You know who I'm talking about. The guys that shaped the genre. The ones that made the classics that were ripped off and imitated to death. Here's my rundown of the status of the group.

John Carpenter He's a tremendously talented guy. Few would argue that. Halloween alone would have made him a superstar in the genre. But he also did classics like The Thing, The Fog, Escape from New York, Christine, Big Trouble in Little China. But what of his later career?

was decent, but not as good as the earlier films. Prince of Darkness is an interesting failure as far as I'm concerned. They Live is idiotic fun. Memoirs of an Invisible Man is actually better than many give it credit for. Certainly not a great film, but more stupid fun.

In the Mouth of Madness is a good one. In fact, by my count, it's Carpenter's last good movie. After that? Ugh.

Village of the Damned blew. Escape from L.A. was even worse. Vampires just barely didn't suck. Ghosts of Mars is a big, loud, ugly mess.

Carpenter has a new one in production now. I'll pay to see how it comes out.

George Romero The man responsible for the walking dead in movies has made several masterpieces. Night, Dawn, and Day of the Dead are all fantastic. Knightriders is my favorite of his films. Martin is amazing. I'm willing to forgive Season of the Witch and There's Always Vanilla. The Crazies is a good movie, but not up to par with George's best.

And what about Creepshow? A great movie! Stephen King at his playful best and a loving tribute to E.C. Comics.

But something went amiss when Romero and his Laurel partner, Richard Rubenstein, split. The magic was gone. Monkey Shines had some good moments, but it suffered badly from a schmaltzy ending. The Dark Half simply sucked. His half of Two Evil Eyes isn't bad, but it ain't all that hot either. I thoroughly hated Bruiser and so did a lot of other fans.

So George went back to what his fans wanted. Back to the Dead. The results...

I liked Land of the Dead. I'm well aware of its shortcomings, but I still found enough there to enjoy. I even liked Diary of the Dead. Yeah, it was pretty lame, but again, I went along for the ride and liked it. Then came Survival of the Dead.

The last Dead film was woefully miscast and the entire plotline is weak. It looks like a bad made-for-cable production. Many fans defend it, and I suppose that's good. In a way. But I can't and won't. Survival of the Dead is an abomination by any standard. Sorry George, I'll keep watching them if you keep making them.

Tobe Hooper The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the best exploitation films of the 70's. It's possibly the best. This movie is grueling, terrifying, and absolutely convincing. How could he or anyone top it?

Well, Tobe didn't do bad with Eaten Alive. Of course it's nowhere near the film Chainsaw is, but it's a deliriously wild ride. I think it's damned good.

The Salem's Lot TV miniseries is pretty fucking good. It captures King's small town sensibilities beautifully, and Hooper managed to get some really effective images in it. Thumbs up.

The Funhouse is a great little shocker. It's fondly remembered by fans who grew up in the 80's and watched all the terrific movies.

I don't care who directed Poltergeist, Hooper or Spielberg. I hate it regardless. Still, it was a big move for Tobe Hooper. After that? Downhill.

I actually like Lifeforce, and not just because of the naked alien woman roaming around that spaceship. It's a reasonably enjoyable film, even if it fails miserably as an adaptation of Colin Wilson's intellectual SF thriller, Space Vampires.

Invaders from Mars starts off OK, but descends into dreck by the halfway point.

A high point of Hooper's career is his Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel. Many fans loathed it, but I thought it was great. Very funny and satirical, with outstanding music. Hooper knew that humor was the only way to go after the intense experience the first film is.

Then came duds like Spontaneous Combustion, which didn't work at all. The Mangler is a shitty adaptation of one of King's worst stories. I tried to watch Crocodile, but was too appalled to continue watching after about thirty minutes.

The Toolbox Murders, while not exactly a classic, was a step in the right direction.

Word was out that Hooper was to direct a film based on Stephen King's From a Buick 8. I would have liked to have seen that, but it, alas, never happened.

David Cronenberg This guy has the best track record of 'em all. By my reckoning, Cronenberg has never made a bad movie. His work has been uneven, but you have to hand it to a guy that made movies from two controversial books that were long called unfilmable. Naked Lunch and Crash are both important films, but I like his more commercial movies the best. Like A History of Violence and The Fly. Cronenberg has been unpredictable throughout his career, and even if I didn't like one of his films at all (M. Butterfly), he has maintained his integrity magnificently. For my money his masterpiece is Dead Ringers. Shivers, The Brood, Rabid, Scanners, and Videodrome are all mandatory viewing for anyone even remotely interested in horror and science fiction film.

