A Bloody Good Time: 10 Best Horror Films Of 1990
Posted by Joseph Lee on 08.14.2014
From Predator 2 and Arachnophobia to Misery, The Exorcist III and more, 411's Joseph Lee counts down the top 10 horror films of the year 1990!
Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)
Last week I spoke about the horror community's loss of Dick Smith and Marilyn Burns. This week, Hollywood lost Robin Williams. While not a horror guy, Williams was an incredibly gifted comedian and actor. The man was also my childhood, as I grew up in the 90s and so movies like Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, Hook were regular viewing for etc. I even like some of his less popular fare. Of course, as a horror fan, I've got to give the man props for One Hour Photo, one of the most unsettling and underrated performances of his career. The man has had an impressive resume and I've been a fan for over twenty years now.
In an unrelated note, some of you may have saw on Facebook that I was at Flashback Weekend 2014. I've made a post here before about the terrible organization of Fandomfest so I skipped that this year in favor of a full horror convention. Of course, the big selling point of Flashback was that Robert Englund was donning his Freddy makeup one last time. While I didn't exactly have a spare $300 laying around to pay for a photo of Freddy in a t-shirt, almost everyone I talked to was glad they did. As for me, I still got to meet Robert and the cast of Phantasm so that's all I really needed. I also met the Twisted Twins, Jen and Sylvia Soska, and I think I have a crush now. They are total horror geeks, just like the rest of us.
I'm not here to do an extensive report on the event because it would just be a lot of gushing and no one wants to read that. I will say that I had one of the top five moments of my life (especially as a horror fan) on the last night I was in Chicago. I went to get dinner at the hotel bar and there was only one table available. That table just happened to be next to Lance Henriksen, Robert Englund, Jennifer Rubin and eventually William Forsythe talking about movies and their careers. Just to be able to sit there and listen to that while eating overpriced hotel food was definitely a highlight for me.
Anyway, enough about my life. Let's talk about the lives of others and how they made great movies. A semi-regular feature that I introduced last month was to take a random year and count down the top ten horror movies of that year. Last time I picked 1980 and that went over well. I could go back to the 80s, but I think I'd rather jump ahead a decade and explore 1990. The best part about this is that I can jump around and pick whatever year I want and it'll keep you guys with (hopefully) great material for some time.
1990 was a strange year. We weren't quite out of the 80s yet. You can tell from the fact that the hairstyles hadn't yet changed, the music was still the same for the most part and there was still an inherent cheesiness. The 90s were considered a dark decade for many horror fans (not me, but there are some), but you can still find plenty of classics. You really don't need to look any more than this particular year, which contains some of my favorites of all time. No more talking, let's start listing!
#10: Predator 2
Predator 2, for my money, is actually the worst of the Predator series. Considering how fun this movie actually is, that says a lot about the quality of that series as a whole. There are some stuff I don't like (mainly how Danny Glover is able to take down an alien that is capable of taking Arnold Schwarzenegger to the limit) but I'd be lying if I didn't say I love this movie. The Predator doesn't show up nearly as often as it should, but I'm thankful that we're finally getting another one soon. The best part of that news is that Fred Dekker is returning from purgatory to write it!
Ability to take down a Predator aside, Danny Glover was at his peak in the 80s and 90s and he's pretty good here. Not only does Glover show up to work, but Bill Paxton and Gary Busey are also on hand. There was a time when Busey was gold in genre fare and this is one of those movies. I also really love the change to the urban setting, which allows the franchise to avoid feeling stale. Hopefully the new film will be set somewhere new as well. The main Predator series rocked, and it's a shame this was the last sequel for over a decade.
#9: Bride of Re-Animator
To attempt to follow an act like Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator is a pretty ridiculous task. Even if you were to get the cast to come back, how could you top the insanity of a severed head giving head? Well, you could give the zombie head bat wings and let it fly around making a nuisance of itself. Hill also has the ability of mind control and hypnosis in this one, which I don't think he had in the original. Of course the original movie made it look like West was about to die and he seems okay, so I think there's only a loose continuity here.
The movie was directed by Bryan Yunza and basically ramps up the insanity from the first. This time West has decided to make his own Frankenstein monster. He says it's for Dan (and uses the heart of Megan from the first movie), but we know it's just to see if he can do it. West has never really been one for compassion. The entire movie breaks down at the end and it somehow becomes even more insane than the last film while remaining almost as funny. This is something that Beyond Re-Animator neglected to do, as it's not nearly as good as the first two.
I don't like spiders. A lot of people don't like spiders. Although I don't quite have the phobia of them that Jeff Daniels has in this movie. He's not just scared of them, he acts like they're going to kill him if they touch him. In this particular case, he's right. A rare breed of spider mates with a common household spider, making a deadly race that goes everywhere and kills everyone. There's no anti-venom in this case. One bite and you're dead within minutes.
I saw this movie for its television debut (so probably around 1991 or 1992) and it messed me up as a kid. The bit about the spider in the toilet had me looking before I sat for at least a month. Seeing it years later, the spiders are still creepy. The real star of the show is the cast, however. Daniels, Julian Sands and John Goodman all bringing what could be a dumb B-movie into a really fun B-movie for all the right reasons. AMC still plays this one on occasion. Check it out if you haven't had the chance.
It's hard to believe that in the same year we got two great horror-comedies in Tremors and Arachnophobia. This was another one I saw on network TV first. I've watched it many times since because it's hilarious and the special effects are great. Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Michael Gross and Reba McIntyre (yes, that one) are a fun cast with a surprisingly strong amount of chemistry. Gross in particular earned himself a franchise by how good he was as Burt Gummer (he'll be in Tremors 5, for the record).
