50 Val Lewton
The subtle and smoky Horror films of producer Val Lewton, made in the 1940s, are full of implied menace and an atmosphere of suffocating dread – a stark contrast to the Universal pictures of the same period. There is something modern about Lewton’s films – they were made on low budgets and without big-name stars, but somehow this adds to their attraction. Born Vladimir Leventon in 1904 in Russia, Lewton’s first career was as a writer. He travelled to the US and found work in Hollywood, and in 1942 was hired to produce Horror films for RKO. He was dismayed at the melodramatic titles given to him to produce, but he managed to turn a title like I Walked With a Zombie into a remake of Jane Eyre.
40 Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski’s two great contributions to the Horror genre are the fascinating study of madness Repulsion, the film which brought him to international acclaim, and Rosemary’s Baby, the harrowing story of a young girl (played by Mia Farrow) who is impregnated by the devil.
30 Jamie Lee Curtis
Jamie Lee Curtis was born into Horror roles, as the daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh (who was so memorably seen off on screen by Alfred Hitchcock as Marion Crane in Psycho). Jamie Lee Curtis got her break with the role of Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s Halloween. For a generation, she is the epitome of the Horror heroine, sexy, able to fight back and even defeat the monsters. Curtis found mainstream success in comedy, but not before a clutch of Horror roles, including another film for John Carpenter – The Fog – plus Prom Night, Terror Train and Halloween II. In 1999 she faced an extra-terrestrial intelligence in Virus, a film that later stated was the worst she’d ever made. She reprised the role of Laurie Strode in Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later, and even appeared in the opening scenes of the most recent Halloween film Resurrection (2002).
10 Tobe Hooper
Born in 1943, director Tobe Hooper broke new ground in Horror with his 1974 independent production, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The story was adapted from the real-life case of Ed Gein, and gave the Horror world the hulking figure of Leatherface. While the film is undeniably shocking, the film’s exploitative title disguises an intelligent and blackly comic work. Hooper went on to conjure up further scares in his 1979 adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and his blockbusting 1981collaboration with Steven Spielberg, Poltergeist.