Let’s face it, as far as slashers go the 90s was a big fat dud. It’s not like the late 80s were always something to write home about but at least there were some good attempts and honestly, the direct to video market, which was just beginning to take off, offered some potential to the genre.
When I decided to do a top ten list of great 90s slashers I could barely muster up enough titles. How depressing is that? Most of the movies I did consider, and ultimately ended up putting on this list, were the ones that twisted convention and brought something really fresh to the genre – even to the point where I kind of wondered if I actually considered some of them true slashers. I guess that just goes to show that you can’t go home again.
Popcorn (1991) – In a lot of ways Popcorn was a nifty precursor to Scream. It’s about smart film fanatics meeting a masked menace and not living to tell the tale. The fanatics in question are film students who put on a horror show at a local theater to raise funding for their department. They uncover a reel belonging to Lanyard Gates, a supposedly dead cult leader. Well, good old Lanyard might not be dead and might just want to wreak havoc on movie night! Excellent performances, great pacing and a good vibe make Popcorn tops. It also sadly marks the last film that Derek Rydall starred in. I love that guy!
Candyman (1992) – Simply fantastic. One of the scariest horror movies around, Candyman was full of just as much suspense as it was blood and guts. Taking the Bloody Mary legend and then making it even scarier, Candyman was also served by top notch performances from Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd. If only the 90s had stayed this scary!
Happy Hell Night (1992) – This may very well be my favorite movie on the list. It’s obvious this odd Yugoslavian/Canadian slasher had production troubles (one of the actors has a completely different haircut towards the end of the film!), but the overall sense of dread and the downbeat ending make it a movie to remember. Very underrated.
Mikey (1992) - This direct to video effort might not be the greatest slasher film ever made, but cute little tykes killing big old adults is just too good to pass up, especially when the terror in question once played Andrew on the hit sitcom Family Ties! He’s great here as the kid without a conscience. You will also spot a pretty Josie Bissett pre-Melrose Place and Ashley Laurence from Hellraiser.
Jason Goes to Hell (1993) - The Final Friday – In my travels, I’ve come to discover that most Friday fans truly dislike this sequel. I just don’t get it. Sure, it’s not typical of the Friday movies but it’s just so much damn fun. Maybe that was the problem. Admittedly, there were way more laughs than scares, but I still find it an infectious and raucous flick. And the chick that gets axed in half during sex?!? YIKES!
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) - Absolutely captivating sequel to Wes Craven’s masterpiece, Freddy became less of a jokester and went back to being more of a monster, which stole my heart. The whole real vs. reel premise is divine, well thought out and, yeah, scary. It peters out a bit at the end, but there’s enough contemplative grue to keep you interested.
Scream (1996) – At the time, Scream was being touted as the film that would reignite the dead slasher sub-genre. To an extent, it did but it also killed it simultaneously. Most movies tried this new “self-aware” approach… and failed miserably. Scream was smart, cocky and fun and not an easy blueprint to copy. In some ways maybe it could be blamed for this new millennium’s version of the slasher, which is predominately filled with bitchy teens in remakes. At least Scream remains an effective romp and is now kind of retro! Geez, has that many years passed?!?
I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) – This one barely made the list but was tons better than the dismal The Night Brings Charlie, so there you go. Actually, when I Know first came out it was a lot of fun to see on the big screen. Slashers had all but disappeared until the release of Scream, so I promised myself that I’d catch as many as I could while the getting was good (little did I know…). It’s a pedestrian effort in many ways but so were a lot of 80s slashers, and I still enjoyed those too. This movie is mostly saved by the decent murders and a wonderful Johnny Galecki who is always a treat. For the dudes, this movie might not have had any nudity but it was wonder-bra central and Jennifer Love Hewitt’s assets are certainly something to be admired.
Scream II (1997) - Personally, I like this sequel better than the original. Maybe it’s because Courtney Cox’s character was just SO much more interesting than Sidney (sorry Neve, but it’s the truth). This one took all the conventions of slasher sequels and made them feel fresh again. Do I agree with the death of Randy? No, but it goes to prove that no one is safe in these movies.
Halloween H20 (1998) – It’s not my favorite of the Halloween sequels (that’s reserved for Halloween 2), but reuniting Laurie Strode with her brother was a stroke of sheer genius. A low body count hampered the film but some great chance scenes made up for it. Halloween H20 also stayed true to the original, therefore doing itself more justice than some of the previous efforts.