When it comes to horror films, the 90s tends to get horribly overlooked. Sure, the 70s and 80s are undeniably the golden age of horror, but the 90s had its share of gems. There’s “Event Horizon,” “Scream,” “The Silence of the Lambs,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” “The Blair Witch Project,” “Army of Darkness,” and, well, the list goes on. Check out the top 11 90s horror gems you likely missed:
“Lord of Illusions” (1995)
Written and directed by Clive Barker, “Lord of Illusions” centers on Barker’s character private investigator Harry D’Amour (Scott Bakula). Headlining Bakula alongside Famke Janssen with Kevin J. O’Connor as illusionist Philip Swann, and the superb Daniel von Bargen as cult leader Nix, “Lord of Illusions” is loaded with style. Everything from the neo-noir narrative to Simon Boswell’s masterful score, and inventive effects make this a unique 90s flick.
“The Relic” (1997)
Peter Hyams-directed sci-fi horror film “The Relic” is based on the best selling novel Relic from Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston. Starring Penelope Ann Miller, Linda Hunt, and Tom Sizemore, “The Relic” is a fantastic creature feature. With a plot evocative of a moster-of-the-week “The X-Files” episode, there’s intrigue, suspense, and style. Set predominantly in a museum, there’s a unique setting that lends a fresh quality this genre. Bonus: a lovely score a la composer John Debney.
One of the greatest Canadian horror flicks alongside “Ginger Snaps” and “Pontypool,” 1997’s “Cube” borders on sci-fi. While initially a decidedly polarizing film, “Cube” has resurged with a cult following and for good reason. The ensemble cast is magnificent, there’s a barebones yet captivating set design, and there’s a claustrophobic suspense that derives from the “Twilight Zone-esque” plot and setting.
“Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth” (1992)
Oh, the Hellraiser franchise. Of all the horror series, Hellraiser is arguably the most polarizing. Katie Rife classified watching all 9 Hellraiser movies an exercise in masochism. Truthfully, later sequels are just downright bad (I’m looking at you “Hellraiser: Revelations”). Some, including yours truly, deem “Hellbound: Hellraiser II” better than its predecessor. “Hellraiser III” is rather polarizing. More commonly known as the Hellraiser film set in a nightclub, it’s blatantly campy. There’s the famous (or infamous) CD headed Cenobite, and a frankly ridiculous plot. Still, “Hell on Earth” separates itself from the first two entries by introducing new characters and a new setting.
“End of Days” (1999)
Arnold Schwarzenegger: you may know him from “The Terminator.” Maybe you think of “Predator,” “Commando,” “Total Recall,” or any number of classics. The 1999 horror thriller “End of Days” isn’t one of Arnie’s better known films, but the Peter Hyams (“The Relic”) directed film benefits from detective genre elements, an awesome score, and strong cast that includes the likes of Robin Tunney, Kevin Pollak, and the always on point C.C.H. Pounder.
Fun fact: “Leprechaun” marks future “Friends” star Jennifer Aniston’s first film role. While Aniston is solid, there’s one compelling reason to watch: Warwick Davis. As the titular leprechaun, Davis is riotously funny, and it’s entertaining to see a sinister take on leprechauns. A decidedly “Tremors” vibe infuses much-needed dry humor. Cult Film in Review offers an excellent review of this beauty.
“The Faculty” (1998)
“The Faculty” has several positives in its favor. For one, there’s the ensemble cast of Salma Hayek, Josh Hartnett, Jordana Brewster, Famke Janssen, Piper Laurie, Robert Patrick Usher, Elijah Wood, and Jon Stewart. Then there’s the renowned horror director in Robert Rodriguez. Did I mention that the brilliant Kevin Williamson was responsible for the screenplay? With a bit of an “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” influence, “The Faculty” successfully creates a witty high school sci-fi horror flick that subtly lampoons genre tropes. Smart, stylish, and with a talented roster, “The Faculty” is an A plus horror flick.
“The Craft” (1996)
“The Craft” while being a supernatural horror film airs more on the side of a fantasy romp. The third act does feature mildly gruesome images, but overall it’s a relationship-driven film that posits witchcraft as a neutral entity. Intent is based solely on that of the individual witch. The starring ensemble of Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, and Rachel True have a superb camaraderie. There’s a bit of neat history behind it as well, and a few months later Campbell would reunite with fellow “The Craft” cast member Skeet Ulrich for one of the most celebrated horror flicks of all time: “Scream.”
“Popcorn” is unique in its approach. Featuring the film-within-a-film technique, it’s self-reflective on the horror genre, and in a different way than “Scream” and “Cabin in the woods.” There’s lots of dark comedy and genuine wit to this under the radar flick. The setting (“Popcorn” was filmed in Kingston Jamaica) is gorgeous. Alan Ormsby directed the film within a films, with Mark Herrier filming the present day parts, a refreshing collaborative feature.
1990’s “Frankenhooker” is truly wacky. The horror comedy gets its inspiration from the Mary Shelley classic Frankenstein, and this re-imagining provides a fun, campy take on the well-known monster tale. “Frankenhooker” is best described as bizarre, and it’s truly a distinct movie.
“The Lawnmower Man” (1992)
“The Lawnmower Man” may be a bit cheesy. Ok, fine, really cheesy. It;s loosely based off of a Stephen King story, emphasis on the loosely. King successfully sued to have his name removed from the original title, “Stephen King’s the Lawnmower Man.” Nevertheless, it’s a fun interpretation of virtual reality and its effects on society. There’s a pre-James Bond Pierce Brosnan, and Brosnan’s Dr. Lawrence Angelo chugs alcohol at a Bond rate. Dean Norris shows up looking very Hank from “Breaking Bad.” Falling more on the sci-fi side, “The Lawnmower Man” may not be great, but it’s certainly worth watching.