Apart from being the best decade in the history of the world (so far), the 90s was an absolute stonker for horror.
Whether it was breathing new life into the Teen Slasher or breaking new ground with Found Footage, some of the most established directors of the genre made their best work circa 1990.
The late Wes Craven put his postmodern stamp on slashers with New Nightmare (1994), and then dropped his masterpiece just two years later Scream (1996); which saw everyone dressing up as Ghost-face for Halloween. Other horror auteurs such as Sam Raimi and John Carpenter continued to scare us silly with their contributions to the creep charts, while Jonathan Demme put horror/thriller back on the map when Silence of the Lambs (1991) dominated the Oscars.
There was never a better time to be alive and terrified than the 1990’s (cue perfect segue into 90s horror countdown list).
10. Arachnophobia (1990)
A creature feature with enough legs to make you incredibly itchy, Frank Marshall’s creepy horror comedy follows a deadly, undiscovered South American spider which finds itself in the idyllic town of Canaima.
The story centres on former urbanites, Ross (Jeff Daniels) and Molly (Harley Jane Kozak) Jennings, who are blissfully unaware that a new breed of deadly house spiders are about to hatch. Soon these little critters are in every crevice waiting to inject their deadly toxin into the next townie they find.
Marshall certainly learnt well from his esteemed colleague Spielberg by creating a family-friendly fright-fest that traps you in its web and injects litres of horror-comedy into your veins.
9. Mister Frost (1990)
Philippe Setbon’s psychological horror went totally under the radar when it was released, but perfect performances from Jeff Goldblum and Kathy Baker have awarded it cult status in later years. This semi-unheard-of film focuses on a serial killer (Goldblum), admitted to a mental asylum. He doesn’t utter a word, until Dr. Day (Baker) comes along, and he admits that he is the devil and must be murdered. Simple jump cuts and effective use of lighting makes for a tense and unnerving watch, and as the story reaches its unbearable conclusion, you are left feeling uneasy and in need of a cuddle.
8. Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Living proof that being dead is cool af, Neil Jordan brought Anne Rice’s iconic Lestat to the screen wearing the skin of Tom Cruise.
While a decidedly questionable casting choice, it just worked, helped along by Brad Pitt’s portrayal of Louis.
Lestat finds a devastated and suicidal Louis and turns him into a vampire so he can have a companion, but the way Lestat lives his undead life does not meet with the morally tuned Lois.
An adorable Kristen Dunst makes one of her movie debuts as Claudia, who is more sinister than sweet, despite first appearances.
A tragic tale of love, loss and revenge, Interview with the Vampire’s plot may be slow at times – but it is redeemed by a cast that screams early ‘90s.
7. Sleepy Hollow (1999)
This gothic supernatural love story splice by auteur Tim Burton keeps close to the classic Washington Irving tale, and marks a time pre-Pirates of the Caribbean when Johnny Depp was typecast as ‘slightly’ normal. Trying to separate the fact from the fiction, Ichabod Crane (Depp) is sent to the sleepiest of hollows to investigate three murders by a suspected Headless Horseman.
Instead he finds the beautiful Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci), the daughter of a wealthy land owner, and the main suspect in Crane’s investigation.
A playful horror with just enough ooze and mist to make you feel a bit creepy, but not enough to have you hiding behind the pillow. Comedy performances and a mushy gushy love sub-plot peg this as a family-friendly ghost story, made to be enjoyed by all ages.
6. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Blair Witch was released and the found footage horror sub-genre was born, thanks to director duo Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick. Filmed like a documentary and framed like a horror, this movie shook audiences in a way that is unlikely to happen again. Hoodwinked by the positioning of ‘true events’ and interviews with the townsfolk about the terrifying Blair Witch, this movie successfully fooled cinemagoers. The Blair Witch Project made tracks so deep they have become a well-trodden path in the horror world, paving the way for movies such as Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity.
5. Scream (1996)
Ah come on, did you really think this film wouldn’t be in here? If you don’t know the plot to this teen slasher resurgence from Wes Craven, then we really need to pop your culture cherry.
High school student Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) finds herself the target of a masked killer, who slashes his way through the teen population of Woodsboro like a hot knife through butter. This self-aware slasher makes jabs at its genre with dark comedy and references galore, providing a refreshing resurgence for every horror fan to enjoy.
Anyway, I’m just going to get a beer… “I’ll be right back!”
4. The Sixth Sense (1999)
M. Night Shyamalan’s supernatural horror scared the socks off audiences world-wide and saw the decade out with a bang. Starring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense told the story of Cole (Osment) who could (famously) “see dead people” and his psychologist Dr. Crowe (Willis) who is sceptical about his ability. A phenomenal story and outstanding acting compliment one of the biggest plot twists in movie history. There are two types of people in this world; ones who saw the ending spoiler free, and ones who didn’t.
3. Misery (1990)
Rob Reiner brought Steven King’s terrifying book to life with this unparalleled adaptation. Writer Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is in a near-fatal car accident in Colorado after completing his new book. He is saved by his “number one fan” and former nurse Annie Wilkes (Cathy Bates) who single-handedly drags him back to her remote farm. As Paul begins to regain his strength he realises that Annie is not as wholesome as she appears and that he is in fact being held captive by a crazed super-fan. You’ll never look at a sledgehammer in the same way again after watching this nail biting horror, thanks to convincing performances from Caan and Bates. Wince-worthy scenes that will have you hiding behind your hands firmly place this film in one of the best “cock-a-doody” horrors of the decade.
2. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
This Oscar-winning horror thriller portrayed the nerve-twisting FBI investigation of serial killer Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) by agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster).
The treatment of sexism within the Bureau of Investigations, portrayed through point of view shots, twinned with Bill’s psychopathic rampage against his female victims makes for an intense and unnerving watch. Not to mention Sir Anthony Hopkins’ standout performance as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, which saw him steal the show with approximately 12 minutes of screen time and win the Academy Award for Best Actor in ‘92.
1. Ringu (1998)
The original “the original is much scarier than the remake” horror, directed by Hideo Nakata, brought the grotesque psychological mind-melt that is Samara into the world. With its cursed tape, tendrils of wet black hair and nightmarish eyeballs, Ringu reminded adults of what it was like to be truly scared. Reducing many into childhood regression, or failing that, the foetal position – this movie rocked the 90s horror scene with its twisted tale of seething hatred turned paranormal. This Japanese box-office success is hard to top, as once it contorts and cracks into your mind; you’ll be hard-pressed to get it out again.