‘Knives Out’ Director Rian Johnson Has a Very Personal Reason Why He Won’t Make Horror Movies

Thanks to his work on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson has become something of a divisive figure online. Some blame the writer/director for how he steered the Star Wars saga away from what they expected. But if they’d been paying attention, Johnson’s critics would know he has a history of subverting what fans think they’re about to see.

Still, it seems like Johnson knows his limits as well. Of all the different types of projects he might take on in the future, it sounds like the filmmaker isn’t planning on taking on horror movies anytime soon. Here’s why he doesn’t feel the need to add a horror movie to his diverse filmography.

Rian Johnson speaks onstage
Rian Johnson speaks onstage | Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

Rian Johnson has given a unique spin on several different genres

Johnson has only made five movies so far. But yet, each of them takes a specific genre and turns it on its head. Brick is a film noir with a modern, high school-set twist. Looper takes time travel conventions and turns them in on themselves. And even The Last Jedi serves as a deconstruction of what Star Wars is and its relationship to fans.

Most recently, 2019’s Knives Out proved to be a murder mystery like no one has seen. Clearly inspired by the works of Agatha Christie, Johnson applied a structure that shocked and surprised audiences. Rather than retaining the question of who was behind the crime, Johnson’s film continues to challenge that expectation. In fact, it introduces new mysteries throughout.

Knives Out is also a blend of several different genres. Though it’s a mystery overall, the film also has a wry self-awareness to it as well as some genuine thrills. Those few shocking moments, however, appear to be as close as Johnson will get to delivering scares on the big screen.

The very specific reason why he probably won’t go near horror

The filmmaker has a wide-ranging interest in cinema. Yet, Johnson doesn’t see himself making a horror film at any point. The reason, he revealed during a webinar hosted by Film Independent, is he just doesn’t have much personal history with the genre.

“To be honest, it’s a genre that — because my family was really religious when I was growing up — I wasn’t allowed to see a lot of intense stuff,” Johnson said. “It’s not a genre I have a grounding in emotionally.”

While Johnson’s more horror-minded fans might be disappointed by this revelation, it’s admirable he wouldn’t want to make a movie unless he feels a connection to that type of storytelling. Horror is often a very distinctive type of narrative. And Johnson shouldn’t feel compelled to contribute to that world unless he feels inspired to do so.

Rian Johnson still admires and draws inspiration from horror

Johnson might not plan on making a horror movie anytime soon. However, he definitely admires filmmakers who create something wholly unique within the horror space. Even if the genre is “not something that, for whatever reason, has drawn [him],” Johnson is quick to call out horror movies he loves.

Among his favorites are classics like Ridley Scott’s Alien and more recent gems such as Jonathan Glazer’s 2013 release Under the Skin. That latter movie stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien in disguise who lures men to their doom. The film has proven divisive with audiences, thanks to its experimental production style. But Johnson considers it a standout.

While Johnson isn’t going to be making a horror movie, fans can probably count on some suspenseful sequences to work their way into his next film. Right now, the director is developing a Knives Out sequel, which will reunite him with star Daniel Craig as Southern detective Benoit Blanc.