The best scares from the nineties
The '90s. When a horror movie won the best picture Oscar. When the Japanese sent their vengeful spirits worldwide. When the found footage phenomenon took off. When cool directors like David Lynch and David Fincher decided to give horror a new respectability, and new depths of depravity. When Sam Neill seemed to be in every other horror film that came out. And when a belated second sequel to a '70s horror classic took everybody by surprise by actually being pretty darned good. And pretty scary too.
That's an epic list of horror highlights from the pre-Millennial decade. A time when fear manifested in a number of ghoulish and eerie ways, 25 of which were utterly terrifying. Kick bag and enjoy a nostalgic scare with these must-see '90s horror flicks. Some of them are even good enough to have made it onto our list of the best horror movies (opens in new tab) of all time.
25. Jacob's Ladder (1990)
The scary movie: Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) is a Vietnam vet whose entire unit died in horrific ways during the war. Or were they? Back in New York, Jacob starts experiencing vivid hallucinations and soon neither he nor we know what happened at all. Best not to quibble with the specifics; you don't need to wrap your head around the tangled plot to be scared.
Hide behind a cushion when: Jacob's girlfriend starts dirty jiving with a stranger on the dancefloor at a party... and metamorphoses into something indescribably eerie.
24. The Sixth Sense (1999)
The scary movie: A child psychologist (Bruce Willis) attempts to help a spooky kid (Haley Joel Osment) who reckons he sees ghosts. But the more time he spends with the child, the more it seems his delusions might be true. You probably already know the ending, but even so, theres something enduringly eerie about this movie. Largely due to a trio of solid turns from Willis, Osment and Toni Collette as the boy's struggling mother.
Hide behind a cushion when: Well, if you dont wanna see dead people, youre gonna have to spend a lot of time behind that cushion. Especially the bit when the young ghost whisperer spies a young girl in his apartment. Yeesh. You'll never want to camp again.
23. Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)
The scary movie: By the early '90s, the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise had devolved into a kind of campy quip-a-thon with the occasional freaky dream sequence thrown in for luck. New Nightmare was an attempt to make Freddy scary again by letting him prey on the cast and crew of the original movie. Wes Craven's return to the series he created did meta two years before his self-referential scarefest, Scream.
Hide behind a cushion when: Hide whenever you want, as long as you dont fall asleep.
22. Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992)
The scary movie: Hellraiser III is the last of the Hellraiser movies thats worth watching. Following the events of Hellraiser II, Pinhead gets trapped in an artefact known as the Pillar of Souls, which gets installed in a new nightclub. All hell, predictably, breaks loose when he begins feasting on clubbers in order to return to Earth.
Hide behind a cushion when: Chains spring out of the pillar and Pinhead starts making new Cenobites. Do peek over the cushion occasionally though, because some of the new Cenobite designs are gleefully weird.
21. Castle Freak (1995)
The scary movie: An American family inherits a castle in Italy and decides to move in. As always with these things, though, the castle turns out to be hiding a nasty secret in the basement one that doesnt want to stay locked away any longer. Might have been an idea to take a tour of the property before signing the deed.
Hide behind a cushion when: The titular "freak" - who's actually the former owner's tortured offspring - breaks free from its subterranean trappings and starts to run rampant across the grounds.
20. The People Under The Stairs (1991)
The scary movie: Upon learning they're to be evicted, three criminals break into the house of their landlords to teach them a lesson. It's only when they're inside they discover theres something seriously scary going on in there. Wes Craven had done inbred cannibals before with The Hills Have Eyes, but with The People Under The Stairs, he moved them out of the backwoods and into suburbia.
Hide behind a cushion when: The young hordes of ghostly pale cannibal kiddies encircle one of the crooks...
19. Mimic (1997)
The scary movie: Guillermo Del Toro's creature feature finally received the director's cut it deserved in 2011, a far darker, twisted execution of the earlier version. Normal cockroaches are horrifying enough, but giant ones who pretend to be human and then kill people? Brrrrrrrr. Thank goodness for Mira Sorvino's entomologist who sets about creating the world's largest can of bug spray.
Hide behind a cushion when: The helpful kids go to try to find more bug samples to sell to the scientists. You know its not gonna end well when they enter the dingy, dilapidated part of the subway system.
18. Boy Meets Girl (1994)
The scary movie: A man meets a woman in a bar and invites himself back to her place. Everything seems to be going well when she suggests they watch an erotic movie, but her idea of a fun evening turns out to be significantly different from his. Banned by the BBFC for years, this is an angry and disturbing low-budget shocker.
Hide behind a cushion when: The LSD-enhanced surgery scene starts. Nothing worse than passing out and waking up strapped to a dentist's chair...
17. Event Horizon (1997)
The scary movie: In space, no-one can hear you scream, so youd think hapless starship captains would stop responding to mysterious distress calls. The Event Horizon is no ordinary spaceship, and anyone who boards her meets a grim fate quicker than you can say warp speed 10". That doesn't stop Laurence Fishburne and his crew from thinking themselves the exception...
Hide behind a cushion when: The would-be rescuers find footage revealing what happened to the Event Horizons original crew.