(Posted: 8 October 2014)

Every decade is hailed as the best decade for film by someone out there. But certain decades get more love: '60s, '70s and '80s are especially hailed in horror. For good reason, they did spawn some of the most amazing horror movies ever made. But one decade that gets a lot of shit is the '90s. When people think of the '90s, they think of "Scream" and everything that got inspired by it. People think of filmmakers being in a limbo between the fun '80s and the self-aware late-'90s. A lot from the decade is indeed junk. Frankly though, the decade isn't that bad once you look just beyond that, and we think people need to be reminded of that. It seems like an elitist thing to disregard the '90s, proving that you know where real horror came from, but let's put all of that aside. To prepare for Halloween, we decided to put together a list of 20 of our favorites from the decade.

We've tried not to use any titles form our previous Halloween lists (or the Arthouse lists), but one or two might have slipped by because they really shouldn't be missed.

So while you go through your annual list of movies to watch for Halloween, consider some from the bastard of all decades: the '90s.

Director: Brian Yuzna

Okay, this was just released in 1990, but made in 1989 - I'll let it slip, since that's probably the case with many 1990 titles. What was that? What you think? Oh, son, you have no authority here! Anyway... like its inspiration, "Bride of Frankenstein", "Bride of Re-Animator" is one of the more solid horror sequels out there. The original is perhaps one of our favorites of the genre - it's a creative, gore-soaked, fun and perfectly casted zombie movie. What the sequel does, is bring all of that on board, but adding a whole bunch of fun effects and zombie creatures stitched together under the supervision of the lovely, demented Dr. West (thankfully again played by Jeffrey Combs).


Director: William Peter Blatty

Hard to say which carries a worst stigma; sequels or '90s horror. "The Exorcist III" defies both beliefs and is one of the best pure horror movies to come out of the decade. It's a title you see mentioned regularly on favorite lists (and confusingly labeled as being underrated even though it is immensely popular) because it is about on par with the original "The Exorcist". A great mix of supernatural horror and crime thriller genres that features an astonishingly creepy performance from Brad Dourif. Even though many consider "The Exorcist III" a bastard version of what was suppose to be Blatty's original film, "Legion", it still stands as an exceptional horror movie.


Director: Frank Henenlotter

For a lot of folks, "Basket Case" is the defining Frank Henenlotter movie but he was able to show how much enjoyment could be had with super-crack and exploding prostitutes in "Frankenhooker". It could be debatable as to whether or not "Frankenhooker" qualifies as horror, but man-oh-man, does it show that movies in the '90s were just as crazy as they were in the '80s. Not much in the way of blood but Henenlotter makes it rain body parts and gross-out creatures in this absurd take on "Frankenstein". The movie would also have the best use of a lawnmower until Peter Jackson's "Braindead" would take the crown two years later.


Director: Dirk Campbell

Unlike the majority of movies with a wacky out-there title, "I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle" delivers all the weirdness, the enjoyment, the cult comedy required. But it also works as a horror movie, as... special as it is. The main reason that all of this works is because the movie knows how absurd it is, but it doesn't really acknowledge it. I mean, except for the talking poop. Let's ignore that for the purpose of my previous statement, shall we? "I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle" is over-the-top in a way that modern indie movies are completely unable to handle without feeling like an attempt to go viral. Neil Morrissey (known either from "Men Behaving Badly" or "Bob the Builder") also kicks some ass in the lead.


TREMORS (1990)
Director: Ron Underwood

1990 sure did bring a lot of good movies. Is it because it was still inspired by the energy of the '80s? It's possible. Are we cheating for including 1990 titles? Screw you! "Tremors" manages to bring out the best of the monster genre which has been present since the very beginning of oversized monsters in cinema (and maybe especially inspired by "Jaws"), while spicing it up with the cheerful attitude of the past decade. With wonderful performances by Fred Ward, Kevin Bacon and Michael Gross as they escape - or hunt - the graboids, this movie is just as fun 24 years later. It also serves as another reminder of how much better practical effects were (as if we needed to be reminded?). The graboids are excellent creations.


Director: Peter Jackson

While the '90s is lambasted for producing terrible genre films, anytime someone talks about their favorite zombie movies or their favorite splatter flicks, Peter Jackson's "Braindead" is always mentioned. It's largely due to the fact that "Braindead" is quite possibly one of the most out of control zombie films to be made. Hilarious, disgusting and dripping with gore, "Braindead" goes completely off the rails -- zombie babies, zombie sex, zombie organs, giant mutant zombies, etc. The list goes on! Jackson pushes the sub-genre in a direction very few have all the while still keeping the movie entertaining and enjoyable, in a non-ironic way.


