As we truck along with our year-by-year breakdown, we present to you the 15 Best Horror Films Of 1993. This is the year that gave us the directorial debut of Guillermo del Toro, one of the last great Dario Argento movies, and the third Invasion Of The Body Snatchers movie (that’s surprisingly very good). Let’s get started…
Director: Albert Pyun
Stars: Megan Ward, Peter Billingsley, John de Lancie, Seth Green
In 1992, the movie version of The Lawnmower Man showed the potential dangers of virtual reality, and how it could be used to give someone enough power to take over cyberspace. One year later, Arcade gave its own spin on the story, instead showing how virtual reality video games had the ability to come alive and trap children inside their circuit boards. Yes folks, we’re dealing with another brilliant cheesefest from the “screw it, let’s go with that” minds of Full Moon, one of our favorite B-movie studios.
Reeling from the suicide of her mother, troubled teen Alex spends her days hanging out with her friends – a group of too-cool-for-school outsiders (who wear a LOT of flannel). The gang hangs out at an arcade called Dante’s Inferno where a software exec is demonstrating his new game Arcade, a state-of-the-art virtual reality experience he promises will change the gaming experience. The first to play is Alex’s boyfriend Greg, who disappears in the middle of a game. When the home version turns their friend Laurie into a mindless zombie and ultimately kills her, Alex suspects that something is wrong with Arcade. Together with Nick, Alex investigates Arcade and begins to discover that the game is alive and picking off her friends for a reason. Her only hope is to enter the game world and defeat Arcade once and for all.
14. Puppet Master 4
Director: Jeff Burr
Stars: Gordon Currie, Chandra West, Ash Adams, Guy Rolfe
A young scientist working on an artificial intelligence project is the target of strange gremlin-like creatures, who are out to kill him and thus terminate his research. By coincidence, in one of the rooms he uses, there’s a mysterious case containing the puppets of the “puppet master”. When the puppets are brought to life, they help destroy the creatures.
If there’s one thing to be said for Charles Band’s long-running Puppet Master franchise, it’s that it is a franchise that has proved to have a high degree of staying power, lasting near three decades thus far and with no signs of slowing down. Even now, there’s talk of not only another sequel to the original franchise, but even a full- fledged theatrical reboot to the sometimes beloved series. Puppet Master 4 is a very uneven entry in the series. Many aspects of the story are dated to the point of going beyond the nostalgic charm. The pacing is all out of whack. Certain major elements seem out of left field. And it all does feel just a bit silly, even for a Puppet Master sequel. Still, there’s plenty of fun to be had. The series was never anything more than trashy, goofy B-movies with some blood and boobs and creepy puppets… and you certainly get that here.
13. Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday
Director: Adam Marcus
Stars: Kane Hodder, John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Steven Williams
If longtime fans of the Friday The 13th saga had anything to say about it, the people behind this movie would burn in the same place as its hockey-masked star. However, the film admittedly deserves credit for its boldness. This time around Jason’s supernatural origins are revealed. Apparently, Jason Voorhees isn’t really the person we thought he was, he’s more or less an evil spirit that can be transferred from body to body at will (in the words of Céline Dion, his heart will go on, literally).
One big problem with this film that is rarely addressed is its insistence on mocking the series. At one point, one of the characters sarcastically asks a trio of teens headed for Camp Crystal Lake whether they plan to smoke dope, engage in premarital sex and then get slaughtered. It’s supposed to be a funny meta moment but it just comes across as… awkward. The Final Friday also lacks a certain charm that the other movies had. Probably because this was made on a higher budget and the filmmakers were actually trying to accomplish things that weren’t accomplished in the previous movies (which wasn’t necessarily a good thing, in this case). Fans of the series who aren’t too picky, go ahead and enjoy. All others, seek caution.
12. Warlock: The Armageddon
Director: Anthony Hickox
Stars: Julian Sands, Chris Young, Paula Marshall, Joanna Pacula
Every six hundred years, a great evil has the opportunity to escape and unleash Armageddon. A group of five stones has the power to either free the evil, or banish it for another six hundred years. An order of Druids battles with a Warlock determined to unleash his father upon the world.