Dario Argento Sometimes the mightiest fall the hardest. Not all will agree, but I think Argento has made the most artistic horror films of all time. Susperia is his greatest work and it's an unparalleled assault of sight and sound. Brilliant use of color and lighting compliment the jarring music and sound in the movie. It's a difficult movie in many ways, and it left a lot of fans behind, but many of us revere Susperia.

Argento has done quite a few other classics. Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) is arguably his masterpiece. Tenebre is amazing. Phenomena is weird and wild, and some hated it. I thought it was fantastic. Opera is brilliant film that suffers from (IMO) a bunch of really trashy music.

Not all of Argento's early films are great. I'm not a huge Cat o' Nine Tails fan, and Four Flies on Grey Velvet is far from his best. Argento should avoid trying to be funny.

But then, Argento's first film as a director, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, is a near-perfect suspense-mystery puzzle.

The first chink in Argento's armor for most was Trauma. How excited so many of us were! Co-written by the great T.E.D. Klein?!? How could it miss? Well, Trauma isn't a total failure, but it lacks the tension and excitement of Dario's better movies.

Dario Argento took a step forward with his next, which I consider to be his most underrated film: The Stendhal Syndrome. I fell in love with this movie the first time I saw it, and I've grown more attached to it ever since. But after that...

The Phantom of the Opera is an atrocity by any standard. Few were expecting Dario to make something to rival Deep Red or Susperia at this point, but Phantom is an ugly, garish mess. In all the years I've been discussing horror movies with people, I do not believe that I've heard one person defend it.

Sleepless came next, and I liked it. I still had faith in Dario at that point, despite The Phantom of the Opera. Many fans dismissed it at the time, but I think it's well worth a look. And I think those that disliked Sleepless should give it another chance.

After Sleepless, Argento did a couple of movies that I believe were made for Italian television. Neither The Card Player or Do You Like Hitchcock? are really bad pictures, but they have little to recommend to any but the most ardent fan of Argento's work.

Dario Argento's Susperia was the first of what many fans hoped would be a trilogy of films. Inferno is the second. Both are fine, challenging, visually stunning motion picture experiences. Fans craved a third movie and it finally came. Mother of Tears isn't quite as bad as The Phantom of the Opera, but that's about the most positive thing I can say about it. Many fans defend the film. All I'll say is, I'm happy that they liked it. I'll leave it at that.

Giallo seemed to be the perfect comeback vehicle for Argento. Yet it was a disappointment. Rumors of studio interference and disgruntled members of the cast and crew abounded. Giallo isn't awful, but alas, it was another disappointment.

Now Dario Argento is gearing up for Dracula 3D. Hey, I'm still there for you, Dario. I look forward to checking it out.

Wes Craven I saved Wes for last because I just recently watched his latest movie.

Wes Craven is controversial, to say the least. Many hardcore fans consider him a hack. Some consider him to be brilliant. I'm somewhere in the middle. But the guy has made not one, but three film that spanned generations and become very influential in the genre. Last House on the Left is a brutal and soul-deadening study of sadism. I'm not a big fan, but it was an important film. A Nightmare on Elm Street is still being imitated. It is one of the most successful films of its type and Craven's iconic antagonist, Freddy Krueger,

Then Wes Craven introduced Postmodern Irony to the slasher/horror film world with Scream. Loved my millions, despised by thousands, Scream was an enormous success. A deserved success, I say. It's a sharp, funny, cool look at a then-new generation of moviegoer.

Craven has had hits and misses, like most of them. I like The Hills Have Eyes, Swamp Thing, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Red Eye, heck I even like Deadly Friend, as ridiculous as it is.

I strongly disliked Shocker, The People Under the Stairs, Vampire in Brooklyn, Cursed, and New Nightmare.

I watched My Soul To Take last week. I was prepared for the worst, as critics and fans dumped on it so hard. I was rather pleasantly surprised. No, it isn't a great movie, and My Soul To Take liberally borrowed from earlier Wes Craven films. A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream in particular. Maybe I was in a forgiving mood, because I sat through it and was entertained. It had some interesting ideas and the cast was uniformly good.

Next comes the eagerly awaited (by me anyway) Scream 4. I am excited about seeing the characters again, and while I enjoyed all three Scream films, I hope this one is better than the second two in the series.

Despite some of the things I said here, I have great admiration for all of these gentlemen. They have profoundly affected the horror genre, and I'm in their debt. There are others I could have added: Raimi, Landis, Gordon, Fulci, Jackson. All have done fine work and I look forward to every production they do in the future.

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