People go to the movies for different reasons. For cineastes, though, the director of a film is often the biggest draw. We’re not necessarily going to see a new Ryan Gosling movie; we’re going to the new Refn flick. And like with all the greats—Malick, Scorsese, Spielberg, Lynch, Nolan, take your pick—the cast might be amazing, and the story might sound great, but it’s the force behind the camera that gets our asses in seats.
But those names, among many, started small. In the horror genre some of the best films of late aren’t the perennial, mid-budget, studio sequels to franchises like The Conjuring, Annabelle, Oujia, or their imitators. Instead, it’s up-and-coming indie directors who have been renewing the imagination and vitality of the horror genre, with small films that turn tropes on their ear in a big way, while having something to say about the world we return to once the lights go up.
The best horror and suspense films, like most genre movies, are a commentary on human nature. They’re open to interpretation and context, both narratively, or contrasted against the political culture of their era. With that in mind, here are five directors who you’ll want to keep your eye on.