The '90s were a weird decade for the horror genre. The tidal wave of demand created by the advent of VHS and video stores that began in the 1980s inundated the country with films. Many of the resulting '90s horror movies were sequels to older horror classics. Did anyone actually see Children of the Corn V? It was so bad that it made Children of the Corn 666 seem good.
Other films were new takes on the "slasher" genre, such as Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Psychological crime dramas like The Silence of the Lambs and Seven won international acclaim. Japanese horror was just starting to emerge as a force with films like Ringu. While the American version, The Ring, catapulted Japanese horror into the American mainstream, it also served as a harbinger of things to come: the remake.
With all these cross currents, a lot of great horror films got lost in the stream of time. Through a careful spelunking expedition, they have been rediscovered and put on this list. These obscure films represent the best horror of the '90s that you may have missed.
You wake up in a sterile, cube-shaped room with no recollection of how you got there. On each of the six sides of the room are passageways to other similar rooms. Oh, and most of the rooms happen to be death traps. That is the premise of this 1997 horror film that combines cerebral suspense with creatively gory killings. Six characters work together (or apart) to try and get out of the mysterious cube alive. Any more explanation would ruin the element of mystery that makes Cube a must-see.
#70 on The Best Movies of 1997see more on Cube
This 1990 dystopian science fiction directed by Richard Stanley shows a post-apocalyptic world of desert scavengers. The plot centers around a killer robot run amok, and the cyberpunk imagery is very well done for a film with such a low budget. At times it comes off as a little bit like a music video, which shouldn't be too surprising given the appearance of Lemmy and Iggy Pop in the film. Even with a straightforward theme of man and woman versus machine, Hardware is a solid horror film that still deserves watching 25 years later.
#98 on The Best Movies of 1990
#50 on The Best '90s Sci-Fi Movies
#6 on The Best Iggy Pop Moviessee more on Hardware
Peter Jackson directs this campy 1993 horror comedy. It is reminiscent of Evil Dead II, and while it isn't quite as good as that horror classic, it is definitely entertaining. The slapstick gore fest revolves around a man whose overbearing mother dies and then returns from the dead to infect the entire town. With zombies, a lawnmower, and a kung fu priest, Dead Alive has all the elements of a cult classic.
#46 on The Best '90s Horror Movies
#22 on The Funniest Horror Moviessee more on Dead Alive
This movie by John Carpenter has gone surprisingly unnoticed throughout the years. The 1994 film tells the story of a famous horror writer wearing a black turtleneck (sound familiar?) whose writing seems to be more than pure fiction. Thematically driven, the film manages to unfold like a novel, paying homage to the art of horror writing. Simultaneously, In the Mouth of Madness is as scary as any film out there, utilizing everything from shadows to gore to monsters to frighten the audience.
#40 on The Best '90s Horror Movies
#58 on The Best Teen Slasher Moviessee more on In the Mouth of Madness
Johnny Depp stars in this underrated 1999 Roman Polanski film. Returning to his horror roots (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Depp plays a rare book dealer who is hired to seek out a particular text allegedly co-authored by Lucifer. There are many levels to this film, and the intricately interwoven symbolism continues to unfold even after watching it multiple times. It is a psychological thriller with supernatural elements, excellent cinematography, and a brilliant score.
#76 on The Best Movies of 1999
#29 on The Best Johnny Depp Moviessee more on The Ninth Gate
The director's cut version of this 1992 film is definitely the one to watch. Written and directed by Richard Stanley, the film is about a shape-shifter who comes from the South African desert in search of victims who have lost their reason to live. The heroine Wendy has broken up with her husband and is driving around aimlessly when she comes across said demon, called the "Dust Devil" by locals, in the form of a hitchhiker. The haunting atmosphere in Dust Devil combines with magical elements and rich symbolism to make a quality supernatural horror.
Also Rankedsee more on Dust Devil
This 1991 version of Edgar Allen Poe's short story was directed by Stuart Gordon, and takes place during the Spanish Inquisition. Heroine Maria is arrested and tortured after questioning the methods of head inquisitor Torquemada, expertly played by Lance Henriksen. It is then up to Maria's husband to save her. The film is full of gothic charm and gore, mostly set in a torture dungeon.
#25 on The Best Oliver Reed Moviessee more on The Pit and the Pendulum
This 1993 film by George A. Romero is based on a Steven King novel. It is about an author, Thad Beaumont, who writes serious novels under his real name and trashy money-makers under the pseudonym George Stark. After Thad publicly "buries" George, the latter seems to return on his own accord. Despite the overplayed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde trope at the core of the story, The Dark Half manages to be a solid, albeit under-appreciated, collaboration between two masters of horror.
#88 on The Best Movies of 1993see more on The Dark Half