Slasher Studios: Top 5 Horror Movies of the 1990’s

On this week’s episode of Slasher Studios, Kevin Sommerfield and Steve Goltz talked about their top 5 favorite horror movies of the 1990s. Movies that set the tone for the age of the self aware horror film and gave the horror audience something special and unforgettable. Click on the link below to listen to an archive of the show.

Here is the official Slasher Studios Top 5:

1. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

After the dismal “Freddy’s Dead”, Freddy seemed to be dead and buried for at least a few years. It, however, was in 1994 that Wes Craven came up with the radical idea of bringing Freddy back for another nightmare…a “New Nightmare”. Gone was funny Freddy and the fresh looking 80’s MTV teenagers and in was a concept so unique and groundbreaking that it just couldn’t work? Or could it…

But..let us start back at the beginning. In 1984, horror director Wes Craven created “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” It was acclaimed as one of the scariest movies ever made and made unknowns like Robert Englund, Johnny Depp, and Heather Langenkamp huge stars. Ten years later, Heather is living happily with her husband, Chase, and her son, Dylan. But her life has now been turned upside down because she is being stalked by a person who sounds like Nightmare villain Freddy Krueger. Chase has just been killed in a car accident after he accidentally fell asleep behind the wheel. Dylan refuses to sleep any more, and New Line Cinema has just offered her a part in “the ultimate Nightmare.” But some other strange things have been happening, including earthquakes and Craven being tight-lipped about the script. The ultimate truth is that Freddy Krueger is actually an ancient demon breaking out into our world, but in order to do that, he must go through Heather. And he knows he can get out by harming those near her.

Sound convoluted? Pretentious? Overly meta? Shockingly, no. “New Nightmare” is that rare horror film in which everything works. The performances are pitch perfect, lead by a tour-de-force performance by the amazing Langenkamp. The script is full of twists and turns and the movie is quite possibly the best looking of the entire series. What starts out as a maze of mirrors becomes something much more than your typical nightmare. The film examines the role film plays on those who watch it. Something that Wes Craven’s “Scream” would play out to great effect two years later. I really can’t say enough about this film and homages to the original are expertly placed. It is my favorite horror film of all time and a modern classic.

Buy It Here: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

2. Scream (1996)
Growing up in a small town with not a lot of friends, you have to do what you can to make the time pass. For me, my friend past-time was horror movies. I devoured them as a kid. I remember going to the local video store with my mom and running to the horror aisle to see what new releases might be in stock. But even more than the new releases, it was the 80’s style horror movies that really caught my eye. The box art was normally quite grotesque with a naked girl here and a body part here. I always thought to myself, “This is awesome!” Hell, the Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors back box art (Kristen in the “Freddy snake”) scared me so much that it would take me years to watch it. Of course, I would always check out the back cover art just to freak myself out.

My view of horror as an art form all changed on one cold winter day in 1996. December 20th, 1996 to be exact (and no, dear viewers, I didn’t need to look that date up). A little movie called “Scream” opened and terrified moviegoers everywhere. It was the first film of its kind. A horror movie in which the characters in the movie had seen other horror movies. It could have been confusing and overly meta but it was all part of the fun.

Scream made horror movies scary again with a brilliantly constructed plot. One year after the death of Sidney Prescott’s (Campbell) mother, two students turn up gutted. When a serial killer appears, Sidney begins to suspect whether her mother’s death and the two new deaths are related. No one is safe, as the killer begins to pick everyone off one by one. Finally, something the horror genre was missing: a good old fashioned murder mystery. The performances all around are first rate from Neve Campbell as the vulnerable to Courteney Cox as the bitchy journalist willing to do whatever it takes to get a story Gale Weathers to David Arquette as the sweet, slightly dimwitted Deputy Dewey to Drew Barrymore’s doomed Casey Becker.

So, for those of you who haven’t seen it, check it out. It’s one of the best horror movies of the 1990’s and I was happy to see that the reunion in Scream 4 was not in vain. In fact, Scream 4 is currently a shoe-in for my favorite horror movie of 2011.

