Your 10 Favorite Horror Directors’ Favorite Horror Movies

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly

Trying to find the perfect scary movie to watch can be a real fright. If you’re struggling to find just the right movie to scare yourself silly this Halloween, why not take a recommendation from your favorite horror director? From cult classics to childhood favorites to, in one case, a music video, we’ve compiled a list of the films that frighten the masters of horror. Read on for insight into the twisted minds of your favorite horror directors, along with some terrific horror movie recommendations.

1. JOHN CARPENTER ON NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)

Just in time for Halloween, John Carpenter provided Fader with a list of eight of his favorite scary movies. The first film on his list was George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead. Carpenter, the legendary director behind movies including Escape from New York (1981), The Thing (1982), and, of course, Halloween (1978), praised Romero’s impact on the last half-century of zombie movies.

The fact that a loved one can be turned into a zombie. It’s just tremendous,” Carpenter told Fader. “I mean, look at the movies that have ripped it off! Look at [The] Walking Dead. I mean come on.”

2. EDUARDO SÁNCHEZ ON THE EXORCIST (1973)

Eduardo Sánchez was the co-director of one of the most innovative, infamous, and absolutely terrifying found footage films of all time: The Blair Witch Project (1999). But the movie that scared his socks off as a child was The Exorcist.

“I was raised Catholic, and I was taught that everything was real,” Sánchez tells Mental Floss. “Satan was real, God was real, there was this fight between good and evil happening on Earth. And then The Exorcist came along. My parents didn't take me to the theater to see it, but when it came out on TV, we all sat around the family TV to watch it—almost like it was a documentary. It was almost like, 'This is what can happen.' At that age, it felt totally real to me, and it just scared the crap out of me. To this day, it still scares me, even though I don't believe the same things I did as a kid."

3. WES CRAVEN ON DON’T LOOK NOW (1973)

For nearly four decades, Wes Craven pushed the boundaries of the horror genre, directing everything from exploitation horror movies like The Last House on the Left (1972) and the classic slasher movie A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) to the horror satire Scream (1996). In 2010, Craven shared 10 of his favorite horror movies with The Daily Beast. Writing about Nicolas Roeg’s horror classic Don’t Look Now, Craven explained, “This was one of the movies that just completely enthralled me and scared me at the same time, where I was watching a film that was a pretty moving work of art as well.” The film, based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier, follows a bereaved couple who, on a trip to Venice, begin seeing an apparition they believe may be their deceased daughter. Craven was particularly struck by Roeg’s ability to build fear without relying on blood and gore, explaining, “The sense that the child is either a ghost or is torturing them with her presence by disappearing was a wonderful example (not that I followed it) of being able to scare without showing blood.”

4. ANDRÉ ØVREDAL ON POLTERGEIST (1982)

Norwegian filmmaker André Øvredal is best known for the tongue-in-cheek monster flick Trollhunter (2010). Most recently, he directed The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016), a stripped-down supernatural thriller set entirely in a small-town morgue over the course of a single night. Øvredal tells Mental Floss he chose Poltergeist as his favorite horror movie “for its sense of awe, wonder, and humanity in the midst of horror.”

“It revels in the ideas of the movie, it has a philosophy on its own subjects, not just trying to milk the opportunities for a scare,” Øvredal explains. “It’s also extremely close to the characters. You get to know and care for them, so you quickly fear for them. I think the filmmaking is really clever, visually stimulating, and tells the story with a surprising amount of humor, that only adds to the horror and sense of reality.”

5. TOBE HOOPER ON THE HAUNTING (1963)

Tobe Hooper’s cult classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is a masterpiece of chaos and gore shot on a shoestring budget. But the late director's favorite horror film is something quite different: an understated haunted house film from Academy Award-winning director Robert Wise, based on Shirley Jackson’s classic short story “The Haunting of Hill House.”

“It was the first horror movie that floored me,” Hooper told Filmmaker Magazine in 2000. “I really felt what the characters were going through. There is one scene where some of the characters have locked themselves in a room in the house and there are strange sounds and the walls start moving. My imagination ran wild, and it left an indelible impression on me.”

6. PATRICK BRICE ON JACOB’S LADDER (1990)

In his 2014 directorial debut Creep, Patrick Brice built a chilling thriller using just a few key elements: a remote vacation home, a creepy wolf mask, and a supremely unsettling performance by Mark Duplass. The low-budget found footage film was such a surprise hit, Brice directed a sequel, Creep 2, which was released on streaming platforms this month. For his favorite horror movie, Brice chose Jacob’s Ladder, Adrian Lyne's hallucinatory film about the visions of a traumatized Vietnam veteran.

