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20 Movies That Prove ’90s Horror Wasn’t So Bad

Candyman movieHorror in the 1990s is often maligned.  Those of a generation who saw their first horror film during this decade will likely disagree.  But many horror fans of the previous generation and beyond have frowned on the '90s with disapproval.  Maybe we all just needed some distance from it before reassessing what those ten years had to offer.  I've been doing a lot of "looking back" at '90s horror lately and I have to say they weren't so bad.    Really.  I think some of us were being a bit too dramatic about the '90s.  Certainly, it was spotty and there was no consistence in quality, but in a genre – like horror – maintaining any level of consistency is a lot to ask for.  Furthermore, no decade has been perfect.

One thing you have to give the '90s is that it tried.  Filmmakers and studios alike flung ideas at the giant dart board of horror during this era in an attempt to hit a bullseye and successfully launch a profitable new horror wave (much like the slasher boom of the '80s, the rise in J-horror remakes in the early '00s or the found footage craze we have today).  So, we saw failed attempts at creating new franchisable boogeymen, creature features, more Stephen King adaptations and a lot of direct-to-VHS fare.  It wasn't until the latter half of the decade that horror really hit big with films like Scream, The Blair Witch Project and The Sixth Sense which turned profits and launched either sequels or imitators.

Ah, but financial success doesn't always mean "quality" and quality – to many – is what '90s horror lacked.  I'm here to perhaps turn that perception around.  I present 20 horror films I consider highlights from the very diverse '90s.

IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER…


  • martianfromars

    Cemetery man was not inspired by Dylan Dog, it comes from the novel with the same title (which is Dellamorte Dellamore in italian), the author created Dylan Dog years later somehow based on the main character of his own novel.

    Also that horror/sci-fi masterpiece was Event Horizon, not Even.

  • Dustin Ω

    Awesome list. A lot of my favs on here, Especially Demon Knight and Frighteners.

  • naturallybornbad

    Great list Ryan. I was expecting to see Urban legends though! Awesome addition from the 90′s

  • Craze38

    Baby Blood!

  • ~Adam~

    Uh, you want to list horror movies that lend credence to the notion that 90′s horror movies weren’t so bad? Well then you might want to remember next time to include The Silence of the Lambs. You know, that multiple Oscar-winning horror movie that pretty much solidified the already impressive careers of Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins.

    Unless of course you’re one those delusional people who, like Hollywood, try and classify it as a drama instead because Horror is one step above porn in their eyes. Well guess what, it is a horror movie so deal with it. If it’s not, then the Exorcist is a religious christian film and not a horror movie too.

    • RTurek

      For every one of you that says “why isn’t THIS on the list?” there’s one of you who say, “it’s not horror!” Well aware of the film’s accolades and, with this list, I wanted to bring to light some choices that were not so “on the nose” as a well-known Academy Award winner. 20 spaces to fill. Some tough love had to be made.

      • ~Adam~

        Well, it doesn’t say 20 “obscure” movies. It says 20 movies that “prove” that 90′s horror movies weren’t so bad and I can’t think of a bigger film to prove that then the one that was considered the horror movie genres crowning jewel at the time. Makes no sense to me to exclude it when you’re in fact trying to convey the notion that there were good horror movies in the 90′s.

        It was just an observation, but hey whatever man it’s your list.

        • RTurek

          Totally get it. Thus is the nature of a list and the nature of authoring one. All about perspective. I’m just glad it got people talking and reflecting on the ’90s.

    • Polite_Werewolf

      You know, I was with you until you started to be an ass.

      • ~Adam~

        Oh come now, I’ve seen your posts on here and you’ve been known to go into ass mode too my polite werewolf :). Besides, I wasn’t really being an ass so much as a passionate 90′s quality horror movie appreciater miffed by the exclusion of arguably the best horror movie of that decade that proved the point he was trying to make.

        • Polite_Werewolf

          I’m “known” to go into ass mode?

          • http://www.theartofclarke.com/ Patrick S Clarke

            I’ve never seen Polite_Werewolf in ass mode. Unless I missed him when the moon is full.

          • Polite_Werewolf

            It’s my human side you have to worry about. He’s an ass.

  • Jonathan Hughes

    Fantastic List, Especially glad that Demon Knight made the list as it is arguably the most underrated horror of the 90′s

  • Oswald did not act alone

    The Sixth Sense should also be on this list. I know Ryan doesn’t like it as much as STIR OF ECHOES, but it’s a great, scary movie.

    MISERY should have also made the list.

