90s Slashers: Slim Pickings

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.

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18 Responses to “ 90s Slashers: Slim Pickings ”

  1. I agree about Popcorn for sure! but none of the others really.

  2. The 90’s really were a rather dry period. One that comes to my head that I enjoyed was “campfire tales” It had an interesting cast and it was a rather decent throwback to not only anthology movies but the power of the spoken tale itself. It was straight to video, at least in my parts, but I remember really liking it.

    P.S. I love that you included “Mikey” on this list. That is why you rule.

  3. Oh, I had forgotten about Campfire Tales! That was a pretty goo d un.

    Mikey rules. That kid was mean! There’s actually some slyly funny moments going on in it too. It’s one of the movies that is pretty fun to re-visit. And Josie Bissett looks SO much better with long hair. That bowl cut did her no justice at all!

    Thanks for reading, but I think YOU rule. Oh, and Mikey too…

  4. Oh my God, I forgot about Mikey! I got a total kick out of that movie when I was a little kid because my name is Mikey, too. I remember my aunt rented it back when it first came out because my relatives always thought I was a total psycho for being so horror obsessed and they’d tease me a lot, so she thought it’d be funny to watch it with the whole damn family, haha. Of course the psycho jokes became even more frequent after that. But I think they were a little more frightened, too (which I guess they deserved after all that teasing). I don’t really remember this movie too much, though. I really need to check it out again. Thanks for reminding me!

    Great list, by the way. I think Urban Legend is also worth mentioning. I used to love the crap out of that movie. I’m over it now, but it’s still a fun slasher to watch every now and again. Don’t know why so many people hate it.

  5. Nice list. But “Campfire Tales” was definitely an overlook. Like that one a lot.

    From what I remember, Josie Bissett had the most uninteresting Melrose character. Stupid hair choice, too!

    Like your obligatory boob reference, Amanda. “They’re boobs! That’s all it is!”

  6. I hate so much the SCREAM series and the I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER series!!! URBAND LEGEND was i little better but i agree for Popcorn,Candyman and Happy hell Nigh!!!

  7. Why not Slumber Party Massacre III?

  8. I didn’t add SPM III to the list because I saw it once years ago and don’t remember caring for it. I should definitely revisit it again. But most of the movies on this list I’ve also only seen once, so there must have been something kind of forgettable about SPM III (at least for me)….

    Also, I don’t know if I’d consider Campfire Tales to be a slasher per se, but I really want to see it again. I remember I enjoyed the People Can Lick Too story immensely.

    And now onto Urban Legend… I was just not a fan of that movie. It was difficult to sit through for me. I did like the sequel a lot, but I think that one might have come out in 2000, and my cut off date was 1999. BUT was it as bad as Valentine? NO WAY!

    Thanks guys for reading and posting your thoughts and choices for movies that didn’t make my list. I love the feedback…

  9. Slumber Party Massacre III and Sorority House Massacre 2 should be on the list too!

  10. Well, I guess I’m the only one who has a soft spot for Dr. Giggles! I initially hated that movie but over the years I’ve become really fond of it. Larry Drake gives a great performance as the twisted M.D. and the kills all have a great comic book-style inventiveness to them. Definitely not a classic, but a fun film.

    And reading about Mikey reminds me of another killer kid film from the ’90s – 1994’s The Paperboy. I’d love to check that one out again. William Katt was in it with Alexandra Paul from Christine and Baywatch.

  11. And remember Milo? I think I liked that one, but I’ll admit, I missed the Paperboy. I love both Katt and Paul so I’ll have to check it out.

    And yeah, not a Dr. Giggles fan. Sorry. I do love Larry Drake, but that movie – wow. I saw it at the Drive In with Raising Caine. I thought I’d go bonkers!!!

  12. Urban Legend looks impressive the first time you see it but the second and third viewings are just tedious. I was bitterly disappointed with IKWYDLS 2 because I actually really liked the first, but on re-viewing it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it was. Nice to see H20 on the list. I loved it 10 years ago and I still love it now. It is what it is; a teen thriller, with some genuine tension and the occasional nasty bit. And isn’t that what we love?

    That was back in the day when my local cinema actually showed horror films. Now I have to be content with DVD, and most of the stuff released since is barely even worth that. Sigh.

  13. Hey Natalie! Thanks for posting! I too think H20 still works. It’s just a fun film.

  14. maybe I’m crazy, but I liked Valentine. Sure, it’s not original, and some of the acting is sub-par, but I thought it was a decent effort. That cupid mask was creepy. Why is this movie so hated?

  15. The main problem with 90s slashers is that they were all a bit bloodless and, with the exception of Candyman, they never managed a truly iconic killer. Scream was put together quite well, but seemed like an Agatha Christie style who-done-it crossed with Graduation Day. Happy Hell Night is like Laid to Rest: a potentially great iconic bad-guy bogged down in an OK film.
    IKWYDLS has one of the most unintentionally funny scenes in slasher history: Sarah M Geller on the float glimpsing what she thinks is the killer only for it to turn out to be a series of old men in sow-esters. Obviously, the beauty pageant was held on the same day that the local Chapter of Hells Captain Birdseyes decided to make a show of force!
    I have a soft spot for Urban Legend because it’s an unashamedly gormless rip-off of every big studio slasher film ever made. The killers weapon of choice really should have been a kitchen sink.
    I don’t understand the hate for Jason Goes to Hell, but then again I like Prom Night II.

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