Buy the great blu-ray here: Scream [Blu-ray]

3. The People Under the Stairs (1991)
Some movies are a little bit out there. Some movies are a little on the strange side. Some movies can be a put off putting to others. And some movies are “The People Under the Stairs.” I can honestly say that I have never seen another movie like it. It is weird, over-the-top, and quite frequently crazy. You have a husband and wife (or mother and son or brother and sister, the movie really doesn’t make it very clear) that kidnap children to raise as their perfect offspring. However, when the child in question “hears, speaks, or sees evil” they are banished to the basement with the other neglected children. Sound fucked up?

Well, that’s only the start of it. The movie begins with a thirteen year old boy nicknamed Fool. Fools lives in the ghetto and has just found out his family is going to get evicted from their run down apartment. Fool is persuaded by family friend, Leroy, to sneak into the landlords’ home (the husband/wife, etc) to steal a prized coin collection rumored to be in their home. Desperate to help save his Mother’s life and the family from being thrown into the streets, Fool goes with Leroy and Leroy’s friend, Spenser, to the house.

Once they force their way into the house, they realize they got a lot more than they were looking for. After Spenser and Leroy are tragically killed, Fool tries to escape. Running for his life, he bumps into the landlords’ daughter, Alice, a young abused girl full of nothing but scars and fear. Fool feels sympathy towards Alice and persuades her to escape with him.

The movie works as a social parable about the rich and the poor but works even better as a balls-to-the-wall action/horror comedy that is just about as weird and crazy as you would imagine. I can’t recommend this movie to everyone but for those looking for a little leather gimp action, a crazy incest plot, and lots of hillbilly kids. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Buy it here: The People Under the Stairs

4. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
In October 1994, film students Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams and Joshua Leonard set out to produce a documentary about the fabled Blair Witch. They travel to Burkittsville, Maryland, formerly Blair, and interview locals about the legend of the Blair Witch. The locals tell them of Rustin Parr, a hermit who kidnapped seven children in the 1940s and brought them to his house in the woods, where he tortured and murdered them. Parr brought the children into his home’s basement in pairs. Parr forced the first child to face the corner and listen to their companion’s screams as he murdered the second child. Parr would then murder the first child. Eventually turning himself in to the police, Parr later pleaded insanity, saying that the spirit of Elly Kedward, a witch hanged in the 18th century, had been terrorizing him for some time and promised to leave him alone if he murdered the children. The trio also interviews Mary Brown, a local eccentric who tells them that she had encountered the Blair Witch as a child.

The second day, the students begin to explore the woods in north Burkittsville to look for evidence of the Blair Witch. Along the way, a fisherman warns them that the woods are haunted, and recalls a time that he had seen strange mist rising from the water. The students hike to Coffin Rock, where five men were found ritualistically murdered in the 19th century, and then camp for the night. The next day they move deeper into the woods, despite being uncertain of their exact location on the map. They eventually locate what appears to be an old cemetery with seven small cairns. They set up camp nearby and then return to the cemetery after dark. Josh accidentally disturbs a cairn, and Heather hastily repairs it. Later, they hear crackling sounds in the darkness that seem to be coming from all directions and assume the noises are from animals or locals following them.

The following day they attempt to return to their vehicle, but cannot find their way; they try until nightfall, when they are forced to set camp. That night, they again hear crackling noises, but cannot see anything. The next morning they find three cairns have been built around their tent during the night. As they continue trying to find their way out of the woods, Heather realizes that her map is missing, and Mike later reveals that he kicked it into a creek out of frustration the previous day. Josh and Heather attack Mike in a fit of intense rage. They then realize they are now hopelessly lost, and decide to simply “head south”. Soon, they discover a multitude of humanoid stick figures suspended from trees. That night, they hear more strange noises, including the sounds of children and bizarre “morphing” sounds. When an unknown force shakes the tent, they flee in a panic and hide in the woods until dawn. Upon returning to their tent, they find that their possessions have been rifled through, and Josh’s equipment is covered with slime, causing them to question why only his belongings were affected. As the day wears on, they pass a log over a stream that was identical to the one they had passed earlier, despite having traveled directly south all day, and again set camp, completely demoralized at having wasted the entire day seemingly going in circles. After this night, none of them will be the same again.