As for the Graboids themselves, I love the mechanics of how they work. They detect movement and can come up through any point in the ground. You're not even safe inside, because they'll collapse the building you're in to get a snack. They also have a lot of gross innards in case you want to make one explode, which happens in this movie. Tremors is a great horror-comedy and I look forward to seeing more graboids in the future. Hopefully they remain a practical effect.
#6: The Guardian
A lot of people don't like William Friedkin's The Guardian but I'll keep defending it as a really good horror movie. It's certainly better than Bug, which those same critics seem to enjoy. The movie involves two parents who acquire a nanny that's actually an evil tree demi-goddess or something. She raises the child until it "ripens" then feeds it to her god. The tree then grows the face of the baby it just consumed, forever holding it there in terror and pain. The very idea is so disturbing and terrifying.
Camilla uses the elements to kill those who would threaten her or the baby. Wolves kill one guy, a tree destroys some others. But she underestimates the parents who find out about her plot and begin to fight her in a really cool and bloody climax. There is a real sense of danger in the entire movie because a baby can't defend itself, and this is a monster who is clearly eager to sacrifice infants to her god. The fact that we see a baby get sacrificed early in the movie means we can't even guarantee the safety of the one she's currently pursuing. Friedkin did a great job here.
#5: Night of the Living Dead
Who knew that Tom Savini would be able to make a really successful remake of George Romero's classic in his first shot as a director? This was a time when remakes weren't all that common (not like today, anyway). I imagine if the internet had existed like it does now there would be riots on the message boards about the very idea of Night getting remade. Just wait until they actually saw the movie. Barbara's no longer an emotional wreck! Ben becomes a zombie at the end!
Savini took a story we all knew and made it his own. The effects are stellar and with a cast that includes names like Bill Moseley and Tony Todd, you know you're in for a good movie. Savini is a solid director and another case of a guy who doesn't direct as often as he should. But I guess it's better to direct one movie and have it be a classic than to direct a ton of movies and have them all suck.
#4: Jacob's Ladder
It's surprising there aren't more movies like Jacob's Ladder (or Johnny Got His Gun) from those who are against war. This movie is a perfect way to make you never want anyone to go fight anywhere ever. Tim Robbins delivers a stellar performance as Jacob, a man who is experiencing terrible hallucinations after recovering from being stabbed at Vietnam. By "terrible hallucinations" I mean he see disembodied mouths lunging at him from the darkness. He sees blood and gore. He sees freaks of nature. The entire time he's just trying to figure out why he's going crazy.
The movie is more like a bizarre dream sequence. The story is all over the place but it still manages to make sense. Robbins is brilliant in the role and the constant bizarre sequences he's treated to only serve to disorient and disturb the viewer. We're in the same boat as Robbins in that we don't know what's going on and when we do we're kind of glad it's over. Even if you have no stance on war, it's still an unnerving film.
As you can tell, we're seriously getting into some heavy hitters here. Rob Reiner, of all people, adapted the Stephen King novel that gave his Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes and her obssessive love of James Caan. This is Bates' movie hands down, as she completely owns every second she's on the screen. Annie Wilkes is not a likable character. She's not even a character we particularly want to watch, but we have can't really look away.
She's frightening. She does all of this to Paul Sheldon over a book. Look, I'm sad at the way certain things went in The Dark Tower but I'm not going to break Stephen King's ankles with a sledgehammer over it. Annie will not only do that, but she'll kill cops just to keep Paul from escaping. It's no wonder Paul still sees her at the end of the movie. That kind of person would haunt you for the first of your live.
The fact that Clive Barker's film Nightbreed was butchered by the studio and still managed to be as good as it was is nothing short of fantastic. It's probably more of a cult classic than a genuine classic right now, but it's still a great, inventive movie full of extraordinary special effects an fun-looking monsters. It also features one of the scariest villains of the 90s from David Cronenberg's Dr. Decker. Who would have guessed that a man largely known for his directing work could be so creepy?
Scream Factory is finally releasing the Cabal Cut (or director's cut, whatever) on Blu-ray in October. I've already pre-ordered it because I'm a horror nut and that's how I roll. I look forward to seeing Barker's original vision. I hope it's better than this, because this is already a great movie and it never turned out how he wanted. I look forward to seeing Boone, Decker, Lylesberg, Peloquin, Kinski and Ohnaka again.
#1: The Exorcist III
I feel like I've praised this movie far too often for this column. I can't help it. The Exorcist III is everything The Exorcist II should have been. It's scary. It features great direction, acting and writing. It's probably one of Brad Dourif's best performances ever. It's a perfect sequel to The Exorcist. It continues the story of the film while not going off in an insane direction or feeling like a stale retread (until the tacked on Hollywood ending, that is).
Horror movies should be scary and this one not only gets under the skin but it features great jump scares too. In fact, it is the best jump scare in the history of jump scares. You keep expecting something to happen for so long and it presents so many false scares that eventually you decide to give up...and that's when it hits you. I know it's coming and it still somehow surprises me and makes me jump. I don't understand how that's possible. Check it out below and enjoy:
We're two months away from October, and you know what that means! The third annual ABGT horror knockout tournament! I took an idea from Shawn Lealos and made it better. The first year we did this, we focused on horror villains. Freddy took the prize. Last year we made it about horror heroes and Ash won. So now it's up to you to pick who gets the tournament this year? I've got some specific and general categories here. If you can think of others, post them!
That's it for me. Leave some comments here, on my Twitter or my Facebook. Next week, we look at A Nightmare on Elm Street and see where the cast is today!
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