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Near Dark (1987), F/M Entertainment // GIPHY

12 Directors Who Started Out Making Horror Movies

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Near Dark (1987), F/M Entertainment // GIPHY

In the conversation of films that can rightly be considered art, those that fall into the horror genre are often ignored. Very few horror movies have been nominated for Academy Awards in categories other than Best Makeup or Best Special Effects. And unless it’s an established franchise, most studios are not in the business of investing large sums of money into scary movies.

Following the financial success of low-budget, indie movies like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, the market became flooded with writers and directors looking to be discovered so that they could one day move up to making big-budget blockbusters. But the horror genre has a long history with first-class talent, having kickstarted the careers of some of today's most acclaimed filmmakers. Here are 12 well-known directors who cut their teeth on blood, suspense, and jump scares.

1. SAM RAIMI

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Sam Raimi is sort of the gimme on this list because he has not technically left the genre, yet still deserves to be mentioned. Before directing films like The Quick and the Dead (1995), A Simple Plan (1998), Oz the Great and Powerful (2013), and the Spider-man trilogy in the early to mid-2000s, Raimi created and starred in a horror comedy called It’s Murder (1977). He followed that project up with The Evil Dead trilogy, which is still regarded as one of the greatest and most influential film trilogies of all time.

2. JOEL COEN

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Speaking of The Evil Dead (1981): Joel Coen worked as Sam Raimi’s assistant editor on the original film in 1981, and the same year he also assisted on the Frank LaLoggia horror film, Fear No Evil. Joel, alongside his brother Ethan, would go on to create an eclectic slate of quirky films in a variety of genres, including Raising Arizona (1987), Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998), and Inside Llewyn Davis (2013).

3. OLIVER STONE

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One does not simply direct Platoon (1986), Wall Street (1987), or JFK (1991) right out of film school. Oliver Stone fought in Vietnam for the United States Army, and when he returned he studied under Scorsese and others at New York University. He wrote and directed a short about Vietnam in 1971, and two of his next three projects were horror films: Seizure (1974) and The Hand (1981).

4. PETER JACKSON

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Best known as the director and producer of The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, Peter Jackson’s first three films were horror, though he admits that he did not take them seriously. In a 2010 interview with The Telegraph, Jackson spoke candidly about Bad Taste (1987), Meet the Feebles (1989) and Braindead (1992): “I call them splat-stick," said Jackson. "To me, they were a joke. We enjoyed being crazy and anarchic and upsetting the people we wanted to upset in those days. But, big puppets having sex? It’s harmless, surely.”

5. JAMES CAMERON

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Before Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009), James Cameron was developing his directing style with bites and frights. His theatrical feature film directorial debut was Piranha II: The Spawning (1981), which he followed up with two little films called The Terminator (1984) and Aliens (1986).

6. KATHRYN BIGELOW 

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In 1987, Kathryn Bigelow (who was married to James Cameron from 1989 to 1991) found herself knee-deep in vampire lore while making her second feature, Near Dark. Of the film and the director’s efforts, Scott Tobias of The A.V. Club writes: “It’s a thrilling demonstration of how deftly Bigelow can take a subgenre as overharvested as the vampire film and make it seem fruitful once again ... Bigelow finds a way to reconcile two very different kinds of vampire stories: the seductive, all-consuming romance of the Dracula myth with its promise of eternal love, and the fang-bearing, blood-soaked viscera of an out-and-out horror movie.”

7. STEVEN SPIELBERG 

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After making a low-budget sci-fi film called Firelight (1964) as a teenager, Steven Spielberg moved to Los Angeles and started working in television. In 1971, Spielberg got the opportunity to direct Duel, a TV movie about a driver being stalked by a tanker truck that walks the line between thriller and horror. A reviewer for The Guardian wrote that the climax of the film “sent shivers through even my generally unsusceptible spine. The best horror story in town.” The Sunday Telegraph praised Spielberg’s work and saw his potential, writing that “the director, Steven Spielberg, new to me but starred for future reference, has made in effect a striking horror film out of everyday ingredients.”

8. ZACK SNYDER 

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Before becoming one of the go-to directors for superhero and comic book films, Zack Snyder directed TV commercials. In 2004 he directed the remake of George A. Romero’s zombie flick Dawn of the Dead, from a script by James Gunn. Roger Ebert said the film was “slicker and more polished” than the original, but did not have the same “mordant humor." Speaking of James Gunn ...

9. JAMES GUNN 

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Though Gunn is best known these days as the guy who wrote and directed Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and is currently working on the sequel, Gunn got his start at legendary horror house Troma, where he wrote the script for Tromeo and Juliet. In 2006, Gunn wrote and directed his first film, the horror-comedy Slither.

