When it comes to modern day masters of horror, Scott Derrickson is a name that often gets overlooked among others like James Wan, Jordan Peele, or Ari Aster. But his incredibly solid body of horror work goes back two decades, and his most recent release, The Black Phone is further evidence of the genius of his craft. So we wanted to give Derrickson his due, and take a look at his entire career by ranking all of his movies!
7. Hellraiser: Inferno (2000)
Many fans of Derrickon’s work have no idea that he even directed a Hellraiser movie. Not only did he do so, but it was his feature film directorial debut. Hellraiser: Inferno was the first of the franchise to be released direct to video, and started a trend of incredibly subpar sequels that were pale imitations of the series’ origins.
All that said, Hellraiser: Inferno is far from the worst Hellraiser and it’s not even that bad a movie. In fact, parts of it are actually pretty decent. The issue was that Scott Derrickson wrote a script for a gritty crime thriller about a detective hunting for this mysterious criminal everyone calls “the Engineer”.
But while his script was being optioned, the studio decided to randomly shoehorn Pinhead into the script so that it could be a Hellraiser sequel (another trend that was common among most of the later sequels). The result is a movie that should have just been that crime thriller but it’s mutilated into a bad Hellraiser movie, through no fault of Derrickson.
6. The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
Following the success of Exorcism of Emily Rose, Scott Derrickson was tasked with remaking an iconic sci-fi classic from the 1950s. The film itself isn’t terrible, it has a great performance from Keanu Reeves that’s simultaneously aloof and wise beyond his years.
The script itself is decent and honestly, it suffers from two things: being constantly compared to its iconic original and the studio wanting it to be too much like Independence Day since it was such a success 12 years earlier.
The end result is a movie that Derrickson lends his style to and does the best he can with, but you can tell he’s working with studio constraints, and their “goal” was to create the most generic, forgettable Independence Day knockoff they could.
5. Deliver Us From Evil (2014)
Based on Sgt. Ralph Sarchie’s own paranormal memoirs “Beware the Night”, Deliver Us From Evil came right in the midst of the paranormal/demonic thriller resurgence of the 2010s. Along with films like Insidious, Derrickson’s own Sinister, and The Conjuring, this movie delivers on the genuinely creepy demonic horror, all while blending it with a gritty crime thriller.
The only thing that holds it back is it does get a little over the top at times, and not necessarily in a good way. Derrickson’s other horror films make great use of mood and atmosphere to create tension and dread. And while this one does that too, it relies a bit too much on over the top effects to achieve that goal. Still a great watch for any horror fan though!
4. Doctor Strange (2016)
At this point, Scott Derrickson had massive success in the horror genre and was recruited by Marvel to introduce audiences to the fantastical, mind-bending world of Doctor Stephen Strange and the Sorcerer Supreme.
Granted, it follows the cookie-cutter MCU origin story plotline, but Derrickson is really allowed to shine with his world-building and introduction of magic into the MCU. But in the process, we get an amazing visual style and a glimpse into a darker, terrifying world (where Derrickson’s horror roots come in handy).
He was definitely the best person to introduce this character and create this world. In an increasingly homogenized cinematic universe, Doctor Strange felt like a breath of fresh air in how different it was tonally and visually from other MCU films.
Unfortunately, “creative differences” caused him to depart its sequel, but ultimately horror fans are better off with him returning to horror, especially after seeing The Black Phone.
3. The Black Phone (2022)
Based on the Joe Hill short story, The Black Phone’s premise is about as bleak as it gets. In the last 1970’s a young boy is abducted and held captive in a basement by a deranged sadist, and he speaks to the previous children who met terrible fates via the titular black phone.
But at its core, this movie blends Derrickson’s knack for disturbing supernatural terror with a great deal of heart and genuine characters. The result is a movie that goes to very dark places to frighten us, but also works to inspire us. Check out our full review here.
2. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
There is no denying that The Exorcist reigns supreme when it comes to exorcism movies and for decades countless others have tried. But the only one that ever came close was this one. Based on the chilling real life tragic story of a young German woman in the 1970’s, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is one part exorcism horror and one part courtroom drama.
Like all of his other films, it’s very character and mood driven as the very act of demonic possession is scrutinized by the legal system and the defense has to ask the jury to believe in the supernatural. All the while, via flashback, we got an absolutely horrifying story of how Emily Rose came to be possessed in the first place.
Unlike many other exorcism movies that went way over the top with the exorcism scene, this one is more subtle and creepy and it’s all the more effective. Plus there’s a fascinating philosophical debate at its core between skepticism and faith, made all the more intentional by the fact that it was co-written by an atheist (Derrickson) and a Christian (screenwriter Paul Harris Boardman).
1. Sinister (2012)
Not only was Sinister “scientifically” proven to be one of the scariest movies ever made, it’s also Scott Derrickson’s masterpiece. Shot for a meager $3 million production budget, its home movie aesthetic is what makes it absolutely terrifying. The different murder scenes make us feel like we’re actually watching snuff films, all while a fascinating supernatural mystery unravels.
Everything here is on point, the practical stunts/effects, the performances by Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone, and even Fred Thompson, as well as a musical score that seeks to haunt your dreams.
And it achieves the rare feat of actually pulling off effective jump scares that feel earned. It also subverts the trope about the family never leaving the haunted house, because they do wind up leaving, only to find it was a grave mistake…
It’s the type of movie that sticks with you long after you’ve seen it, and most consider it to be one of the best horror films of the entire 2010’s decade!
Which ones are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!