Now, I was born in 1986 and I didn’t see my first horror film until 1998 when I was just 12 years old which was, as I’ve stated before, I Know What You Did Last Summer. From that point on, I’ve been hooked (get it) and so with my love of the 90’s in full swing, I thought I would compile a Top 13 Must See list for the 90’s.
13 movies. 13…unlucky for some. How does your list rank against mine?
13: Night Of The Living Dead (1990)
We all know what my stance on remakes is, but this one is pretty good. Tony Todd stars alongside Patricia Tallman and Bill Moseley in this Tom Savini remakes that see the unburied dead return to life and seek human victims.
As far as zombie movies go, this film (more so the original from 1968) really takes top honors. Tony Todd’s character Ben says “This is pure hell on Earth,” as the living dead close in on an old abandoned farm house. Tom Savini behind the camera teamed with George A. Romero’s words have succeeded in recreating a classic which is faithful to the original, but still manages to scare and surprise audiences by throwing in a few unsuspecting twists. This film stands on its own merits to the point that sometimes we forget that it’s a remake. One of the 90’s best.
12: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994)
A classic monster from the days of old being revamped and starring Robert De Niro and Helena Bonham Carter, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has often been scorned by critics, but at the same time it holds a special place in horror history.
The director Kenneth Branagh stayed faithful to the novel while still creating his own spin of the classic tale of Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his monster. A little melodramatic in places with acting that’s completely over the top, critics were quick to pan it. But what they didn’t realize is that book itself is melodramatic. It’s a classic gothic novel with a spirit that just won’t die regardless of what form it’s told in. The film is passionately made and scores a place on this list for being a memorable 90’s edition to horror.
11: The Dentist (1996)
Let’s face it, we’re all scared of the dentist at one point in our lives. The sounds of the drills along cause me to bite my nails (and on the odd occasion, my dentist’s hand). This film capitalized on the fear that’s installed and gave us a new villain in Dr. Allen Feinstone (Corbin Bernsen).
It’s an effective horror that manipulates the audience with ease. The universal fear of the dentist also contributes to that effect. Panned by some, The Dentist lands on this list because of its cringe factors. Even Horror Icon, Robert Englund, had to look away from the screen in some parts. And anything that makes him cringe you know has to be stomach-churning. Effective on delivering fear, it’s one film that will make you want to brush the decay from your life as quickly as possible. And don’t just stop at brushing. Use floss and mouthwash too.
10: The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The first of its kind, The Blair Witch Project was a found footage film that depicted the demise of three filmmakers in the wilderness in Maryland while hunting an urban legend known as The Blair Witch.
What set this apart from every other film of its time was the fact that it was found footage and that producers of the film had many audiences convinced that it was actually real footage which upped the scare factor. Many critics panned the film for lack of adequate acting, amateurish photography and editing, but that’s simply because it was a new, original concept. The fact that the film is not polished added to the creepiness of it. Just a warning though to those who haven’t seen it: This film may cause motion sickness.
9: The Faculty (1998)
Let’s face it, we’ve all suspected that our teachers are from another planet at some point. In 1998’s The Faculty, they were. Starring Jordana Brewster, Elijah Wood, Clea DuVall, Laura Harris, Josh Hartnett, Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen, Christopher McDonald, Usher Raymond and Jon Stewart, The Faculty has gone from 90’s flick to cult status.
With references to Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956) The Faculty scared audiences with a tale of invading aliens and plot twists that will keep you guessing as to who and what is behind it all. Two major stand out scenes are on the school bus and at the pool where everything comes to ahead. A cult film by today’s standards, The Faculty shines as one of the 90’s best horror/sci-fi films.
8: The Ugly (1997)
Straight from New Zealand comes a film that is a total mind bend. The Ugly stars Paolo Rotondo as Simon Cartwright who is a confessed serial killer. A female psychologist wants to understand the mind set of him and that when things get messy.
There's been a lot of criticism over this movie, mostly claims that the characters weren't believable enough or that the SFX were bad. To really appreciate this film you have to pull your mind away from what's conventional and try to see what the director is trying to do. Scott Reynolds isn't trying to follow some set 'horror movie' pattern or copy a particular movie genre. In the movie, The Ugly is a monster inside Simon's head, and that's what Reynolds is trying to do - get inside our heads, disturb us and shake us up a bit. And as far as I’m concerned, he did it brilliantly. Underrated? Yes. A must see? Absolutely. If you can find it, I highly recommend adding it to your ever growing horror collection.
7: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Freddy Krueger stopped being scary by about the third film. He became a comic relief and was better known for his one liner wise cracks than his kills. But in 1994, Wes Craven had a nightmare. What would happen if Freddy was able to escape the world of movies and dreams and invade real life?
Teaming up with Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon and Robert Englund, Wes created a new nightmare that sees a demonic force has chosen Freddy Krueger as its portal to the real world. Heather, John, Rob and Wes all play “themselves” in this film, but then have to return to the characters they were in 1984 when Freddy’s threat of breaking free becomes real. New Nightmare is incredibly clever and was just all in all a great idea. It was nice to see Freddy return to the big screen and more so, return as a scary entity. If you haven’t seen it, do yourselves a favor and watch it. After all 1, 2, Freddy’s coming for you...