10. J.J. ABRAMS 

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As a kid, J.J. Abrams loved movies and would write in to his favorite magazine, Cinemagic, to request articles and ask the editors questions. In the early 1980s, the magazine’s founder offered him a job making music for the 1982 Troma film, Nightbeast.

11. BOB CLARK 

A Christmas Story (1983) will be a lasting part of Bob Clark’s legacy, but for horror fans, the work he did in the 1970s is just as important. Films like Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972) and Deathdream (1974) got him notice, but Black Christmas (1974), one of the first slasher films, became a cult classic and earned him a dedicated following.

Clark said in an interview that John Carpenter asked him if he had considered making a sequel to Black Christmas. “I was through with horror," Clark explained. "I didn't come into the business to do just horror.” Carpenter asked him what the sequel would be like if he did want to make one, and Clark gave him an idea that should sound very familiar to fans of the genre: “I said it would be the next year and the guy would have actually been caught, escape from a mental institution, go back to the house and they would start all over again. And I would call it Halloween."

12. CURTIS HANSON 

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In an interview with The A.V. Club, Oscar-winning filmmaker Curtis Hanson said that his first professional writing job was for a Roger Corman film called The Dunwich Horror (1970). He and producer Tamara Asseyev later collaborated on the Sweet Kill (1972). Hanson then moved more toward mysteries and thrillers, directing The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992), L.A. Confidential (1997), and 8 Mile (2002).

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20 Things You Might Not Know About Mr. Show
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HBO

You never need an excuse to look back at Mr. Show with Bob and David, but given that today is co-creator Bob Odenkirk's 55th birthday, now seems to be as good a time as any.

1. BOB ODENKIRK AND DAVID CROSS’S FIRST MEETING DID NOT GO VERY WELL.

Following four years of writing on Saturday Night Live, Odenkirk was in Los Angeles in 1992 as a writer for the Chris Elliott Fox cult classic Get a Life. David Cross was a comedian in L.A. after performing for years in Boston. One boring afternoon, Cross asked friend and fellow stand-up Janeane Garofalo if she knew anybody that played basketball. The two went to Odenkirk’s house, and Garofalo introduced David to Bob and then asked if he wanted to play basketball. He said no.

2. ODENKIRK AND CROSS FIRST WORKED TOGETHER ON THE BEN STILLER SHOW.

Despite their inauspicious beginning, the two ended up having numerous fruitful collaborations, starting with their work on The Ben Stiller Show. Odenkirk was a writer/performer on the short-lived but Emmy award-winning sketch show with Garofalo, Stiller, and Andy Dick. Cross was brought in in the middle of the show’s 13-episode run as a writer.

3. THE CO-STARS FIRST PERFORMED ON STAGE TOGETHER AS "THE THREE GOOFBALLZ."

Odenkirk and Cross performed sketch comedy together at the Diamond Club in Los Angeles, with a third improviser that, the joke went, would either be deceased or out elsewhere getting high.

4. "THE THREE GOOFBALLZ' WAS ALMOST THE TITLE OF MR. SHOW

Odenkirk also pitched the title Grand National Championships, but David Cross was never a fan of it.

5. JACK BLACK, SARAH SILVERMAN, AND OTHER FUTURE STARS APPEARED ON THE SHOW BEFORE THEY WERE FAMOUS.

Black was in four episodes of Mr. Show, starring in the classic Jesus Christ Superstar parody “Jeepers Creepers.” Silverman was a performer in 10 episodes. Mary Lynn Rajskub, best known as Chloe on 24, was a featured actress in the first two years. Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants, was a series regular for a majority of the run. Scott Adsit, a.k.a. 30 Rock’s Pete Hornberger, was in six episodes.

6. PATTON OSWALT WARMED UP THE MR. SHOW CROWD.

In addition to performing stand-up before tapings and keeping the studio audience interested in between scenes, Oswalt played Famous Mortimer in the episode “Operation: Hell on Earth” (but was credited as “Patton Oswald.”)

7. HOMELESS PEOPLE WERE NOT KIND TO THE ORIGINAL SETS.

Because the pilot episode was shot at a “down and dirty,” small Central Hollywood club, the sets had to be placed outside, where homeless people defecated on them.

8. YOU MIGHT ALSO RECOGNIZE SOME OF THE WRITING STAFF.

Dino Stamatopoulos was already on the original writing staff of Late Night with Conan O’Brien and had written for David Letterman before writing for Cross and Odenkirk. He would later create three shows and play Starburns on Community. Writer/performer Scott Aukerman co-created and executive produces Between Two Ferns, and created and stars on Comedy Bang! Bang!. Writer/performer Paul F. Tompkins hosted VH-1’s Best Week Ever! and currently hosts the satirical debate show No, You Shut Up!, where he moderates discussions by a panel full of puppets. Bob Odenkirk’s brother Bill has written ten episodes of The Simpsons.

