The 10 Best Horror Movies Made By First-Time Directors

5. The Witch (2015) Directed by Robert Eggers

In 1630 New England, a farmer’s son goes missing causing widespread panic. The family of the missing boy blame their oldest daughter Thomasin who was looking after the boy at the time of his disappearance. As suspicion, blame and paranoia mount up, Thomasin is suspected of using witchcraft which tests the village’s faith and loyalty to one another.

The Witch was written and directed by Robert Eggers in his directorial debut. The film received mostly positive reviews and was a box office success, grossing $40 million against a budget of $4 million. Eggers was inspired to write the film because of his many childhood visits to the Plimoth Plantation and his childhood fascination with witches and witchcraft.

The film was filmed on location in Canada and proved problematic when Eggers could not find the forest location he wanted. Eventually production took place completely off map in Kiosk, Ontario, which was described as “extremely remote” by Eggers.


4. The Evil Dead (1981) Directed by Sam Raimi


When Ash Williams, his girlfriend and his friends find an old book called The Necronomicon on a trip to an old cabin in the woods, they accidentally unleash unspeakable horrors when they read aloud from it. Now they must fight for their lives or risk becoming possessed.

Directed by Sam Raimi, Raimi first shot a short film in order to attract the interest of financiers and secure funds for the film. The short film was entitled ‘Within the Woods’ and eventually helped Raimi raise enough money to make The Evil Dead which was originally called ‘The Book of the Dead.’ Raimi intended to make a remake of Within the Woods with higher production values and a feature length running time.

The Evil Dead was critical success from the outset and even earned a rave review from horror author Stephen King. The Evil Dead grossed over $29 million at the box office and has come to be regarded as one of the most significant cult films of all time as well as one of the greatest horror films of all time.


3. Eraserhead (1977) Directed by David Lynch


Henry lives alone in a grim apartment surrounded by industrial gloom. Henry discovers that a fling he had with a woman named Mary has gotten her pregnant and so he marries her and asks her to move in with him. Things get even more difficult for Henry when his child turns out to be grossly deformed.

Produced while David Lynch was a student at the American Film Institute, Eraserhead launched Lynch as a major new filmmaking talent. Though Eraserhead initially had little interest, the film gained popularity after several long runs as a midnight film and grossed $7 million at the box office. Eraserhead has since gone on to achieve cult status and in 2004 it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry as a film that is culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.


2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Directed by Tobe Hooper

the texas chainsaw massacre

When a sister and brother hear that their grandfather’s grave may have been vandalised, they decide to take a trip with their group of friends to investigate. Whilst visiting the old farmhouse of their grandfather, they discover that a group of crazed, psycho murderers live next door. Soon they find themselves being attacked one by one by the group’s leader Leatherface – a killer who wields a chainsaw and wears a mask made out of human skin.

Written and directed by Tobe Hooper, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was not overly well received critically at its time of release. It was also banned in several countries due to its violent content. However, it was well received at the box office and went on to gross over $30 million. In the years since, the film has been reappraised positively and has gone on to amass a cult following. It has been called one of the best and most influential horror films of all time. It has led on to a remake, franchise and numerous merchandise.

The concept for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre first arose to Hooper in the early seventies when he was working as an assistant director. Wanting to present a brutal film that audiences would perceive as having really happened, Hooper misinformed audiences that the film was based on a true story when in fact the events portrayed were all entirely fictitious. Hooper produced the film for less than $140,000 and filmed for long hours seven days a week.

The success of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre led to the inception of a franchise which includes eight films as well as a video game and comics.


1. Night of the Living Dead (1968) Directed by George A. Romero


Leading to five subsequent sequels and inspiring several remakes, Night of the Living Dead is seen as the film that revolutionized the horror film genre and is regarded as a cult classic. Written, directed, photographed and edited by George A. Romero, Night of the Living Dead was made on a budget of $114,000 and earned $30 million at the box office.

Night of the Living Dead follows the story of a group of people who barricade themselves in a rural farmhouse in order to try and survive the night. Whilst outside, a number of unrelentless undead attempt to break through their barricades and can only be stopped with a blow to the head.

Night of the Living Dead was heavily criticised upon its release for its explicit gore and also caused controversy for being shown nationally as a Saturday afternoon matinee and attracting audiences of children as this was before the MPAA ratings were in place. As time went on though, Night of the Living Dead garnered much critical acclaim and was selected in 1999 for preservation in the National Film Registry as a film deemed culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.