After doing a list of the most underrated horror movies from the 80’s (which I hope you read) I decided to go ahead and do one for the 90’s as well. Even though the slasher flick pretty much died out during this decade (sob!) there were still some pretty damn good horror flicks that came out of this time period. While the best known horror films of the 90’s are probably Scream, The Sixth Sense, and the Blair Witch Project there were also a ton of other scary movies to hit the scene around the same time that just flew in under the radar and were unfairly overlooked. Many of these films were a lot better than most people gave them credit for and definitely deserve a second look. Without further ado I give you my list of the Top Ten Most Underrated Horror Films from the 90’s.
As always, be aware that there may be some spoilers for certain films on this list.
Based on a character from a song on Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry album from back in the day Strangeland is just all around awesome. For some reason though it just sort of came and went very quickly after it was released back in 1998 which is unfortunate because it is much better than that. Dee Snider does an excellent job of playing the film’s demented villain Captain Howdy and even though we are supposed to hate him due to the horrible things that he does I still felt a little sorry for him since he is schizophrenic and really can’t help himself (the scenes where he isn’t in his Captain Howdy persona are downright pitiful and depressing). Aside from Snider the film had a great cast that included Robert Englund, Amy Smart, and Linda Cardellini, and I thought that they were all top notch. I love the distinct 90’s feel that it has to it (Howdy uses chat rooms to find his victims) and think that it is a pretty brutal and disturbing movie in general as Howdy does some pretty messed up things to his victims (which includes piercing one unfortunate victim’s penis and sewing someone’s mouth shut). Apparently there is actually a remake in the works and even though Snider is behind it I just don’t think it will be as good as the original. Strangeland is one sick and twisted little film, and I think a lot more people need to discover it.
I never quite understood why this movie wasn’t better received because it is one hell of a horror film. In addition to having an excellent cast made up of genre icons such as Jull Schoelen and Dee Wallace it also has a great premise as well. Basically we have a group of film students putting on an all-night horror movie marathon in an old theater and things go downhill pretty quickly when a mysterious killer shows up and starts taking people out one-by-one. There is a nice little mystery going on throughout the movie as we don’t know who the killer is or what connects him to Schoelen’s character and part of the fun is trying to figure everything out before the people behind it reveal all the answers for us. I loved the setting of the film and dug all the nods to classic horror movies (and the William Castle-like gimmicks that went along with such movies back in the day) that take place and thought that they all just help make the movie work. There are a lot of cool death scenes to be found here and I also liked the fact that the film includes some subtle humor as well from time-to-time. It also has one of the best taglines of all time (“Buy a bag…go home in a box”) as well as a genuinely creepy antagonist that has an interesting back story (that is actually a bit tragic, making him a Batman-like type of villain that you actually feel sorry for). If you haven’t seen this movie you are definitely missing out, so do yourself a favor and give it a try as soon as possible as it is worth checking out.
- Bad Moon
What kind of list of underrated films would I have if there wasn’t at least one werewolf flick on it? Bad Moon is probably the best werewolf movie of this decade and I think it’s time that it got the attention that it rightfully deserves. Based on the novel Thor (which is all told from the point-of-view of a dog) by Wayne Smith this movie really kicks a whole lot of ass and is probably one of the last really good werewolf movies to come along in quite a while. The werewolf itself looks awesome (no crappy CGI Effects here, folks) and even though we don’t really get to see a whole lot of it until toward the end it is well worth the wait (the scene where it is inside the house at one point rules). It is a bit creepy at times (the bit where the forest ranger bites it comes to mind immediately as it is a very effective scene) and I dug the fact that a dog plays such an important part in the movie (hell, he is basically the hero of the film). It’s a fun movie full of some cool werewolf action, and if nothing else it has Mason Gamble (who was in Dennis the Menace) in it to boot. Well-written, gory, and actually pretty scary at times, Bad Moon is one werewolf movie that is definitely worth seeing.
I had never even heard of this movie until I saw it late one night on HBO and I thought that it was excellent. It revolves around a reporter’s mother being attacked by a werewolf one night (at least I think it’s a werewolf, it is never quite clear) who then becomes a monster herself. The reporter must hide the fact that his mother is a bloodthirsty creature from the rest of the world and even though he knows it is wrong he actually helps her find victims to feed on at one point because well…she’s his mom and he cares about her. This movie is just as depressing as it is creepy and while I loved it I know a lot of people into horror as much as I am who aren’t aware of this movie and I think that’s a shame because it really is quite good. Mark Thomas Miller is great in the role of the caring (and stressed out) reporter and Jeanne Bates does an excellent job as his mother (who enjoys snacking on hobos, prostitutes, and anyone else unlucky enough to cross her path). This movie is a hidden gem if you ask me and I’m a little surprised that it doesn’t have a bigger following. Hell, I don’t think it ever even got a DVD release to my knowledge which is unfortunate because it really is that good. Track down a copy if you can, you most certainly won’t be disappointed.
- Last Dance
I have talked about this 1992 film several times in the past (I mentioned it on my list of whacky deaths as well as my list of most painful deaths) and think that it deserves a lot more love than it gets as it is pretty much universally ignored for whatever reason. The plot is simple enough as it is about a group of women in a skimpy dance contest being killed off by an unknown killer but it is still a lot of fun and has several pretty cool death scenes (it’s all about that shot glass full of fish hooks that one of the women drinks) to keep you entertained. I caught this one night on USA Up All Night back in its heyday and immediately loved it. It is a lot like 1991’s equally forgotten slasher Bikini Island in a lot of ways as they both share a lot of similarities, but overall I think that Last Dance is just a better movie. I think that if it had been released in the 80’s it would have been a lot more popular than it is and I wish that more people were into it because it really is a pretty kickass little movie that is sure to please anyone into slasher flicks (or great horror films in general). I don’t think it is on DVD so tracking it down may be rather difficult, but it is worth looking for in the long run.