9. THE DIRECTORS OF LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE LEARNED HOW TO DIRECT COMEDY FROM MR. SHOW.

Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton were known for directing music videos like The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight” and Jane’s Addiction’s “Been Caught Stealing,” and decided to direct two Mr. Show episodes to expand their filming vocabulary. The husband and wife team were behind the camera for the classic sketch “Monk Academy.”

10. ONE SKETCH WAS INFLUENCED BY LOUIS C.K.

One of the first sketches in the show’s history involved Odenkirk playing a priest forced to do rather unpleasant and un-priestly things. The idea sprang from a conversation David Cross had with fellow young Boston comic Louis C.K., where Louis talked about annoying people that try to claim a prize on a bet that their friends never agreed to in the first place.

11. HBO ONLY CENSORED THE SHOW ONCE.

Throughout four years and 30 episodes, the lone note Odenkirk and Cross got from HBO was to get rid of a line where one character tells another to have sex with a baby. Odenkirk admitted that being told to edit it out “wasn’t too much to ask.”

12. THEY ONLY RECEIVED ONE VIEWER COMPLAINT.

The only angry letter that Odenkirk and Cross were ever made aware of was from a military veteran who was offended by the sketch in “Who Let You In?” where Cross’s performance artist character attempts to defecate on the American flag. The two stars actually called the viewer and discovered that he didn’t watch the entire sketch, and therefore never realized that Cross’ character was never able to actually go through with it.

13. ONE SKETCH WAS CUT FROM THE SHOW SIX TIMES AND NEVER MADE IT TO AIR.

A sketch called “Party Car,” a joke on old, low-quality shows filled with '70s celebrities was cut from half a dozen scripts and never filmed. It would have featured Nipsey Russell, Zsa Zsa Gabor, (or reasonable facsimiles), and a baby in a balloon-filled car.

14. BOB ODENKIRK GOT IN TROUBLE FOR USING A PICTURE OF HIS DEAD GRANDFATHER.

Because the sketch “Old Man In House” needed a photo of an old man, and the elderly gentleman was not the butt of the joke, Odenkirk thought it would be fine. Instead, some Odenkirks were “very upset.”

15. CROSS WAS PAYING OFF HIS STUDENT LOAN DEBTS THROUGHOUT MOST OF THE SERIES.

David Cross and Amber Tamblyn
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Despite executive producing and co-creating a series on television, Cross had trouble paying off his student loan debts from his time at Emerson College. Figuring that the person calling from the bill collection agency wouldn’t believe that he couldn’t pay if he knew his job status, Cross pretended that he worked at Mr. Show as a messenger.

16. ONE PERSON WAS GIVEN A "SPECIAL THANKS" IN THE CLOSING CREDITS OF EVERY EPISODE AS A JOKE.

As Cross once explained, Rick Dees was thanked in the credits of the pilot episode, even though he was “certainly nobody we would ever thank, or be in a position to thank.” Some personalities that were thanked for no discernable reason were Greg Maddux, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, Gabe Kaplan, and Howard Zinn.

17. HBO CHANGED THE TIME SLOT FOR ITS FINAL SEASON, AND IT WAS "DEMORALIZING."

After airing Fridays at midnight for the first three seasons, HBO moved the show to Mondays at the same time, confusing some loyal viewers, and the ratings decreased as a result. Bob Odenkirk told a reporter that, after 30 episodes, HBO was still treating the cast and crew as “second-class citizens,” and that they were “demoralized” by the slot shift.

18. BOB AND DAVID TOLD A STUDIO AUDIENCE THAT THEY HAD JUST WITNESSED THE FINAL EPISODE, AND THEY WEREN'T JOKING.

“Patriotism, Pepper, and Professionalism,” the 40th and final episode of Mr. Show, was taped on November 21, 1998. After the final sketch was filmed, Odenkirk and Cross made their announcement, although the show’s cancellation wasn’t made official for another few months.

19. THERE WAS A MR. SHOW MOVIE THAT WENT STRAIGHT TO VIDEO.

Run Ronnie Run focused on David Cross’s redneck criminal character Ronnie Dobbs. It was filmed in 2001, but never made it to theaters. Bob Odenkirk admitted that the movie wasn’t perfect, but he blamed the poor quality on director Troy Miller, for not allowing himself and Cross to edit the movie.

