A leading voice in the landscape of contemporary British cinema, director Edgar Wright is a long-time admirer of classic horror, having used his encyclopedic knowledge of the genre throughout his working filmography. From his national feature debut Shaun of the Dead, a project that elicits concepts from George Romero’s trilogy of the dead, through to his upcoming film Last Night in Soho, Wright has embraced all aspects of horror including the genre’s graphic detail and pulpy sense of humour.
As the director himself once wrote: “I’ve always been fascinated by horror films and genre films. And horror films harboured a fascination for me and always have been something I’ve wanted to watch and wanted to make. Equally, I’m very fascinated by comedy”. This fascination has followed the director from project to project, with each of his films either featuring sudden moments of violence, or at least references to the wider world of horror. Such allowed Edgar Wright to collaborate with fellow film aficionado Quentin Tarantino, where Wright would create the horror short film Don’t for Tarantino’s Grindhouse project.
The two directors also recently collaborated on a mammoth three-hour podcast for Empire magazine in which they discussed, among other things, their picks for the greatest ever horror films. Wright, who has also recently released a list of his 1000 favourite films, noted Harry Kümel’s 1971 Daughters of Darkness as one of his very dearest horror films, claiming that the Belgian film is one that not nearly enough people have seen. The film follows a newlywed couple who encounter a beautiful countess while passing through a holiday resort, only to begin experiencing mysterious murders all around the town they’re staying in. Sensual and fleshy, Kümel’s film utilised the lesbian vampire trend of the 1970s to great effect.
Peter Strickland’s 2012 film Berberian Sound Studio is another of Edgar Wright’s favourites, starring Toby Jones as a sound engineer working for an Italian horror studio who starts to become haunted by the dreadful sounds he himself is creating. Featuring Strickland’s signature eccentric style, Berberian Sound Studio mounts significant dread throughout its short runtime and is surely loved by Wright for its sharp sense of humour.
The director’s love for horror certainly spans the whole globe, with The Fourth Man, Blood and Black Lace, and Wild Zero, each on the director’s list of favourites, originating from a country outside the mainstream film industry. The same can be said of the French horror film Diabolique, the sixth recommendation from Edgar Wright, following the wife and mistress of a school principal who believe they have the perfect method to murder him. As much a crime thriller as it is horror, director H.G. Clouzot gradually stokes the film’s tension, ramping up feelings of discomfort until the shocking climax.
As well as global influences, it is clear that the director draws inspiration from the classic horror of Great Britain, from early gothic horror to the science fiction terrors of the 1970s. Such films include 1972s The Asphyx, a sci-fi horror about a man who “bottles up” the Spirit of the Dead, as well as 1945s Dead of Night, a gothic anthology film in which ghosts at a country manor take turns telling ghost stories. The latter even became one of the favourites of Martin Scorsese, describing the joyous film as a “playful portmanteau”.
Check out the full list of Edgar Wright’s favourite films, below.
Edgar Wright‘s 10 favourite horror films:
- Daughters of Darkness (Harry Kümel, 1971)
- Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland, 2012)
- The Fourth Man (Paul Verhoeven, 1983)
- Blood and Black Lace (Mario Bava, 1964)
- Wild Zero (Tetsuro Takeuchi, 1999)
- Diabolique (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955)
- The Asphyx (Peter Newbrook, 1972)
- Dead of Night (Basil Dearden, Alberto Cavalcanti, Robert Hamer, Charles Crichton, 1945)
- Braindead (Peter Jackson, 1992)
- Martin (George A. Romero, 1977)
When it comes to zombies, Edgar Wright is one of the modern experts, having made Shaun of the Dead, one of contemporary horror’s finest genre mashups that well places comedy icons Simon Pegg and Nick Frost alongside each other. It explains why Wright has plenty of zombie flicks on his list too, including Peter Jackson’s pulpy classic Braindead, and the 1977 film, Martin. The former, a blood-rich exercise in gore and pure fun, was an undoubted influence on Wright’s Shaun of the Dead which too likes to delight in its own fleshy violence.
The final film on Edgar Wright’s list of recommendations, 1977s Martin, is George Romero’s forgotten classic following a young man who believes he is a vampire so goes to a small Pennsylvania town to feed his cravings. Both a friend and fan of the late George A. Romero, the legendary horror director had a profound influence on Edgar Wright, who would take a cameo role in Romero’s Land of the Dead with Simon Pegg in 2005. Though where Martin is different is in the fact that he may not actually be a blood-sucking villain after all, perhaps he’s merely a psychologically broken character. The horror and psychological turmoil that radiates from the film can be seen sprinkled throughout Wright’s career, from Shaun of the Dead, all the way to his upcoming Last Night in Soho.