Lovecraft adaptations, having done a number of them (including in this episode).  Some of those include Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1986), Castle Freak (1995), and Dagon (2001) as well as other horror films like Dolls (1987), The Pit and the Pendulum (1991), Daughter of Darkness (1990), plus sci-fi fun like Robot Jox (1989), Fortress (1992), and Space Truckers (1996).

03 - Dance of the Dead
Tobe Hooper - He's had a spotty career, but he's made films like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) (which he also wrote), Salem's Lot (1979), and Poltergeist (1982).

04 - Jenifer(!)
Dario Argento - This Italian director is best know for his beautiful if virtually plotless Suspiria (1977) as well as the non-horror Once Upon a Time in the West (1968).

05 - Chocolate
Mick Garris - He wrote Hocus Pocus (1993) and The Fly II (1989) as well as directing adaptations of several Stephen King works: The Stand (Mini-Series) (1994), The Shining (Mini-Series) (1997), and Sleepwalkers (1992).  He's also done an episode each for Amazing Stories (1986) (He wrote seven episodes though), Freddy's Nightmares (1988), and Tales from the Crypt (1994) plus the goofy Critters 2 (1988).

06 - Homecoming
Joe Dante - A few mainstream director who has horror leanings evident in Gremlins (1984), The 'Burbs (1989), Innerspace (1987), but he started out with Piranha (1978) and The Howling (1981) as well as going on to do a couple episodes of Amazing Stories (1986), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), and the Twilight Zone series (1985) as well as five episodes of the Eerie, Indiana series (1991) and Matinee (1993) based on William Castle and his outlandish gimmicks.

07 - Deer Woman
John Landis - Another largely pop director which comic leanings.  The same guy who gave us The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), Animal House (1978), and The Blues Brothers (1980) also brought us An American Werewolf in London (1981), parts of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), and Michael Jackson's epic Thriller (1983) video.

08 - John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns(!)
John Carpenter - An amazing powerhouse writer/director/film composer who invented the slasher genre with Halloween (1978) as well as great Lovecraft-influenced films like The Thing (1982) and In the Mouth of Madness (1994) and other cheesy horror classics like Prince of Darkness (1987), The Fog (1980), Christine (1983).  He also works effectively in sci-fi (Dark Star (1974), Starman (1984), and They Live (1988)) as well as action (Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), Escape from New York (1981), and Big Trouble in Little China (1986)).

09 - The Fair Haired Child(!)
William Malone - He started out with Scared to Death (1980) and Creature (1985), then did a couple episodes of Tales from the Crypt (1994), plus the remake of House on Haunted Hill (1999) and Feardotcom (2002).

10 - Sick Girl(!)
Lucky McKee* - His best-known and best-regarded film is probably still May (2002), but has also done The Woods (2006), Red (2008), and All Cheerleaders Die (2013), and he'll be part of Tales of Halloween (pre-production; should be out in 2015).
*Replaced Roger Corman for this episode.

11 - Pick Me Up
Larry Cohen - Although he has plenty of directing credits (including A Return to Salem's Lot (1987)), he's has more success as a writer, including Maniac Cop (1988), Phone Booth (2002), Captivity (2007), and Cellular (2004).

12 - Haeckel's Tale
John McNaughton* - He got his start as the writer/director of the infamous Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986), but went on to direct more mainstream films such as Wild Things (1998) and Mad Dog and Glory (1993).  This episode is based on a story by Clive Barker, but it wasn't very well done.
*Note: According to the IMDb, "George A. Romero was originally going to direct, but couldn't fit it in his schedule.  Then Roger Corman was approached to helm the episode, but health issues came up."

13 - Imprint
Takashi Miike - I'm not familiar with any of his work.  At this point, to the best of my knowledge, he isn't really well-known yet, at least in the States.  Given that this episode was so intense that even Showtime wouldn't air it, perhaps we can guess why.

Season 2
01 - The Damned Thing
Tobe Hooper - One episode above.

02 - Family
John Landis - One episode above and one below.

03 - The V Word
Ernest Dickerson - The only horror movie he's made was Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995), but he's done quite a few episodes of The Walking Dead and Dexter.

04 - Sounds Like
Brad Anderson - He also directed the amazing film The Machinist (2004) and Session 9 (2001), plus quite a few episodes of tv series including Fringe (12 episodes!) and The Wire as well as thrillers like The Call (II) (2013)

05 - Pro-Life
John Carpenter - One episode above.

06 - Pelts
Dario Argento - One episode above.

07 - The Screwfly Solution(!)
Joe Dante - One episode above.

08 - Valerie on the Stairs
Mick Garris - One episode above.

