It’s October, and everyone is on a quest to find some highly scary viewing for the Halloween holiday. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be working my way through the decades, highlighting the absolute scariest horror films from each.
The 1990s have a bad rep of being the “off” years of horror, but this is one of my fave decades. While SCREAM ushered in a neo-slasher boom, we were also still seeing some creatures roaming the screens like in MIMIC, THE RELIC, and DEEP RISING. Additionally, indie filmmakers reclaimed stakes in the horror markets, and international films, specifically Japanese horror flicks, were making their way around the globe to a small but growing fan base of US viewers.
JACOB’S LADDER (1990)(Cover photo)
Coming off a decade of franchise slashers and creature features, audiences were pretty unprepared for this trippy, psychological tale of a mailman having nightmarish flashbacks to Vietnam. This was also one of the first major uses of “twitchy characters” which broke my brain at the time.
THE EXORCIST III (1990)
Novelist William Peter Blatty directed this one and was notoriously forced to wedge an exorcism scene into the movie because, after all, it is called THE EXORCIST 3. The exorcism scene was not needed at all. This movie is damn terrifying on its own, definitely boasting one of the greatest jump scares ever.
CANDYMAN may not be riddled with “jumps” like a lot of other scary flicks, but I’m putting it in my top ten for the heavy amounts of dread, fear, and anxiety. Sometimes the terror does not have to leap at you unexpectedly. Sometimes it just exists throughout the entire film.
IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1994)
John Carpenter delved into HP Lovecraft in this disjointed tale about a man who has been hired to hunt down a mysterious horror author whose books supposedly cause insanity.
Kevin Spacey is chilling in this story of a serial killer who selects his victims based on the seven deadly sins.
EVENT HORIZON (1996)
A space ship that was thought destroyed by a black hole suddenly emerges years later, seemingly unscathed. A new ship and crew are dispatched to find out what happened. Though much of EVENT HORIZON is a tad slow-moving, when it hits with terror, it hits hard!
LOST HIGHWAY (1997)
It’s a David Lynch film, so we could argue for days about the plot, symbolism, and meaning. It clearly felt like a larger social commentary on something…surveillance, the video industry, porn, the enjoyment of watching others? Somehow it is all represented in this weird, disjointed tale of a jazz musician accused of murder which is wrapped with a second tale of a mechanic having a dangerous affair. Or maybe they are just all in hell. Regardless, it is one of the most haunting films of the decade.
RINGU (the Japanese original film) was just starting to get passed around in film circles by the end of the decade. I was a college student at the time and remember receiving a well-worn VHS copy that had been passed around campus. This first glimpse into J-horror was insanely scary!
What the hell did we just watch? In a decade that was full of “neo-slashers” and studio pics, this quietly crept in from overseas and pulverized our psyches. The last 20 minutes are unforgettable.
STIR OF ECHOES (1999)
I know a lot of horror fans decry this Kevin Bacon film based on the Richard Matheson novel, but I remember it being one of scarier viewings of the decade. I watched it again a few years ago when the Blu-ray was released, and the film holds up fairly well! Boasting some really well executed scares, this one is worth revisiting.
THE NINTH GATE (1999)
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999)
FUNNY GAMES (1997)