6: Candyman (1992)
Based on the urban legend of Bloody Mary, Candyman hit cinemas in 1992. Say his name five times into a mirror and if you doubt the tale, he will appear. Played by Tony Todd, Candyman is quite seductive. But don’t let that voice fool you. He has a long sharp hook for a hand and isn’t afraid to use it.
While researching the myth behind Candyman, Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) accidently summons him. Of course, Helen doesn't believe all this stuff, but the people of the area are really afraid. When she ignores the warnings of the people living in the projects and begins her investigation in the places that he is rumored to appear, a series of horrible murders begins. Murders which she is blamed for. Often forgotten, Candyman is a movie that slid under the radar for some time, but still manages to leave a last impression on those who see it. Candyman. Candyman. Candyman. Candyman... Do you dare say it again?
5: Urban Legend (1998)
With a hot cast including Joshua Jackson, Tara Reid, Alicia Witt, Jared Leto and Horror Icon, Robert Englund, Urban Legend is often passed over for being a stand out film of the 90’s. So why has it made this list? Simple. It’s influenced me a lot as a writer. Because of this film, I began researching urban legends and thus created the storyline for my forthcoming book, Tales Of Terror: Urban Legends.
Urban Legend is a fairly entertaining but wholly derivative example of the genre. Directed by Australian Jamie Blanks (Valentine) Urban Legend follows the formula of: the-murderer-at-large-on-a-college-campus” that was quite popular during the original period of slasher movies in the early '80s. This update is more polished, more logical and generally more watchable. The scary moments are quite well filmed and are genuinely nerve-jangling at times. The mystery, though contrived, manages to keep you guessing as the finger of suspicion falls upon virtually every character at some point. Keep an eye out for Brad Dourif in a cameo appearance.
4: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
In the 90’s you couldn’t get any hotter than Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe and Freddie Prinze Jr. So naturally when they teamed up and took on a sadistic Fisherman (Muse Watson), it was going to be a go picture.
I Know, as it’s affectionately called, features a group of teens hitting a man with their car and rather than going to the police, they decide to dump the body. Featuring an epic chase sequence that I’ve spoken in length about in several past articles include Horror Icon Of The Month: Sarah Michelle Gellar and Horror Icon Of The Month: Muse Watson, I Know What You Did Last Summer remains creepy fifteen years on. Maybe that’s because unlike other slasher villains, The Fisherman is hell-bent on revenge. Or maybe it’s because the two that could have physically kicked the crap out of him both were sliced and diced with a large, shiny hook...
3: Child’s Play 2 (1990)
Sorry Jack! Chucky’s Back! Andy Barclay has been placed in a foster home after the tragic events of the first film, since his mother was committed. In an attempt to save their reputation, the manufacturers of Chucky reconstruct the killer doll, to prove to the public that nothing was wrong with it in the first place. In doing so, they also bring the soul of serial killer Charles Lee Ray back to life.
Brad Dourif returns as the voice of Chucky in a sequel that many deem to be scarier than the original. Dolls have always been creepy on some level, but Chucky is in a playing field all on his own. Alex Vincent returned as Andy Barclay and teamed up with Christine Elise who played another foster child, Kyle. By the end it comes down to Andy and Kyle verses Chucky as they’re locked inside The Good Guy Doll factory. This is one doll you don’t want on your kid’s Christmas list.
2: Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Tim Burton teams up with Johnny Depp to bring the classic tale of the Headless Horseman to the big screen in such a way that it stays with you forever. An all-star cast including Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough and Christopher Walken, Sleepy Hollow is without a doubt one of the best films of the 90’s.
Ichabod Crane (Depp) is sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate the decapitations of 3 people with the culprit being the legendary apparition, the Headless Horseman. Combining humour with horror, Depp’s performance is perfection. Christina Ricci plays his love interest and the sets, direction by Burton and the atmosphere of the film in general is just striking. A must see film that brings back life to this classic Washington Irving tale.
1: Scream (1996)
Was there any doubt that this would be number one? Whenever you think of 90’s horror, Scream is the first horror film that everyone thinks about. Cutting edge at the time, Scream paved the way for future slashers and gave us the rules of how to survive the horror genre.
Starring Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Jamie Kennedy and Drew Barrymore, Scream has become a cult film within the horror genre and is often referenced (or mocked) by many other movies. The plot is simple: One year after the death of Sidney Prescott's (Campbell) mother, two students turn up gutted. When a serial killer appears, Sidney begins to suspect whether her mother's death and the two new deaths are related. No one is safe, as the killer begins to pick everyone off one by one. Everyone's a suspect in this case.
With so many great horror films made in the 90’s I couldn’t resist compiling a list of honorable mentions of guilty pleasure films. Do any of these make your list?
Top 10 Honorable Mentions
The Mangler (1995)
The Craft (1996)
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Army Of Darkness (1992)
The Cube (1997)
Disturbing Behavior (1998)