When “Blair Witch Project” opened in July 1999, little did anyone in the entertainment business realize that it would change the horror genre forever. The $30,000 little indie that could grossed an astonishing $141 million at the domestic box office and another $100 million overseas to become the most successful film of all time (budget to gross ratio). This little film had an entire nation believing that the events that took place actually happened. It was the first film to use the internet as a form of viral marketing from a website with little known “facts” about the “whereabouts” of the cast. It helped that “Blair Witch Project” was a damn good movie. The ending is scary as well and it’s hard to believe how far the “found footage” subgenre has come since the making of this film. It isn’t perfect (the leads can be a bit annoying and the scares are a bit repetitive towards the end) but it is a one of a kind movie that won’t soon be forgotten.

To buy “The Blair Witch Project”: The Blair Witch Project [Blu-ray]

5. Candyman (1992)
Helen Lyle is a graduate student conducting research for her thesis on urban legends. While interviewing freshmen about their superstitions, she hears about a local legend known as Candyman. The legend contains many thematic elements similar to the most well known urban legends, including endangered babysitters, spirits who appear in mirrors when fatally summoned, and maniac killers with unnatural deformities. The legend states that while Candyman was the son of a slave, he nevertheless became a well known artist. Yet, after falling in love with a white woman who becomes pregnant, Candyman is chased through the plantation and when caught, has his drawing hand cut off and replaced with a hook. He is then smeared with honey (prompting the locals to chant ‘Candyman’ a total of 5 times- hence the ‘say his name 5 times into the mirror’), stolen from a nearby apiary, and the bees sting him to death.[1] The legend also claims that Candyman is summoned by anyone who looks into a mirror and chants his name five times (similar to the Bloody Mary folkloric tale). Summoning him often costs the individual their own life. Later that evening, Helen and her friend Bernadette jokingly call Candyman’s name into the mirror in Helen’s bathroom but nothing happens.

While conducting her research, Helen enters the notorious gang-ridden Cabrini–Green housing project, the site of a recent unsolved murder. There she meets Anne-Marie McCoy, one of the residents, as well as a young boy named Jake, who tells her a disturbing story of a child who was horribly mutilated in a public restroom near the projects, supposedly by Candyman. While exploring the run-down restroom, Helen is attacked by a gang member carrying a hook who has taken the Candyman moniker as his own to enhance his own street credibility by associating himself with the legend. Helen survives the assault and is able to later identify her attacker to the police.

Helen later returns to school but hears a voice calling her name as she walks through a parking garage. Another man she encounters states he is the Candyman of the urban legend and because of Helen’s disbelief in him, he must now prove to her that he is real. Helen blacks out and wakes up in Anne-Marie’s apartment, covered in blood. Anne-Marie, whose Rottweiler has been decapitated and whose baby is also missing, attacks Helen and she is forced to defend herself from Anne-Marie using a meat cleaver. The police then enter the apartment and arrest Helen. Is Helen going crazy or will Candyman come for her next?

Three words adequately describe “Candyman”: Scary. As. Hell. I was twelve years old when I saw the movie for the first time and it hasn’t left my mind since. From the haunting Phillip Glass score to the uncompromising promises by both Tony Todd as Candyman and Virginia Madsen (who has never looked better) as Helen, everything about this movie is sensationally scary. Madsen, in particular, seems to relish playing against time and causes the audience to be sympathetic with her character when a lesser actress would have just come across as annoying. A cheap “Carrie” rip-off of an editing is the only false beat in this superb thriller from one of the masters of the horror genre, Clive Barker.

To buy “Candyman”: Candyman (Special Edition)