Sometimes the sequels to dumb and campy horror films take a stab at a serious follow-up to the obvious stupidity of the original. Luckily, director Anthony Hickox makes no such attempt with 1993’s Warlock: The Armageddon, the sequel to 1989’s Warlock. Hickox had previously directed the Waxwork films, Sundown: The Vampires In Retreat, and, most pressingly, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth. Like Hellraiser III, Hickox has made a movie about a formally serious villain suddenly performing over-the-top kills and cracking wise about it. Luckily for us, the Warlock is a far better fit for this style then Pinhead.
Director: Tony Randel
Stars: Rosalind Allen, Ami Dolenz, Seth Green, Alfonso Ribeiro
Problem teens in Los Angeles join an inner-city wilderness project in an attempt to get back in touch with life’s priorities, led by do-gooders Holly and Charles. When they get to the campsite, they begin having problems adjusting to the wild life, particularly local marijuana growers using herbal steroids to accelerate plant growth, and the mutated ticks that the leaky steroid system has created.
Ticks is delightfully unassuming junk – it enthusiastically wallows in its Z-grade schlock. It’s primarily an effects show that exists as one of KNB’S best demo reels, which is really saying a lot. Somehow, the effects make ticks into a formidable creature as they skitter about and wreak havoc. They’re also prone to bursting forth from gross, gelatinous sacks and spattering all over the victims; eventually, they burrow into their bodies before bursting back out. Between their appearance and that M.O., the title creatures recall Alien. There’s even a scene where some of the characters are frantically trying to find a tick flittering around a lab, which obviously echoes one of the more famous scenes in that film. To its credit, Ticks is a better Alien flick than Alien Resurrection.
10. Needful Things
Director: Fraser C. Heston
Stars: Max von Sydow, Ed Harris, Bonnie Bedelia, Amanda Plummer
Castle Rock, New England, is a nice place to live and grow and Sheriff Alan Pangborn moves from the big city to the town expecting a quiet life. When Leland Gaunt opens the store Needful Things, he seems to have the object of desire for each dweller. He charges small amounts to the things but requests a practical joke for each of them against another inhabitant. Soon hell breaks loose in town with deaths, violence and riot and Sheriff Pangborn discovers that Leland Gaunt is the devil himself. Further, Gaunt is manipulating the population like puppets exploring the weakness and greed of each person.
Based on Stephen King’s 1991 novel of the same name, Needful Things is well crafted, and despite being a full two hours in length, marches along nicely towards its inevitable conclusion. The cinematography and musical score are both on par with other mainstream movies of this time period, and the special effects are acceptable as well. Although it may ultimately pale in comparison to the very best of the Stephen King adaptations, it is nevertheless a worthy entry, significantly better than many of the previously unsuccessful attempts.
9. Return Of The Living Dead III
Director: Brian Yuzna
Stars: Kent McCord, James T. Callahan, Sarah Douglas, Melinda Clarke
Colonel Reynolds and his group of government scientists continue their work on re-animating the dead for military use. His son Curt and his girlfriend Julie use Dad’s security pass to sneak in and watch the proceedings. Later when the father and son have a disagreement, Curt and Julie take off on a motorcycle and Julie is killed in an accident. Grief-stricken, Curt takes her body to the lab and brings her back to life. As you could imagine, this might not have been a great idea.
After the juvenile Return Of The Living Dead 2 it was easy not to expect much from this sequel. Well, leave it to Brian Yuzna to pick up the franchise and stand it back on its two undead feet. Where the first film had a dark humorous tone, the second had childish sight gags, this one goes for straight up serious, and it works. It features some impressive effects, a great score by Barry Goldberg, and a nice twist on the typical zombie/human relationship. This is a familiar story told in inventive fashion, benefiting from a director willing to do a little something different.
8. Man’s Best Friend
Director: John Lafia
Stars: Ally Sheedy, Lance Henriksen, Robert Costanzo, Fredric Lehne
Trying to get an exposé story on facility doing experiments on animals, Lori Tanner and her videographer sneak into the place to get footage. When they get caught and make a break for it, one of the experimental animals, a dog named Max, escapes with them and Lori takes him home. While Lori thinks he’s the best pet ever, everyone else sees him for the danger he really is. Meanwhile, the dog’s creator Dr. Jarret tries to get him back before the drugs he gave him wear off and Max turns into a killing machine.
