Thursday, May 28, 2009

Top Ten Horror Movies of the 1990s


These are my picks for the best horror flicks of the 1990s. There is a case to be made that suspense/crime dramas like Silence of the Lambs and Se7en should be considered, but for the purpose of my list, they are not.

10. The Blair Witch Project (1999) - Sometimes dumped on, other times overly lauded with praise, The Blair Witch Project stands as one of the most polarizing movies of the last twenty years. One thing that is irrefutable, however, is how great the hype machine behind it was. In 1999 I was actually able to convince my mother to go see this with me, that's how much it had permeated the mainstream. She didn't enjoy it, but I did. I never bought in to the "true story", but the experience and, yes, gimmick, were actually quite effective.

9. In the Mouth of Madness (1994) - In many ways, this movie feels like it was never fully realized. There's so much potential, and it feels like the best horror movie ever filmed is bubbling just below the surface, clamoring to get out, but it just never quite makes the leap. That's not to say that the film isn't good (and genuinely creepy), it just feels incomplete. That said, there is a lot to like about In the Mouth of Madness. First and foremost the story is a mindfuck that is an intricately woven web just waiting for an unsuspecting viewer to fall in. And ol' Johnny Carpenter is no slouch behind the wheel of a film, either.

8. Braindead (1992) - Known most commonly as Dead Alive in America, this is one of Peter Jackson's (Lord of the Rings) early efforts that comes all the way from New Zealand. An early zom/com (or zombedy), Braindead took a lot of growing on me. It's always been a big hit with the cult crowd, it just didn't hold my attention until I re-watched it most recently. Sometimes labelled as the "goriest film ever made", Braindead is pretty much a must-own for any genre fan, boasting such draws as a zombie baby and a lawnmower-zombie-massacre.

7. Cronos (1993) - This thrilling little Mexican film (directed by Guillermo Del Toro) is a wonderful piece of fantasy that is a great forerunner to Del Toro's later efforts like Pan's Labyrinth. A different take on the vampire film, Cronos is the story of an aging antique dealer that comes upon an anqique mechanical scaraab that has a secret. Better than, say, Interview with the Vampire, Cronos lends much needed creedence to the Mexican horror film here. The film is really dark and moody, and the effects (thanks to Del Torro) are magnificent!

6. Dust Devil (1992) - This strange, and brillaint, little South African films stars Robert John Burke (Simple Men) and is directed by Richard Stanley (Hardware). The tagline for the film is, "He's not a serial killer. He's much worse." and that's apt, probably enough of a description to entice you in. It's a very dark story, a supernatural tale of evil that you don't want to miss. The best thing about the film is the cinematography. Filmed in South Africa, the cinematography of Dust Devil is on par with some of the best American westerns of the sixties.

5. Scream (1996) - In one deft, brilliant move Wes Craven takes the modern horror tale, which he helped weave, and turns it on its head. One of the first, and the most notable, instances of post-modern horror in the mainstream. More have been made since, Behind the Mask comes to mind, but none better than the original Scream. The story is a retread, purposefully, up until the final reel where we find out that there's a fairly big twist. For better or worse, this is the film that really kickstarted Dimension, started a whole new slew of bad slashers, and birthed the other two films in the franchise.

4. The Sixth Sense (1999) - M. Night who? Another surprise hit in 1999, the Sixth Sense was everywhere. From the catchphrase ("I see dead people") to people wanting to blow the surprise ending, you couldn't get away from this film if you wanted to. Luckily, I didn't want to. I was able to see this one in the theater as well, and the experience was quite rewarding. I won't say what the ending entails, on the very off chance that you still don't know, but it did blow me away the first time I watched it. Luckily, the film is well built enough, and utilizes a very creepy atmosphere and great turns by that precocious little kid and Bruce Willis to make it rewatchable, even with a spoiled ending.

3. Army of Darkness (1993) - This sequel to Evil Dead II finds the completely inept Ash once again fending off deadites...only the this time on a much grander scale. Taking the Evil Dead formula and blowing it up into epic proportions, Army of Darkness succeeds as a formidable successor to the second film, but is still unable to capture the same charm that the second film had. Bruce Campbell is a wonderfully hokey leading man that I wish had gotten more play in the early to mid nineties, and the set pieces are pretty magnificently constructed. Throw in Danny Elfman's score, and we've got a winner.

2. Jacob's Ladder (1990) - More psychological in nature than most of the other films on this list, Jacob's Ladder is the tale of a Vietnam veteran who begins to see ghosts and is attacked by horned demons. Extremely visceral, the tale is so engaging and the final act so engrossing that you will absolutely have to finish the film once you start it. The film features Tim Robbins, Danny Aielo, Ving Rhames, and is directed, brilliantly, by Adrian Lynne (it fits snugly in between all of his sexual thrillers/dramas). I'm not sure why Jacob's Ladder doesn't get more play, but it is a fantastic piece of film making that deserves to be shared.

1. Dellamorte Dellamore (1994) - Horror just got incredibly cerebral. Someone based on the Dylan Dog comic series, Cemetery Man (the film's inept US title) is the story of Francesco Dellamorte and Gnaghi, caretakers of a cemetery with a secret. The film, directed by Michele Soavi, takes the philosophical conondrums that are intrinsic to zombie films and makes them explicit, forcing the viewer to deal with issues of love, and of death. If you don't want to be bothered by all of that, then here's the tagline: "Zombies, guns, and sex, oh my!", and the film actually delivers on that promise. If you've never seen it, watch it. You'll be doing yourself a huge favor.


Anonymous said...


The Warfreak said...

Thanks, man. Yeah, In the Mouth of Madness is oft overlooked, but definitely top 5 Carpenter (which is a tough list to crack!).

B-Movie Becky said...

Great list. Candyman might be the only thing I could think of that's not on there, but it's kind of overrated if you ask me.

I had never heard of Dust Devil and I'm really excited to check it out. Thanks.

And I'm so glad you had Jacob's Ladder on there! I LOVE that movie. And no one has scene it!

The Warfreak said...

Yeah, definitely watch Dust Devil. It's awesome. I thought about Candyman, but I couldn't find a place for would be number eleven though, fo' sho'.

Anonymous said...

As much as I love horror, I'm ashamed to say that I haven't seen or heard of a few of these, but I agree with most. Jacobs Ladder was awesome, and as far as Braindead, it wasn't bad I just didn't quite get into it. Plan on re-watching it soon though. (TRYING to give it a 2nd chance)

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