Hello again, class and welcome to the next chapter in your quest to quench your thirst for knowledge in all things horror cinema. It’s a funny thing, this genre we all love and cherish. Sometimes it’s a cruel and unforgiving beast and other times it’s still a cruel and unforgiving beast but it’s done with love… cruel and unforgiving love.

But enough of my dalliances. Open your textbooks to the chapter titled: I See Dead People or Tell Me Where You Are, Josh! and prepare yourself for a journey into the jaded, cynical world of 1990s horror movies.

 

What’s Your Favorite Meta-Horror Movie?

Usually, there is a crossover period when the decades meet and what was cool in the outgoing decade is still cool for the first couple of years in the next. This was the case when the death knell tolled for the 1980s and the 1990s were ushered in.

Powerhouse film franchises like Friday the 13th, Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street all had multiple entries throughout the 90s. Other franchises that launched late in the 80s such as Child’s Play, The Stepfather, House, Basket Case, and both The Slumber Party Massacre and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre all continued with entries well into the decennium.

Wes Craven, a driving force in the 80s horror world, would reignite the fizzling horror scene in the mid-90s with a fresh take on an old formula. Scream (1996), while part of the slasher subgenre, created another sub-genre with its self-referential approach thus creating, Meta Horror. For those not savvy to the lingo, Meta Horror are films that are, as mentioned before, self-referential to the genre.

 

 

Other meta-horror films include Candyman (1992) and it’s link between a fictional urban legend and the realistic horror of the racism that birthed its villain. In the Mouth of Madness had a more literal approach, where the protagonist actually jumped from the audience’s real world into a novel created by the madman he was hired to track down. It’s important to note that these examples came before Scream and would be rendered obvious and ironic by the time of Ghostface’s arrival on the silver screen.


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While not a wildly successful and Scream, other notable films in the vein made some noise of their own. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1999), Urban Legend (1998), Disturbing Behaviour (1998), The Curve (1998) and The Faculty (1998) all followed the Scream formula, probably because most of them were written by Scream scribe, Kevin Williamson.

 

Bloodsuckers and People Eaters

In 1991 a film was made that not only terrified audiences and critics alike, it also garnered seven Academy Award Nominations, five wins including Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Picture, five Golden Globe nominations with a Best Actress win, nine BAFTA nominations and two wins for Best Actress and Actor and that’s just to name a few. The Late Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs catapulted horror into that mainstream like it hadn’t been done since 1974’s The Exorcist and suddenly Hollywood was sitting up and taking notice of horror again.

Bloodsuckers made a serious comeback in the 90s and it’s really thanks in part to a few key players. The unlikely pairing of cheerleaders and vampires in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) provided a fun way for audiences to dip their toes into the undead pool of vampire blood while Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) took a more classical approach to the genre. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder and the spectacular Gary Oldman in the title role, the movie scared up great reviews both critically and commercially. Interview With a Vampire (1994) was released in November to high expectations and it did not disappoint. How could it go wrong with a cast that included Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Christian Slater, Antonio Banderas, Thandie Newton, and a young Kirsten Dunst? It was bound to be a hit.

Other notable vamp outings included From Dusk Til Dawn (1996), Innocent Blood (1992), Vampires (1998), A Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), Cronos (1993), Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), and Blade (1998).

 

 

Man vs. Nature…Really Big Nature

The 90s also saw a resurgence in the animal horror genre. Movies like Lake Placid (1999), Anaconda (1997), and Alligator II: The Mutation (1992) all dealt with great big, ticked off reptiles while Strays (1991), Man’s Best Friend (1993), Bats (1999) and Shakma (1990) took on the terrifying torment of murderous mammals.

Giant bugs were a giant thing in the 90s, too. Mosquito (1994) and it’s red-neck cousin, Skeeter (1993) both sucked the life out of audiences while Mimic (1997) made cockroaches more disgusting than they already are. Ticks (1993) gave people way more to worry about than lime disease while the big-ass slugs tunneling around under Perfection, Nevada made folks think twice about evening strolls in Tremors (1990).


HOT AT THE SHOP


 

The Eclectic Decade of Dread

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And as if all of that wasn’t enough, a whole slew of other subgenres had offerings throughout the decade to boot. Supernatural films in 1999 alone gave us The Sixth Sense, Sleepy Hollow, Stir of Echoes,  House on Haunted Hill, The Ninth Gate, and The Haunting. Other etherial flicks include The Prophecy (1995), The Guardian (1990), Lord of Illusions (1995), Sleepwalkers (1992), The Frighteners (1996), Event Horizon (1997), Ghost Ship (1997), Flatliners (1992) and The Devil’s Advocate (1997).

The found-footage trend began to really take shape thanks to films like Ghost Watch (1992), The Last Broadcast (1998) and the one that sparked the avalanche to come, The Blair Witch Project (1999). Sci/fi horror was alive and well throughout the 90s as well with hits like Species (1995), Cube (1997), Hardware (1990), Alien 3 (1992), Body Snatchers (1993), eXistenZ (1999), Sphere (1998) and Virus (1999).

Horror thrillers, well, thrilled audiences throughout the decade with shockers like Fear (1996), Jacob’s Ladder (1990), The Good Son (1993), Se7en (1995), The Bone Collector (1999), Raising Cane (1992), Cape Fear (1991), Misery (1990), Single White Female (1992), and Copycat (1995) proving that thrillers and just as horrifying and the blood, guts, monster and mayhem that any horror film could conjure.

 

In Closing

It’s pretty clear to see that the 90s brought a lot to the horror table in its tenure. It covered the gambit of subgenres, invented a couple of its own and inspired others in the decades beyond leaving a collection of odds and sods, hits and misses and everything in between. There’s no denying that despite the 80s holding the Golden Age of Horror Movies title, the 90s wasn’t going to disappoint… okay, well, there was that remake of The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)… but hey, they can’t all be winners.

Alright, look, I have to bounce. Before you go remember to do your required reading over at the NOFS Twitter, Subreddit and Horror Movie Fiend page on Facebook. I’ll know if you haven’t done and trust me when I say, you don’t want to disappoint me. Things can get ugly, very ugly. Until next time, class, stay creepy!