Man’s Best Friend is a phenomenally entertaining daft film. There’s just so much of it that’s flat-out hilarious, particularly involving Max’s antics in the outside world. In particular, the climbing the tree scene to eat a cat may be one of the funniest schlock scenes of the ’90s. Seriously, he grows claws, climbs up and then BANG, the pussy is screwed. The film even has the good grace to show Max swallowing what looks suspiciously like a toy cat whole. This scene is just sheer genius. As a slice of entertaining dumbhouse, it’s hard to fault Man’s Best Friend at all.
Director: Mark Jones
Stars: Warwick Davis, Jennifer Aniston, Ken Olandt, Mark Holton
Leprechauns simply can not be scary, and they never will be, but that didn’t stop the creators of Leprechaun from trying. The film, of course, follows the attempts of an evil leprechaun to locate his missing bag of gold, which had been lost ten years earlier. Cue instant hilarity.
It’s hard not to enjoy this stupid little movie. Leprechaun feels more like a ‘90s kids movie that happens to have some gore and scare sequences peppered throughout. And it feels like that because that’s what it actually is. The film wonderfully encapsulates horror in a cheesy casing by having the titular baddie pursue his victims on a tricycle, pogo stick, miniature car, go-kart, skateboard, roller skates, and even a wheelchair. The leprechaun is a lot like Freddy Krueger in the later NOES films – he cracks jokes and is not frightening in the least bit… but damn is he entertaining! This movie is a fun, campy, ridiculous B-Movie that envelopes the best of what those ‘90s popcorn horrors had to offer. Absurd as it is, this flick has a definite sense of charisma.
6. Body Snatchers
Director: Abel Ferrara
Stars: Gabrielle Anwar, Meg Tilly, Terry Kinney, Christine Elise
Body Snatchers is the third film adaptation of Jack Finney’s 1955 novel The Body Snatchers, the first being Invasion Of The Body Snatchers in 1956, followed by a remake of the same name in 1978. The plot revolves around the discovery that people working at a military base in Alabama are being replaced by perfect physical imitations grown from plant-like pods. The duplicates are indistinguishable from normal people except for their utter lack of emotion.
Compared to all the other versions of IOTBS, this third rendering is almost a forgotten movie. While easily available to purchase, it’s far less known and talked about – which is a shame. This is a pretty solid little movie. One almost never says that a SECOND remake is worth a damn, but this is that very rare exception to the rule. To go even deeper, Roger Ebert actually considered Body Snatchers superior to the previous adaptations of Finney’s famous novel and in his review (February 25, 1994) gave it four stars out of four, praising it for psychological realism and social criticism. Ebert stated “as sheer moviemaking, it is skilled and knowing, and deserves the highest praise you can give a horror film: It works”.
5. When A Stranger Calls Back
Director: Fred Walton
Stars: Carol Kane, Charles Durning, Jill Schoelen, Gene Lythgow
When A Stranger Calls has been hailed as having the most intense opening sequence of any horror movie. How many of us still shutter when we think of the words “The call is coming from inside the house!”? While the rest of the movie didn’t hold up to this level of suspense (which, to be fair, would have been impossible), the movie surely caused many a babysitter’s hair to stand on edge when she was alone in a strange house. Surprisingly, When a Stranger Calls Back delivers the same amount of “opening sequence thrills”.
When A Stranger Calls Back was made for TV, which actually makes it more impressive (seeing as how made for TV horror movies have a history of sucking donkey balls). While the movie as a whole is enjoyable, the opening sequence is what makes the film. Julia is a young babysitter who spends a night in a middle class neighborhood. A knock arrives at the front door by a person having car distress. Without ruining the sequence for those that haven’t seen the movie, the suspense is built up very slowly (the scene is about 15 minutes in length) until the “coupe de gras” which will delight even the most well-seasoned horror fan. It’s been said that the opening sequences for both of the Stranger movies are perhaps the most well-directed scenes in the history of horror. One can’t really disagree with that statement.
4. Body Bags
Directors: John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Larry Sulkis
Stars: Robert Carradine, Mark Hamill, Sheena Easton, Tom Arnold
As horror anthologies found new life on television throughout the late ’80s and early ‘90s, it only made sense that Showtime wanted in on the business, and who better to help bring it to the screen than John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper? Of course, the answer to that question might have been a bit more emphatic a decade earlier, when the duo was at the height of their respective powers. Still, the horror chiefs do manage to deliver the goods.
