Let me take you back, not too far, but over twenty years now if you can believe it. The 1990s. A controversial decade for horror films that brought us zany slasher sequels, Stephen King made-for-tv miniseries-aplenty, the king of the twist M. Night Shyamalan, and Scream. ..And Scream 2.
You may think that after seeing Jason Voorhees stomping around Manhattan in 1989 that the ’90s couldn’t possibly have anything new and exciting to offer. But today, I’m here to tell you.. you’re wrong. Dead wrong.
Here are 10 Hidden Horror Gems from the weirdest, zaniest, wildcard decade of horror, the 1990s!
10. A Cat in the Brain (1990)
A wild one from gore extraordinaire, Lucio Fulci. A Cat in the Brain takes a meta approach where Fulci actually appears as himself, bearing striking similarities to Wes Craven’s New Nightmare which came out later in the decade. It plays as kind of an odd mix of a Giallo and slasher film, where a serial killer is using deaths from Fulci’s previous films. But – we know who the killer is pretty early on. The mystery comes from Fulci having problems differentiating what is real and what’s not. He thinks that he could be the killer.
9. The Sect (1991)
Michel Soavi directed and co-wrote the script for The Sect with Gianni Romoli and Dario Argento. Soavi was a protégé working under Argento in the 80s before finally branching out on his own. His film, The Sect has a feel of Rosemary’s Baby, but on a grander scale, spanning decades and two continents. The coincidences don’t stop there. The plot centers around a Manson-style murder involving a cult, the events of the film taking place only a couple of years after the Tate-Labianca Murders. There are some supernatural, culty aspects to this film that involve the Anti-Christ, extinct insects, and a killer handkerchief.
8. Popcorn (1991)
Popcorn follows a group of film students putting on a horror movie marathon at an abandoned theater. The films screened within Popcorn pay homage to William Castle, with gimmicks that include shocking audience members, a large mosquito flying over the crowd, and piping in bad smells to enhance the viewing experience. There’s also a cursed film that’s shown while the students are getting the theater ready. Our star, the beautiful Jill Schoelen of the original The Stepfather fame, has nightmares about the man in that film. Horror legend Dee Wallace also co-stars as her mother, harboring a secret about her past. Popcorn is written by Alan Ormsby and directed by Mark Herrier, though Ormsby directed all three films-within-the-film.
7. Innocent Blood (1992)
Innocent Blood is a lesser-known mafia/vampire film from John Landis. That’s correct; you read that right, a mafia and vampire cross-over film. Landis was going down a similar vein as his previous creature-feature An American Werewolf in London, as this film is a horror/comedy surrounding a French vampire named Marie (Anne Parillaud) who hunts criminals in the city of Pittsburgh. This film has a pretty all-star cast of would-be actors from The Sopranos, Sons of Anarchy and horror legends making appearances.
6. Dark Waters (1993)
Dark Waters is a co-production from Russia and the United Kingdom that I’m not sure really got much attention in North America. It takes place on an island monastery that a young woman travels to in order to learn more about her past. I would say that after seeing this, it is like combining Fulci with H.P. Lovecraft and sprinkling a little bit of Argento on top of that. If you are into the perversion of religion, the sins of the flesh and possible some ancient monster that is being held here, then definitely check this film out.
5. The Addiction (1995)
From director Abel Ferrara, The Addiction is shot in black and white and features Lili Taylor as a Kathleen Conklin, a philosophy grad student working on a dissertation who happens to be turned into a vampire by Casanova (Annabella Sciorra). The film looks at being a vampire as an addiction, hence the title of the film, using vampirism to explore drug culture among college kids in the 90s. There is quite the climactic scene that happens when Kathleen comes to make a presentation and even an interesting sequence with Christopher Walken.
4. The Stendhal Syndrome (1996)
There is some contention about what Argento’s last great film is. I’ve seen all, but just a couple of his films and I can say he is truly a great director. The Stendhal Syndrome is actually a real psychosomatic disease that causes the inflicted to experience dizziness and hallucinations when viewing paintings. The inspiration for this film is that Argento actually experienced this firsthand when he was younger. In The Stendhal Syndrome, we follow detective Anna Manni (Asia Argento, Dario’s daughter) as she tries to stop a serial rapist and killer. This film is plagued a bit by some bad CGI, but there are some great effects when Anna deals with the syndrome head on. The killer stalks her in a museum at one point, which really makes for some interesting scenes.
3. Bad Moon (1996)
Uncle Ted (Michael Pare) is cursed to become a werewolf. He kills those around him and is desperate to find a way to break the curse. This brings him to his sister-in-law Janet (Mariel Hemingway) and her son Brett (Mason Gamble). Bad Moon uniquely plays with the werewolf mythos here where a full moon isn’t required for him to transform. Plus the family dog, Thor, defends his family and I can get down with that idea. If you’re a werewolf fan and haven’t seen this, do yourself a favor and check it out.
2. Mimic (1997)
Guillermo del Toro’s Mimic follows an entomologist who creates a genetically superior insect to kill cockroaches that are spreading disease. The genetically created insects were designed to die soon after, but if we’ve learned anything from Jeff Goldblum in Jurrasic Park, “nature finds a way”. The insects have now grown to mimic their greatest predator, mankind. Mimic has a grounded feel of blending sci-fi along with horror. Plus it culminates going in the subway tunnels and finding an abandoned station underground. It also features a younger Josh Brolin and is the screen debut of Norman Reedus.
1. The Ninth Gate (1999)
The Ninth Gate is a Roman Polanski directed film that features Johnny Depp. There’s some contention if this is horror or not, but I definitely feel The Ninth Gate is close enough. Depp is Dean Corso, a rare book dealer who is hunting out the last two copies of a book to summon the devil. The deeper he searches; he becomes part of a conspiracy that may involve the supernatural. There are some great hallucinations that Dean deals with and you don’t know what is a dream, and what’s reality.
What are some hidden horrors from this era that you can recommend? How many of the films from this list have you seen? Let us know on Twitter, in the official NOFS Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fend Club