20. THE TWO HAVE REUNITED A FEW OTHER TIMES.

David Cross and Bob Odenkirk star in 'W/ Bob and David'
Saeed Adyani/Netflix

In 2002, Bob, David, and Mr. Show writer/performers Brian Posehn, John Ennis, and Stephanie Courtney (Flo in the Progressive commercials) toured the country to perform some of the show’s sketches and material from their unproduced screenplay Mr. Show: Hooray For America! The next year, Odenkirk guest starred as Dr. Phil Gunty on a season one episode of Arrested Development, alongside Cross’ character Tobias Fünke.

In 2012, Odenkirk, Cross, and Posehn went on a six-city tour to promote their book filled with more unproduced material. Bob and David appeared briefly together the next year on an episode of Aukerman’s Comedy Bang! Bang! In 2015, 20 years after Mr. Show's debut, Netflix premiered W/ Bob and David, a five-episode sketch comedy show created by and starring the duo.

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30 Memorable Quotes from Carrie Fisher
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Just days after suffering a heart attack aboard a flight en route to Los Angeles, beloved actress, author, and screenwriter Carrie Fisher passed away at the age of 60 on December 27, 2016. Though she’ll always be most closely associated with her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, Fisher’s life was like something out of its own Hollywood movie. Born in Beverly Hills on this day in 1956, Fisher was born into show business royalty as the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds.

In addition to her work in front of the camera, Fisher built up an impressive resume behind the scenes, too, most notably as a writer; in addition to several memoirs and semi-autobiographical novels, including Wishful Drinking, Surrender the Pink, Delusions of Grandma, The Best Awful, Postcards from the Edge, and The Princess Diarist (which was released last month), she was also an in-demand script doctor who counted Sister Act, Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, and The Wedding Singer among her credits.

Though she struggled with alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental illness, Fisher always maintained a sense of humor—as evidenced by the 30 memorable quotes below.

ON GROWING UP IN HOLLYWOOD

“I am truly a product of Hollywood in-breeding. When two celebrities mate, someone like me is the result.”

“I was born into big celebrity. It could only diminish.”

“At a certain point in my early twenties, my mother started to become worried about my obviously ever-increasing drug ingestion. So she ended up doing what any concerned parent would do. She called Cary Grant.”

“I was street smart, but unfortunately the street was Rodeo Drive.”

“If anything, my mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That's my word for it.”

ON AGING

“As you get older, the pickings get slimmer, but the people don't.”

ON INSTANT GRATIFICATION

“Instant gratification takes too long.”

ON THE LEGACY OF STAR WARS

“People are still asking me if I knew Star Wars was going to be that big of a hit. Yes, we all knew. The only one who didn't know was George.”

“Leia follows me like a vague smell.”

“I signed my likeness away. Every time I look in the mirror, I have to send Lucas a couple of bucks.”

“People see me and they squeal like tropical birds or seals stranded on the beach.”

“You're not really famous until you’re a Pez dispenser.”

ON THE FLEETING NATURE OF SUCCESS

“There is no point at which you can say, 'Well, I'm successful now. I might as well take a nap.'”

ON DEALING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

“I'm very sane about how crazy I am.”

ON RESENTMENT

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

ON LOVE

“Someone has to stand still for you to love them. My choices are always on the run.”

“I've got to stop getting obsessed with human beings and fall in love with a chair. Chairs have everything human beings have to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience, and less response. The less the merrier. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.”

“I don’t hate hardly ever, and when I love, I love for miles and miles. A love so big it should either be outlawed or it should have a capital and its own currency.”

ON EMOTIONS

“The only thing worse than being hurt is everyone knowing that you're hurt.”

ON RELATIONSHIPS

“I envy people who have the capacity to sit with another human being and find them endlessly interesting, I would rather watch TV. Of course this becomes eventually known to the other person.”

ON HOLLYWOOD

“Acting engenders and harbors qualities that are best left way behind in adolescence.”

“You can't find any true closeness in Hollywood, because everybody does the fake closeness so well.”

“It's a man's world and show business is a man's meal, with women generously sprinkled through it like overqualified spice.”

ON FEAR

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

ON LIFE

“I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.”

“No motive is pure. No one is good or bad-but a hearty mix of both. And sometimes life actually gives to you by taking away.”

“If my life wasn't funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”

“I shot through my twenties like a luminous thread through a dark needle, blazing toward my destination: Nowhere.”

“My life is like a lone, forgotten Q-Tip in the second-to-last drawer.”

ON DEATH

“You know what's funny about death? I mean other than absolutely nothing at all? You'd think we could remember finding out we weren't immortal. Sometimes I see children sobbing at airports and I think, 'Aww. They've just been told.'”

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