The stories come in the form of a trio: The Gas Station, where a serial killer is on the loose. Hair, follows a middle aged man going to great measures to become attractive (with a subsequent hair transplant gone wrong). And Eye, which follows a guy who receives an eye transplant from a very interesting individual. Admittedly none of the stories are extraordinary brilliant or innovating, but they’re definitely traditional and enthusiastically made. And if you don’t care about the actual stories, you can always entertain yourself by playing “spot-the-horror-star”. Body Bags boosts an amazing cast including John Carpenter (Halloween), Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead), Roger Corman (Pit And The Pendulum), Wes Craven (A Nightmare On Elm Street), Robert Carradine (Orca), David Naughton (American Werewolf In London), George Buck Flower (The Fog), Stacy Keach (Mountain Of The Cannibal God), David Warner (The Omen), Mark Hamill (Star Wars), Twiggy (The Doctor And The Devils), Deborah Harry (Videodrome) and Charles Napier (Supervixens).
3. The Dark Half
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Timothy Hutton, Amy Madigan, Michael Rooker, Julie Harris
Stephen King and George Romero have had a long association, although that association has resulted in only a few movies actually getting made: Knightriders (we’re being generous there, since King’s only involvement was a cameo appearance), Creepshow, Creepshow 2 (which Romero wrote and produced), Tales From The Darkside: The Movie (Romero wrote the screenplay for the Cat From Hell segment), and The Dark Half.
Writing under the name of Richard Bachman, Stephen King’s twisted musing on his own experiment with an alter-ego spawns this horror tale of a writer whose pseudonym takes on a deadly reality, heralding a vicious killing spree, with all the clues quite naturally pointing straight back at him. It should be noted that, in lesser hands, The Dark Half would have surely faltered. Mr. Romero did a great job creating King’s nightmare imagery, so that the more confusing story elements somehow seem plausible. In a way, the story suggests that reality itself is carried along by its own horrors, and that we are ultimately haunted (and in some cases, stalked and killed) by our own collective, creative urges.
Director: Dario Argento
Stars: Christopher Rydell, Asia Argento, Piper Laurie, Frederic Forrest
An anorexic young woman escapes from a psychiatric clinic and meets a young man who wants to help. She is caught and returned to her parents, who are soon beheaded by a garrotting stranger making the rounds about town, apparently striking only when it rains. The orphaned young woman and her new lover launch their own investigation and are endangered when a link is discovered with the victims and a particular operation performed years before.
Trauma was Italian horror master Dario Argento’s first full length movie of the ’90s and also his first made by an American production company. At the time of Trauma’s release a lot of the great horror filmmakers that got their start in the early ’70s were starting to decline and with the lack of younger filmmakers to emerge the horror genre began to hit a bit of a rut. Trauma is a movie by a filmmaker who may not be what he once was, but still hanging on to his old glory. Most Argento fans see Trauma as a middle of the road movie and while we can’t really defend it from being just that, it’s hard not to very much enjoy it. The mystery is genuinely intriguing in the true giallo sense and the feeling of uneasiness is suitably enhanced by Pino Donaggio’s intermittently brilliant soundtrack. The characters are among Argento’s best and this is by far his most character driven picture. Just to reiterate, Trauma is indeed a movie by a filmmaker that may not be what he once was, but still has enough left in the tank and is far better than given credit for.
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Stars: Federico Luppi, Ron Perlman, Claudio Brook, Margarita Isabel
This surreal variant on the classic vampire tale is the directorial debut of Mexican talent Guillermo del Toro, who garnered international acclaim and many awards. In the film, a mysterious device designed to provide its owner with eternal life resurfaces after four hundred years, leaving a trail of destruction in its path.
As Guillermo del Toro’s first film, Cronos isn’t quite as chock full of the director’s trademark filmmaking techniques as we’ve become used to. But what’s truly impressive is what del Toro does without all his creature effects and makeup wizardry. The Cronos device is the monster, not the person who becomes controlled by it. The film serves as a refreshing take on vampires that paints them in a pitiful light, as slaves to their own lives as opposed to sexualized predators who feed on their victims with satisfaction. Plus, the film contains del Toro’s constant theme of self-sacrifice. If only this movie had come after The Twilight Saga to get people interested in vampires all over again.
What was your favorite horror movie of the year? Let us know in the comments below.