- Mirror, Mirror
Who doesn’t like a good “misunderstood and bullied teen gains revenge on his or her tormentors by using some sort of supernatural method”-type horror film? I know that I sure do, and Mirror, Mirror is one of the best horror films from the 90’s to use this formula. Starring Karen Black, Rainbow Harvest (what an awesome name, by the way!), Yvonne De Carlo, and William Sanderson, this movie is one hell of a ride and one of my favorite unknown horror films of all time. It centers around an odd and lonely girl named Megan (Harvest) who uses a mysterious and evil old mirror that she stumbles across after moving into a new house to strike back at all of those that mistreat her. The results are pretty damn cool (and bloody), and I had a blast watching as the mirror takes out anyone dumb enough to piss Megan off in a number of different and creative ways. While it is similar to Carrie in many ways I still wouldn’t call it a rip off and think that it has a lot going for it in its own way. It is a little better known than some of the other movies on this list as it spawned two sequels (which were both pretty terrible) but it was still never as popular as it should have been among horror fans. I just watched it again recently and can say that it still holds up pretty damn well, so if you are among those who have never seen it treat yourself and give it a go.
Despite what most people think about him I actually like Edward Furlong and think he did a bang up job in this movie. I saw it in a mostly empty theater a week after it came out back in 1994 and really dug it. I just watched it again not too long ago and thought that it was just as good now as it was the first time I saw it. Furlong pretty much makes the movie and I think that he is the main reason it is so good to be quite honest. There is just something about it that I have always liked that I can’t put my finger on and I think that if more viewers gave it a chance they would feel the same way as well. The movie itself is all about Furlong’s character playing a horror video game that becomes all too real for him and it is just a fun and intense ride in general. Frank Langella is also very good here as the police detective that is a constant pain in Furlong’s character’s ass throughout the film and T. Ryder Smith rocks as the main antagonist, The Trickster. In my opinion it is without a doubt one of the most underappreciated horror films of the 90’s and if more people gave it a chance I think that they would feel the exact same way after realizing just how great it really is.
Dr. Giggles is one of those movies that just came too late to the party and wasn’t as well received as a result. It didn’t hit the scene until the slasher craze of the 80’s had already pretty much died out and as such a lot of moviegoers chose to completely ignore it when it was released (which is a real shame since in reality it is actually a very awesome little movie). I have a feeling that this movie would have been huge had it been made in the 80’s and would have led to a handful of successful sequels to boot. Larry Drake is absolutely perfect as Dr. Giggles and it is obvious that he had a great time playing the part. The film also has some other pretty familiar faces in it (such as Holly Marie Combs, Glenn Quinn, and even Doug E. Doug) as well and they all do an equally impressive job. The film has some fun and creative death scenes (that usually involve some sort of medical device), an interesting premise, and some excellent humor that makes it a winner in my book. If you ask me Giggles himself could have been the next big horror icon but sadly it just wasn’t to be for some reason. I don’t get why more horror fans weren’t into this movie as it has all the necessary qualities that makes for one hell of a great horror film.
- Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight
Tales from the Crypt was insanely popular back in the 90’s so I thought for certain that Demon Knight was going to be huge when it hit theaters back in 1995. I was wrong though and for some unknown reason it was met with very little fanfare and just sort of disappeared into the background in a fairly short amount of time. I for one thought that it was excellent and enjoyed every single minute of it. In addition to having an awesome premise it also features one hell of a cast made up of the likes of William Sadler, Thomas Hayden Church, Dick Miller, and Billy Zane (who is the main reason to see this movie as he totally and completely owns every scene that he is in). I have always been into movies that featured demons as antagonists and Demon Knight is one of the best. I have watched it a ton of times over the years and it is one of those great movies that just never seems to get old no matter how many times that I watch it. If you haven’t seen it get up from your computer right now and go get a copy of it, you can thank me later.
This movie is basically a who’s who of the horror genre. It has a ton of horror icons in it such as Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, Tony Todd, and Reggie Bannister just to name a few. It is incredibly brutal and gory at times and in all honesty I am very surprised that it got an R rating from the MPAA considering how damn hardcore it is at times. Andrew Divoff gives one hell of a performance as the evil djinn (it’s all about that cool ass voice of his) and I had an awesome time watching him take people out by twisting their wishes. I didn’t get see it in theaters during its initial run (though I really wish I had) but when I saw it on video a few months later I totally loved it and have watched it many, many times since then. It got a little attention from fans back in the day but not as much as it should have if you ask me as it is an incredible movie that has a lot going for it. While it still has a small following I think that it belongs up there with the likes of Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween as it is that good. It was popular enough to spawn a handful of sequels (which aren’t as nearly as good as the original) but overall I have just always felt like this movie was overlooked and completely underappreciated. It has a little bit of something for everyone and deserves to be recognized for the fact that it is not only awesome in every possible way but also one of the best-if not the best-horror film to hit the scenes in the 1990s.
There you have it folks, my list of the Top Ten Most Underrated Horror Movies from the 1990’s. As always feel free to agree or disagree, I love hearing back from you guys. If there is a movie that I missed that you think belongs on this list let me know!
Tales from the Hood
Man’s Best Friend
Bordello of Blood