Posted October 21, 2022

Meet Temple’s alumni horror directors

Whether it’s Stranger Things, Black Mirror or It, Owls are everywhere in the horror media production industry.

Image of an owl skeleton looking at a screen.
Photography By: 
Joseph V. Labolito

Philadelphia has close ties to some notably spooky films and TV shows, so it should come as no surprise that Temple has produced its share of horror film and TV directors. From directing reboots of horror classics to introducing their own bone-chilling creations, these alumni are making an impact behind the camera in the horror industry.

Monica Suriyage, TFM ’14

Monica Suriyage has quickly made a name for herself as the newest addition to Temple’s roster of alumni horror directors. She received praise for her debut short film, Black In Red Out, which led to her being featured in the documentary Horror Noire alongside renowned horror director Jordan Peele. Her latest horror short, La Ciguapa Siempre, premiered at the 2021 Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival and was included in the 2022 Philadelphia Latino Film Festival. The short film earned a 2023 Oscar award consideration after winning Best Narrative Short at the 2021 Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival. 

Dan Trachtenberg, TFM ’03

Dan Trachtenberg burst onto the horror scene and made his directorial debut with 10 Cloverfield Lane in 2016. The film was a success with critics and at the box office, and Trachtenberg earned a Directors Guild of America Award nomination for Outstanding Directing–First-time Feature Film for his directorial work. He also directed the 2016 Black Mirror episode “Playtest,” about a man testing out a futuristic, augmented reality video game. Most recently, he directed and co-wrote Prey, the fifth installment in the Predator series, which was released in July of 2022. 

Gary Dauberman, TFM ’02

Fans of the Conjuring horror film series will be familiar with Gary Dauberman’s work. The series currently includes eight films, beginning with 2013’s The Conjuring. Dauberman made his directorial debut with 2019’s Annabelle Comes Home, the seventh film in the series, and he served as a writer for Annabelle, Annabelle Creation and The Nun—the series’ second, fourth and fifth films, respectively. He also co-wrote the screenplay for It (2017), based on the iconic Stephen King novel of the same name, and was the sole screenwriter for the sequel, It Chapter Two (2019). 

Benjamin Semanoff, TFM ’01

Benjamin Semanoff has worked in a variety of genres in the TV and film industry as both a camera operator and a director. He recently served as a camera operator for the Netflix hit Stranger Things, manning the camera for season four’s premiere and finale episodes. He has also worked the camera for TV shows like Ozark and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, as well as the film Creed. He’s also directed episodes of Ozark including season three’s “Su Casa Es Mi Casa,” for which he received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series.