Director: Trey Parker

Honestly, I'm not sure if Film Bizarro would even exist if it weren't for "Cannibal! the Musical". The horror might be minimal but the laughs and entertainment provided by Trey Parker and Co. is endless. It's not the most well made movie (those teepees…) but the comedy is never defined by the film being so-bad-it's-good, but rather by the fact it is genuinely funny. It's an outlandish movie that surprises you with moments of gore one minute, and then has you singing -- and possibly dancing -- along with it the next. People can have their musicals with Tim Curry in drag. Personally, I'll take mine that have miners cannibalizing each other when they get lost in the mountains. Shpadoinkle!


Director: Cristophe Gans, Shusuke Kaneko, Brian Yuzna

If "Creepshow" is the quintessential anthology horror movie of the '80s then "Necronomicon" carried the proverbial torch in the '90s. The movie may have been plagued with production problems but the end result is still a fun collection of Lovecraft stories with incredible creature designs and special effects on display. Perhaps the movie has a bit more camp than scares but it's one of those entertaining horror movies to turn on because it features all the elements of the genre that make it enjoyable.


Director: John Flynn

I'm not sure what the general attitude is towards "Brainscan", but it's a movie I feel isn't mentioned enough. It took something which is still relevant today (or even MORE relevant today?): the idea of video games being too realistic, too violent and how it impacts people. "Brainscan" was essentially a somewhat early nerd-tribute horror: it's about a techno-curious, video game playing horror fanatic getting the thrill of his life out of a video game. He's thrown into a video game where a character called Trickster guides him to perform horrible murders. What really sets this apart from being more than a statement on video games, is how unique and thrillingly fun it is to watch. There might be movies treating the same subject, but this one stands out for many reasons.


Director: Michele Soavi

For the '90s, Tom Savini updated the Romero zombie movie with his remake of "Night of the Living Dead", and Peter Jackson made the ultra-gory and bat-shit insane "Braindead". There was a third noteworthy zombie movie to come in '90s and that was Michele Soavi's "Dellamorte Dellamore". We've talked about this movie before with the original 99 Arthouse List, and we're mentioning it again because Soavi's film helped to redefine what a zombie movie could be. Often "Dellamorte Dellamore" receives little acknowledgement in the sub-genre likely due to the fact that the movie focuses more on a gothic atmosphere with existential and metaphysical themes, rather than the undead. With hints of comedy, eroticism and a surreal visual presence, "Dellamorte Dellamore" is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and unique zombie films made to date.


EVIL ED (1995)
Director: Anders Jacobsson

Sweden isn't spoiled with great horror cinema and never have been. "Evil Ed" is one of few Swedish movies to really jump on the splatter festivities of the '80s and around Peter Jackson's heyday, and actually come out with a worthwhile effort. The story of a lonely, quiet film editor who is forced to cut a series of splatter movies in a remote cabin - and goes insane in the process - brings more entertainment than one would expect. It's filled with references, but it also brings out a ton of catchphrases and iconic moments of its own. Let's not forget that the movie is actually of decent quality as well, and not just a homemade indie going too far with the blood just because they can. All of this helps in making this Sweden's own little "The Evil Dead 2" or "Braindead".


Director: Stuart Gordon

Even though "Re-Animator" and "From Beyond" are now considered staples of '80s horror, Stuart Gordon's "Castle Freak" feels almost like the unloved middle child. Perhaps being part of the Full Moon catalog pushes people away, but "Castle Freak" successfully brings all of Gordon's trademarks into the '90s in this Lovecraft adaptation. With an even mix of horror and sleaze, "Castle Freak" gives you everything you could want in a creature-feature: great location, atmosphere, gore and fun monster makeup.


Director: Alex de la Inglesia

Spain has been regularly producing horror movies for sometime but I think Alex de la Iglesia's "El dia de la Bestia" really help put a spotlight on the country's horror output. It certainly made Iglesia a familiar name for horror fans, at the very least. "El dia de la Bestia" is a hilarious horror movie that is essentially the Three Stooges vs. Satan; it skirts between horror and comedy effortlessly. The movie might be slowly fading away from people's memories but that doesn't change that it was one of the top dark-comedies of the '90s.