    • Polite_Werewolf

      Would Misery count as a horror movie? I mean, there’s some intense scenes but I wouldn’t call it horror.

      • Oswald did not act alone

        Misery is most certainly a horror movie. Just because it’s not a slasher flick or zombie film does;t mean it’s not horror. Annie Wilkes might be one of the scariest horror movie killers of all time.

        • Polite_Werewolf

          I’d more put it in the thriller genre. Horror and thrillers tend to overlap. The main difference being that thrillers tend to more focus on suspense while horror focuses on scares. In other words, thrillers main feature is the build up while horror is about the pay off. That’s why movies with a lot of jump scares are considered horror. A good example is the work of Alfred Hitchcock. Most of his movies are thrillers, but Psycho is definitely horror.

  • Seth Miller

    Nice to see some love for ‘In the Mouth of Madness’ and ‘A Stir of Echos’ :D

  • Gabbi Cordero

    i have to applaud ryan turek for this article. i find it such a flawed mindset spread by people who just go along with whatever they’re told that “horror was dead in the 90′s”. I’ve heard it in podcasts, interviews, and most notably on the History Channel special of Scream. Funny thing is everyone lays fault in the fact that the de facto boogeymen (myers, vorhees, kreuger) had declining sequels. Well golly, maybe if the STUDIOS weren’t churning them out on a yearly basis, audiences would have a breather, screenwriters could have been the time necessary to come up with creative follow-ups, and god forbid, up and comers could’ve been given license to come up with new ideas so you wouldn’t have to rely on safe bets. people talk as if horror was “dead” because those sequels were great efforts, but audiences just lost interest. people lost interest because of the worsening quality of those films. if horror was dead in the 90′s it’s because “the business” nailed its coffin, but i guess those two pages of history are stuck together.

    now that that rant is over (sorry i’ve felt this way for a long time) there were noteworthy entries in the genre as ryan listed. i personally have my own list: It (come on, the movie EVERYONE thinks of when they think clowns. mind you this was made-for-tv, talk about impact), Nightbreed (a bonafide cult classic), Night of the Living Dead (another made-for-tv), Tales from the Darkside (the definitive anthology before Trick ‘R Treat came out), New Nightmare (though it missed it’s mark it was a return to form).

    And the four films that I think are not only criminally undervalued yet debunk this whole 90′s propaganda are: Silence of the Lambs (don’t give me any “It’s a Thriller” crap), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (the definitive vampire film), Interview with the Vampire (who this film isn’t supported I don’t know. It’s not twilight, it was an Anne Rice pedigree, star power, a good story and great performances) and finally Se7en. Mind you, ALL OF THESE FILMS CAME OUT BEFORE SCREAM.

    Ryan mentioned Deep Rising, which in my view belongs to a trinity of 90′s creature features which include The Relic and Deep Blue Sea (I know, people think it’s ridiculous. I haven’t seen in since it came out so a repeat viewing is in order).

    I get this is someone’s list but I think Demon Knight has no business on a list of 90′s horror stand outs and Event Horizon is a rancid film. I don’t understand the “rediscovery” of this movie lately and I liked it even less when I found out who directed it.

    Final note: Much respect to Ryan for noting how Candyman “transcends slasher”. It irks me when people just slap that label on certain bogeymen. With all this talk of the hellraiser reboot someone called it “the return of the slasher Pinhead.” Like are you kidding me? Is he stalking teens and babysitters?

  • DrNope

    The House on Haunted Hill sucked. I’d switch that out with Halloween H20. Other than that, good list.

  • Juan Asilo

    wow from frighteners, to stir of echoes, and demon knight s
    were the most fun, back on that age. well written not for the story, but the characters, that introduce them. like ye said billi zane is the man, for that film.
    but clive baker the ilusionist was by far the most dark n bizzare ye can get.

  • Quentin

    Tremors is one of my favourite movies ever, any style included. The relationship between Val & Earl is perfect!

  • BookOfTheDead

    Love these pieces! I’m always happy to learn about great horror films to add to my watch list.

  • brocore

    I don’t know. I like the point you’re trying to make, but I think you ultimately reinforce the myth you’re trying to dispel. When Demon Knight, Stir of Echoes and Lord of Illusions are what you’re using to say, “Hey, the ’90s weren’t so bad!” well, you’re setting the bar kind of low. None of those movies are bad, but they aren’t “good” in a way that stands up against anything from the previous decade or two. Especially when there’s genuinely freakish stuff like Begotten and Schramm and wonderful oddities like Popcorn, This list just seemed too cursory and reflective of critically-maligned films that people just sort of like anyway.