Written by: Tim Meyer
The 90s gave us some memorable horror films. The task of compiling a comprehensive list of the best was nearly impossible, but I tried my hardest. There are some givens here, but I’ve included some you might find obscure, and probably a few that don’t belong, but my personal viewing experiences couldn’t allow me to exclude them. You’ll probably have your own inclusions and I encourage you to list them in the comments below. Enjoy…
10. INFESTED (AKA TICKS) (1993) – I saw this movie close to twenty years ago and for some reason it stuck with me. Being one of the earliest R-rated horror movies I rented unbeknownst to my mother probably has something to do with it. From what I recall, the movie follows a group of teenagers on some sort of wilderness retreat, when they are attacked by genetically-altered super ticks. I remember it being campy, ridiculous, and super fun. And extremely gory. Definitely don’t recommend it to your eight-year old. Good job, Mom.
09. DEAD ALIVE (AKA BRAINDEAD) (1992) – If you haven’t seen Peter Jackson’s over-the-top gore fest, then get on it already! Seriously, I’ve seen it over a dozen times and I still laugh, cringe, become nauseated, and laugh some more during every sitting. Obviously this film wasn’t made to be taken seriously, but its outlandish awesomeness needs to be celebrated. The ultra-low budget lends to its charm, and I can’t think of a single movie that has spilled more buckets of fake blood. I haven’t researched it, but I’m willing to wager this holds the record.
08. EVENT HORIZON (1997) – I can’t say enough good things about this movie. It’s got everything you could ask from a science fiction/horror film; great cast, gripping plot, tight visuals, and scenes so disturbing that the twelve year old me couldn’t sleep for a week. Director Paul W.S. Anderson said Event Horizon was The Shining set in space, and nothing sums it up better. Psychological horror—when done right—is the best kind of horror. And few films in the nineties accomplished this task better.
07. IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS – Sam Neil is the most underrated actor of our time. Well maybe not, but he’s pretty awesome. I know he’s not in a ton of mainstream stuff, but the man brings it every time. Between the aforementioned Event Horizon, Jurassic Park, and Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness, he’s delivered some unforgettable performances. I know this is saying a lot, but Madness is my favorite Carpenter film, hands down. The story is engaging, the acting is superb, and that creepy old man/creature riding his bicycle down the dark street still gives me nightmares. A true classic.
06. BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) – Okay, I know what you’re thinking. The Blair Witch Project? Really? Well, yes really. I’ll start by mentioning I hated this movie the first time I saw it. Hated it! I couldn’t get behind the shaky camera style of filmmaking known as found footage, the lack of plot, the terrible acting, and the fact that NOTHING HAPPENS UNTIL THE LAST FIVE MINUTES! But just like people, opinions change over time. I’ve caught the film a few times since that initial viewing and it has grown on me quite a lot. It’s also fair to mention that this movie forever changed the horror genre. Found footage movies were around, but rarities. Without this film, we wouldn’t have half the amount of these films invading our theaters (what seems like) every weekend. Whether that’s good or bad, you decide.
05. ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992) – Of course Army of Darkness makes the top 10 horror films of the 90s. Was there any doubt? Conversely, finding its proper rank was a tough task. More of a comedy than all-out horror, Army of Darkness is an archetypal example of blending the two genres together. Combine all that with cheeky Bruce Campbell one-liners, and you’ve got yourself a helluva good time! Quick note: viewed best with lots of friends and lots of beer.
04. FROM DUSK TIL DAWN (1996) – Robert Rodriguez has made some great films over the years, but I’ll always regard From Dusk Til Dawn as his best horror venture. The all-star cast helps, but the story is what makes this movie work. And the makeup effects, which at the age of eleven blew my mind and my mother’s budget on underwear, were unbelievable. Every actor is brilliant (Tom Savini is a personal favorite) and each character is frighteningly realistic, even when portrayed ridiculously. It’s funny, frightening, and packed with bloody-good action. Definitely one of my all-time favorite vampire movies.
03. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999) – Here’s a movie that loses its luster after multiple sittings, but who can forget that initial viewing? Those who had the ending ruined for you, I’m sorry. I really am. And those of you claiming you saw it coming the whole way, well, you can make like a tree and get the hell out of here (okay, that was mean, you can stay). I remember seeing this in theaters and that moment I realized what M. Night Shyamalan had done to me was one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had at the box office. I think it changed me in some way, made me look at filmmaking and storytelling differently. This film deserves a spot on this list based on its impact on pop culture alone.
02. JACOB’S LADDER (1990) – I’m surprised when horror folk tell me they haven’t seen Jacob’s Ladder. Talk about an emotional roller-coaster. I think this movie gave me psychological problems after viewing it. Tim Robbins plays a Vietnam Vet who’s slowly losing his grip on reality. Between awful flashbacks of his old marriage, war, the death of his son, and the visions of strange creatures stalking the shadows behind him, Tim’s character has one tough time keeping it together. Throw in the “what they did to us back in ‘Nam” plot-line, and you’ve got the makings of a classic thriller/horror. Interesting fact: It’s been said that Jacob’s Ladder somewhat inspired the survival-horror video game Silent Hill. Whoa.
01. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) – While technically not a horror film in the way 10 through 2 are considered, this movie did frighten audiences, raising the hairs on their arms and keeping them on the edge of their seat. This movie is downright intense and we have a wonderful cast and crew to thank for that. This movie nabbed five Oscars in the five most popular categories (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Writing Based on Previously Published Material). Plausible horror truly frightens me. Although the other films on this list are great, most of them rely on the audience’s ability to suspend their belief. Not in Silence of the Lambs. This movie makes you think that maybe Hannibal Lecter is your grade school teacher, or Jame Gumb is your next door neighbor. It doesn’t ask anything of the audience other than to strap in and take the ride. And what a ride it was. Not only the best horror film of the 90s, but one of the best films of the 90s.
HONORABLE MENTIONS – The Exorcist III (guilty pleasure), Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Alien 3, Candyman, Interview with the Vampire, Scream, Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings, Wishmaster, and Misery.
Tim Meyer is the author of multiple novels. You can visit his Amazon page right here.