While the 90s didn’t have the number of iconic entries as the 80s, it’s easy to forget just how good horror fans had in the 90s—this decade brought up hits like Scream, The Silence of the Lambs, Audition, and The Sixth Sense. With these fantastic films, it’s easy to overlook some movies that are just as good and possibly even better.
The decade isn’t all just sequels and Wes Craven knock-offs; the global film industry set out to scare its viewers with impressive terror. For this list, we will dive into some of the best obscure, underappreciated, and hidden gems in the world of 90s horror. Read the list below or check out the video version of the article at the bottom of the post…
Dead Alive (a.k.a. Braindead) (1992)
Peter Jackson was once the grossest horror director ever, and I’m not even kidding. With Bad Taste and our number one entry, Dead Alive, he earned that label before retiring it to make The Lord of the Rings films. The work Jackson did with a gory masterpiece like Dead Alive makes the Evil Dead movies feel tame in comparison. This is one of those films you have seen once, and you’ll never forget. Look up even a single image from this movie and tell me that doesn’t feel like one of the wildest images you’ve ever seen.
Everything about Dead Alive, also known as Braindead, is gross-out gore, but the cartoonish tone makes it all feel easily digestible. Evil Dead 2 has a similar vibe, but the amount of gore in that entire film could fill up a portion of the iconic lawnmower scene here. Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive will have you praying that one day the filmmaker will return to his roots and bring back the shock art side we all crave. Like Crash and Cure, Dead Alive is an essential part of horror, even if you don’t know it.
David Cronenberg dominated the late 70s and 80s with his bizarre body horror films. Videodrome and The Fly are fan favorites and staples in the genre. But not enough people know about 1996’s Crash and how twisted it gets. While not as straight-up horror as the other entries on this list, there’s no denying how dark this feels and how it fits perfectly next to Cronenberg’s other works. If you take that one car scene from 2021’s Titane and make an entire movie about that, then you’ll start getting an idea of the twisted world of Crash.
Crash is one of the 90s’ most messed up movies, and this is the same year as Audition and Seven. We follow a film producer who meets a twisted group of people aroused by car crashes. As anyone with a kink would get, these people start seeking these crashes in more twisted ways than expected. You can’t take your eyes off this movie like a literal car crash. Cronenberg can step away from direct horror as much as he wants, but he never stops shocking you with every film. If you thought you knew how weird James Spader could get, wait till you see this.
The Addiction (1995)
Christopher Walken. Black and white. Vampires. Those three things should get you to watch this movie, let alone when I mention just how great it turns out. The Addiction is a vampire film that comes in a decade filled with them, but it stands out as one of the most artful and enticing. The film was met with controversy; coupled with the arthouse stylings, it kept it from hitting Interview With A Vampire levels. The film’s take on vampirism as addiction was also a refreshing spin, given a lot of its peers went for old-school romantic or action-filled insanity.
While the supporting role of Christopher Walken is brilliant, Lili Taylor is what makes this such a compelling watch. We fall for her character more as we see her give in to her bloodlust. She’s complex and way more well-rounded than many females in vampire films, especially around this time. Her philosophy student turned bloodsucker also gives way for the film to feel like a satire of academia and the pretentious attitude of that world. This film uses every metaphor possible and makes sure you see vampires in a new light.
When the great Bong Joon Ho cites this as one of his favorites, you know it’s a must-see. Even without that high praise, Cure stands on its own as one of the best Japanese horror films of all time. The way director Kiyoshi Kurosawa effectively blends serial killer thrillers with slasher and shock elements feels impactful. We’d see this style in films Seven, Saw, and even the recent Batman film. 1997’s Cure is crucial, especially when it comes to the new wave of Japanese cinema we all fell in love with during the late 90s and early 00s.
We follow a detective as he ventures through a case that rocks his life forever. The twist and turns in the film make this a delight to watch multiple times, needing to make sure you picked up on any little details a second or third time around. It doesn’t have the claim to fame as its peers, Ringu and Audition, but it doesn’t mean it was any less stellar than those. Honestly, this film’s impact on the genre could make it one of the most influential films on this list. Kurosawa’s work in this film makes the rest of his filmography something any film lover must try.
Night of the Living Dead (1990)
You may see this entry and go, “is Night of the Living Dead underrated?” You may be even more confused to see it even has a remake. But the 1990 remake of the iconic George A. Romero film honestly holds up. Tom Savini, a long-time friend of Romero, steps into the director’s chair and offers a fun update to the original movie, but doesn’t change too much. What he does add is more gore and changes the Barbara character in a much-needed way. Savini also gives us a pre-Candyman Tony Todd delivering yet another brilliant performance.
The film saw a critical reevaluation in recent years, but viewers at the time weren’t feeling just how similar it was to the original. We praise the film now for sticking true to what made it unique but updating things the right way. The original Night of the Living Dead effectively handled the conversation of race, and the remake doesn’t lose that but only adds a genius conversation about the final girl. Savini isn’t known for his directing features, but if the legendary make-up artist wants to helm another project, I think horror fans would be in for a treat, given what we saw here.
Man Bites Dog (1992)
Remember in the 00s when Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon came out and became an indie horror hit? The film was hailed for its original take on the slasher genre, and while it’s a fun romp, you can’t deny how inspired it feels by Man Bites Dog. This 1992 Belgian film is deliciously twisted and feels ahead of its time. The tone and style of the film would be something almost commonplace in recent years, but nothing else has hit this hard. It’s wild how deeply disturbed this feels compared to modern horror. You can’t look away as directors Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel, and Benoît Poelvoorde depicts the most brutal dark comedy horror film.
In Man Bites Dog, we follow a film crew as they follow a deranged serial killer named Ben. We slowly see Ben and the filmmakers lose it, getting into increasingly violent situations. At first, the film’s dark comedy stylings make the uncomfortable scenes go down easier, but soon, it becomes hard to ignore how bleak the movie feels. Every kill feels more graphic and personal, and the effects of Ben’s mayhem seep into every character we meet. While it won the International Critics’ Prize at Cannes in 92, the NC-17 rating in the States kept it from hitting anything more than cult status.
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