The 90’s were a wonderful time for horror. With gems like Event Horizon, In the Mouth of Madness, Vampires, Dracula, Scream, and the Blair Witch Project, it is easily my favorite decade for horror. On the other side of the box office toppers though, there’s a host of lesser-known movies that have a special place in my heart. No spoilers below, just hearty recommendations!
10 - Frankenhooker
“A terrifying tale of sluts and bolts”
With a tag line like that, it’s hard to go wrong. This fun-loving homage to Frankenstein and Re-Animator finds a grief stricken med school dropout rebuilding his perfect woman…from other women. Directed by Frank Henenlotter, the genius behind Basket Case and Brain Damage, Frankenhooker is weird, hilarious, and generally bizarre. Do yourself a favor and put this one on, preferably with a beer in hand.
9 - The Suckling
“He’ll always be Mommy’s little mutant”
Oof, this one’s rough. I’d say a step removed from immediate trash classic, The Suckling is a sleaze and gore fest of odd proportions. The ‘Big Bad’ is a mutated aborted fetus that was flushed from the whorehouse where it was extracted into a pile of radioactive muck – whether or not this is a social commentary is beyond me. This one treads the line between ‘so bad its good’ and ‘so bad it’s just bad’, but I recommend giving it a watch for the sheer absurdity of it.
8 - Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight
“Ready for your deadtime story?”
First off – what a cast. Billy Zane, Jada Pinkett Smith, Thomas Haden Church, William Sadler and CCH Pounder! Tales from the Crypt was a staple of my childhood, and for good reason – it’s generally fun horror. Demon Knight is no less than a battle for the universe, following a man who has taken it upon himself to protect ‘The Key’, which contains the literal blood of Christ, and the Collector (Billy Zane), a demon hell bent on obtaining said key. Great performances, especially from Zane and Pinkett-Smith, and a skillful blending of drama and comedy make for a fun flick I’ve seen more times than I care to share.
7 - Wild Zero
“Trash and chaosssss!” (yes, that’s the tagline)
The greatest Japanese rock and roll zombie movie ever made? Are there a lot of those…? Either way, I leave it to you to decide. I first caught this one when playing the associated drinking game (it’s fun, but drink responsibly because WOW) with some friends over a decade ago, and it blew me away. There’s no point in my explaining much more than “Aliens come to Earth turning folks into Zombies, and it’s up to rock back Guitar Wolf to stop them”. Oh, and their guitars are also swords, obviously.
6 - Lord of Illusions
“Trust nothing Except Your Fear”
I adore Clive Barkers work. I debated putting Nightbreed on this list instead of this one, but ultimately decided that Nightbreed was more known. That being said, Barker plus Scott Bakula? YES PLEASE. With Daniel von Bargen and Kevin J O’Connor rounding out the cast, it’s a neo-noir gore fest featuring lots of supernatural cult action. Solid 4/5!
5 - Wishmaster
“Be careful what you wish for”
The first three entries in this series are SO much fun! It’s a wonderful premise that’s been done many ways – people wishing or being tricked into wishing for things that go horribly awry. Think “I wish for a million dollars!” only to have it dumped on you in pennies, killing you instantly. I made that up by the way…the writing in the movies is much better, just didn’t want to spoil it. That, and Andrew Divoff was MADE to be a horror movie villain. His voice is perfect and his performances are spot on.
4 - Demonic Toys
“They want to play with you…”
I know a few Full Moon fanatics, but largely these movies have flown way under the radar – a main reason for it making this list – just how incredibly underrated it is! It’s a fun movie in the vein of Puppet Master, featuring some interesting demon possession and a pretty solid performance by a child as an evil demon. It also has a good dose of humor, and is generally a fun watch. And if you liked this one, you’ll definitely enjoy Dollman and Ice Cream Man!
3 - Cube
I really, really love this movie. Completely unique premise – 6 people trapped in a maze consisting of a series of cubes, each full of unique traps, trying to puzzle their way out. Some great kills in this one. I’m really surprised by just how many people haven’t heard of this one – it barely grossed half a million dollars. The performances are a bit wooden, which pulls the overall quality down, but it’s still a wonderful film
2 - Strangeland
“Wanna come to a party?”
Another startlingly unique film, this product of Dee Snider’s apparently supremely twisted mind stars the man himself, and features the body modification community heavily. Dee plays Captain Howdy, luring teens through the internet to their untimely demise. One of the first cautionary tales of the internet I saw growing up, and with an all-star cast to boot – Robert Englund, Linda Cardellini, Amy Smart, Robert LaSardo. Highly recommend checking this one out – and then updating your children’s internet privacy settings.
1 - Subspecies
“The night has fangs”
Another Full Moon gem, Subspecies vies for position as my all-time favorite, iconic vampire movie. It ticks all the boxes of what makes vampire stories special. It isn’t a particularly unique take on the lore – rather, it defines the lore in a really enjoyable way. Solid performances support a familiar story, and the creature design is delightful, considering it came out in ’91. I hadn’t seen this until recently, but its quickly becoming a favorite.
What’s your favorite underrated 90’s movie? Let us know on twitter!
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