Director: John Carpenter

John Carpenter might be regarded as a maestro of the horror genre because of "Halloween" but films like "In the Mouth of Madness" proves what made him great was his broad style and his understanding of what genuine horror is. "In the Mouth of Madness" has been noted as being one of the best Lovecraft adaptations without actually being an adaptation. And while it's a bit fantastical with the creature element, Carpenter created a creepy, scary and interesting film about paranoia and reality. It's a great film that is just as effective now as it was in '95.


BAD MOON (1996)
Director: Eric Red

If you're looking for a werewolf movie but haven't seen "Bad Moon", then I think you're doing it wrong. "Bad Moon" might not be the best of its kind, but it brings out the most out of its monster. Where some movies try to keep the werewolf away from the screen, and maybe have several subplots, "Bad Moon" is a full-on werewolf movie. The werewolf itself is great to look at, so I don't see any harm in the amount of screentime. It's one of the most wolf-life bipedal werewolves, and without it the movie might not have been even half as appealing. Fact is, the movie is rather thin without its wonderful werewolf, but I don't see that as hurting the movie. It's also important to note that the lead character of the movie is a dog, though I am guessing it was more apparent in the book (as it was named after the dog). Directed by Eric Red, who you might know as the writer of "The Hitcher" and "Near Dark".


Director: Yves Simoneau

We are not fans of "Haute Tension" here at Film Bizarro, which makes this adaption of Dean Koontz's book even more important to us. And don't start a fight with me, boy - there is no doubt that "Haute Tension" stole half the movie from Koontz's book. This adaption is originally a 2-part TV movie/miniseries. It stars a very intense John C. McGinley as the home invading killer, and I'd personally say he does one of his greatest performances here - one scene being truly suspenseful. Yes, the last part of the movie is not even close to as great as how it starts out, and actually falls a bit flat in the end, but "Intensity" is still a movie that doesn't deserve to be missed out on as much as it is. For the sake of John C. McGinley's performance alone, check it out.


THE UGLY (1997)
Director: Scott Reynolds

Upon its release, "The Ugly" seemed to be blacklisted by the horror community because the blood in the movie -- provided by Peter Jackson's company, WETA -- was black. Disregarding the fact that "The Ugly" is an outstanding psychological film that could be considered the offspring of "Silence of the Lambs" and William Lustig's "Maniac". At the time the movie was released we were already being overrun with slashers, but Scott Reynolds offered an intense character piece that bounces between psychological and supernatural horror. It toys with reality for both the character and the viewers, and while it has flaws, it is unquestionably one of the most intelligent horror movies to come out during the tail-end of the '90s.


GEMINI (1999)
Director: Shinya Tsukamoto

We were considering "Hiruko the Goblin" for the list, but even though we enjoy the movie and it's arguably more typical horror and fits the Halloween spirit, "Gemini" is a better movie. And it's all psychological terror in the most effective way, making it one of the horror highlights of Tsukamoto's career. I'm not familiar with author Edogawa Rampo outside of a few film adaptions, but I can attest that Shinya Tsukamoto brought his own unique and mentally piercing self into "Gemini". The horrific opening theme (by Chu Ishikawa) alone successfully gets into my mind in a way that few movies, or directors, can manage. The movie is also wonderfully Japanese, from its visuals to its perceptions, making it extremely intriguing for me as a foreigner.


Director: Antonia Bird

Not a surprising pick at all, "Ravenous" is one of the most (rightfully) beloved '90s movies and cannibal movies that take place outside of the jungle. There's a reason: "Ravenous" is masterfully crafted with how it throws you around between making you laugh, keeping you on the edge of your seat with tension, or simply telling a great story akin to the history of Alferd Packer or the Donner Party. Antonia Bird didn't direct another movie of interest to us before her death about a year ago, but she left us with a great horror movie that should be more important to the decade than "Scream" ever was.


Director: Lloyd Kaufman

There has to be some Troma love on here somewhere, so why not "Terror Firmer"? If movies from the '90s are regarded as being too self-aware then I guess that makes "Terror Firmer" the champion of the decade. It's a movie that openly mocks all of elements that makes Troma films loved, and blends it together with the horror stories that surround the company's productions. The end result is a movie about making movies that only could have come from Lloyd Kaufman: an ultra-bizarre love letter to independent films. "Terror Firmer" would also serve as an introduction to Trent Haaga.



And you said the '90s were bad. Now go to time out, mister!


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