In 2002, director Mick Garris invited some director friends to an informal dinner at a restaurant in Sherman Oaks, California. The original ten “masters” attending were John Carpenter, Larry Cohen, Don Coscarelli, Joe Dante, Guillermo Del Toro, Garris, Stuart Gordon, Tobe Hooper, John Landis and Bill Malone. The dinner was an extremely satisfying experience for the directors; a welcome night of camaraderie, humor and mutual admiration of one another's work. Del Toro coined the name of the group in jest when he told a nearby diner celebrating her birthday that the masters of horror wished her a happy birthday.
Subsequently, Garris organized regular dinners with the group, and invited other horror and genre directors to attend including Dario Argento, Eli Roth, David Cronenberg, Tim Sullivan, Rob Zombie, Bryan Singer, William Lustig, Lucky McKee, Ernest Dickerson, Kat O’ Shea, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, James Gunn, Mary Lambert, Tom Holland, Peter Medak, Ti West, Lloyd Kaufman and others.
In 2005, Garris created and produced an original anthology television series of one hour movies, written and directed by many of the "Masters" which was originally broadcast in the U.S. on the Showtime cable network. In several international territories, the films were released theatrically. The series debuted to excellent reviews in the U.S. on October 28, 2005 with the premiere episode "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road", co-written and directed by Don Coscarelli. New episodes premiered every Friday at 10pm EST throughout the series' two seasons. The show followed an anthology series format, with each episode featuring a one-hour film directed by a well-known horror film director. In 2009 Chiller (TV network) began showing the show on their Sunday evening line up of shows and in 2010, Reelz Channel began airing episodes of Masters of Horror edited (despite keeping its TV-MA rating) and with commercials.