“For its ability to be formally experimental, relentlessly terrifying, and downright touching all at the same time, I really think Jacob’s Ladder is one of the undervalued gems of horror,” Brice tells Mental Floss. “There are moments in the film that use practical and in-camera effects to pull off scares that are beyond comprehension. I remember having to rewind certain moments asking myself how Adrian Lyne was able to pull them off, and it's his only horror movie!"

7. DANIEL MYRICK ON JACOB’S LADDER

Patrick Brice wasn’t the only director we spoke with who was enthralled by Jacob’s Ladder. The Blair Witch Project co-director Daniel Myrick also chose to recommend Adrian Lyne’s classic horror classic.

“It’s really hard to designate one film as my ‘favorite,’ but certainly Jacob’s Ladder ranks up there for me,” Myrick tells Mental Floss. “This is more of a psychological thriller than actual ‘horror,' but those are always the scariest in my opinion. The way Adrian Lyne played with your senses on every level was masterful and to this day, one of the greatest endings ever.”

8. GEORGE ROMERO ON PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006)

In a 2010 interview, legendary horror director George Romero told TIME he wasn’t a fan of modern horror—with one exception. “ I don't like the new trends in horror,” he explained. “All this torture stuff seems really mean-spirited. People have forgotten how to laugh, and I don't see anybody who's using it as allegory.” But Romero, who directed classics like Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Creepshow (1982), professed his respect for Pan’s Labyrinth, a surreal and often terrifying dark fantasy film set shortly after the Spanish Civil War. “The guy I love right now is Guillermo del Toro,” Romero told TIME. “I’d love to make a film like Pan's Labyrinth.”

9. BABAK ANVARI ON THRILLER (1983)

Babak Anvari’s directorial debut Under the Shadow (2016) tells the story of a mother and daughter facing the horrors of war and haunted by something supernatural in 1980s Tehran. But the work of horror that has haunted him since childhood isn't a film at all, but a music video by the King of Pop.

“I have too many favorite horror films,” Babak tells Mental Floss. “But, the film that scared me most as a child, almost traumatized me, was actually not a film but a long music video: Michael Jackson’s Thriller directed by John Landis. I accidentally watched it too youngI think my older brother showed it to me first—and I got really freaked out. I used to be even scared of the tape that it was recorded on. I couldn’t be around it even during daytime. I kept thinking that zombies would crawl out of the tape to eat me alive.”

10. MICHAEL DOUGHERTY ON HALLOWEEN (1978)

Michael Dougherty’s first feature was the 2007 anthology film Trick ‘r Treat, so it’s fitting that his favorite horror movie is Halloween. “It’s very simple, in that it sort of defined the slasher genre, but it did so in a very elegant way,” Dougherty tells Mental Floss. “It’s beautifully made, and it’s beautifully shot. I remember as a kid, it was the first time I felt suspense—like genuine bone-chilling suspense.”

But Dougherty doesn't think you should stop at just one horror movie. “Halloween is a great time not to just revisit your one favorite horror film, but [to] watch just a whole slew of them,” he explains. “It’s a good opportunity to go back and revisit all your favorites or to introduce yourself to classics you might not have seen before: Halloween, The Exorcist, The Omen (1976), Poltergeist, It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (1966). These are the things that make for a really good Halloween season.”

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Why Steve Carell Required a Cold Set on The Office

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CinemaCon
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CinemaCon

Many people know from personal experience how frustrating it can be to disagree on the ideal office temperature. Some people tend to run warm, while others keep a handy stash of blankets and scarves at their desks to keep the goosebumps at bay. If you're in the latter category, you'd probably have a tough time as an actor or crew member on the set of The Office. Though it would be a cool opportunity to see the Dunder Mifflin team in action, you'd have to work on a set that was consistently kept at 64°F.

As Insider reports, Steve Carell, who played Michael Scott, insisted the set remain at such a chilly temperature because of his very active sweat glands. As silly as it might sound, it's not a myth. Rainn Wilson, who played Dwight Schrute, revealed this behind-the-scenes secret in his 2015 book, The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy.

Insider notes that Carell's requirement was not always appreciated by his castmates, who apparently suffered through the crisp temperatures until they finally got space heaters. Though the set's frequent frigid feel was rough, it probably saved the crew from having to re-shoot scenes spoiled by sweat stains.

[h/t Insider]