09 - Right to Die
Rob Schmidt - Directed several horror movies like Wrong Turn (2003), The Alphabet Killer (2008), and Crime + Punishment in Suburbia (2000).

10 - We All Scream for Ice Cream
Tom Holland - He directed '80s classics Fright Night (1985) and Child's Play (1988) as well as Stephen King adaptations of Thinner (1996) and The Langoliers (1995) as well as three episodes of Tales from the Crypt (1989), one episode of Amazing Stories (1986), and nine episodes of Twisted Tales (2013).

11 - The Black Cat(!)
Stuart Gordon - One episode above.

12 - The Washingtonians
Peter Medak - He directed one of my all-time favorite films: The Changeling (1980), but he was also reponsible for the awful Species II (1998).  However, he usually works in television, having directed (among other shows) episodes of Hannibal (2013), Tales from the Crypt (1992), Space: 1999 (1976), Breaking Bad (2009), House M.D. (2004), The Twilight Zone (1985).

13 - Dream Cruise
Norio Tsuruta - As with the last episode of the previous season, the producers went with a Japanese director.  My comment above applies here as well: I'm not familiar with any of his work.  At this point, to the best of my knowledge, he isn't really well-known yet, at least in the States.

Fear Itself (2008-2009)

This was the follow-up series to Masters of Horror.  Technically, it was the third season, but Showtime opted not to show it, so it was aired on NBC.  Ironically, I think some of these episodes were more effective than the original series.  Masters of Horror was often too slick without substance, particularly in its 2nd season.  This series had more twist endings, like "O. Henry meets Stephen King."  It wasn't more original, just more effective.
01 - The Sacrifice
Breck Eisner - Directed the bomb Sahara (2005) and was an exec producer on A Sound of Thunder (2005) that literally bankrupted its studio.  Also remade The Crazies (2008).

02 - Spooked
Brad Anderson - One episode above.

03 - Family Man
Ronny Yu  - Mainly directed movies in his native Hong Kong until a few Hollywood movies, particularly the horror films Bride of Chucky (1998) and Freddy vs. Jason (2003).

04 - In Sickness and in Health
John Landis - Two episodes above.

05 - Eater
Stuart Gordon - Two episodes above.

06 - New Year's Day
Darren Lynn Bousman - One of the better horror resumes of the bunch, including Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008), Saw II (2005), Saw III (2006), Saw IV (2007), and lesser-known works like Mother's Day (2010) and 11-11-11 (2011)

07 - Community
Mary Harron - Most famous for I Shot Andy Warhol (1996) and American Psycho (2000).  Also did one episode each of Six Feet Under (2005) and Constantine (2015).

08 - Skin and Bones
Larry Fessenden - Not a lengthy resume other than short films; he's primarily an actor.  His directing credits are limited to not-widely-seen features like Habit (1995) and  Wendigo (2001).

09 - Something with Bite
Ernest Dickerson - One episode above.

10 - Chance
John Dahl - Directed Joy Ride (2001), but he mostly works in tv, having directed (among many other things) 16 episodes of Dexter (2008), 4 of The Vampire Diaries (2009), 4 of True Blood (2008), and so on.

11 - The Spirit Box
Rob Schmidt - One episode above.

12 - Echoes
Rupert Wainwright - Only directed Stigmata (1999) and The Fog (2005), the latter widely considered one of the worst remakes in the horror genre.

13 - The Circle
Eduardo Rodríguez - Only made one feature before this: Curandero (2005).  He's since gone on to make the straight-to-video Fright Night 2 (2013), a sequel to the remake, though not a remade sequel.

Directors we didn't see...

At least a couple of these were approached over the course of the series (noted above) and couldn't make it, but here's my short-list for other prominent directors/"masters of horror"...
Clive Barker - Who is a bit rusty, having focused primarily on writing after a few bad experiences in Hollywood.

Tim Burton - Who makes far too much money for not being terribly creative anymore.

Roger Corman - Who was slated to do an episode but didn't for some reason.

Wes Craven - Who isn't as in demand but is a really smart guy.

David Cronenberg - Who seems to have moved on from the horror genre, even though his best work falls under that heading.

David Lynch - Who doesn't seem to direct at all anymore, which is weirder than his body of work.

George Romero - Who is more versatile than his resume indicates.

Quentin Tarantino - Who knows the genre well, although it's below his pay scale now.

Rob Zombie - Who isn't a good director, but he's enthusiastic.

Further reading

Note: I would like to have done a parallel page regarding the writers of these episodes, but it's much more complicated to deal with a mix of original and adapted screenplays since I'd have to also source the original authors of adapted short stories and such.  Still, if you're watching the series, follow up on the credits to these as they often point to still other works in the genre.

Copyright 2015 the Ale[x]orcist.