As we truck along with our year-by-year breakdown, we present to you the 15 Best Horror Films Of 1995. This is the year that gave us the first Tales From The Crypt movie (based on the HBO show, that is), a sexy extraterrestrial who wants nothing more than to engage in coitus with a hot stud, and a super-weird Clive Barker movie (though, to be fair, all his movies are pretty freaking weird). Let’s get started…
15. Embrace Of The Vampire
Director: Anne Goursaud
Stars: Alyssa Milano, Martin Kemp, Rebecca Ferratti, Jennifer Tilly
Charlotte is a former Catholic schoolgirl, out in the real world for the first time at college. She’s got an understanding boyfriend, Chris, who doesn’t put any pressure on her to duck under the covers for the first time. Things are going fine until she is plagued by visions of a centuries-old vampire, who tries to entice her away from Chris and the mortal world and into eternal sleep with him. She bears a resemblance to the princess he was in love with when he was bitten, and he begins to manipulate her through her dreams in the hopes she’ll dismiss her feelings for Chris and give herself over to him before his time on Earth is up in 72 hours.
Let’s face it, this is one of the most famous B-movies ever because of a few nude scenes, not because of a terrific plot. Yes, Alyssa Milano looks great, but that doesn’t mean that this was a good movie. Really, the film is watchable at best, and the writers clearly were more concerned with getting Alyssa naked than making an interesting story about vampires. Though, one can’t really call it a disappointment, since you get exactly what you’d expect, but it’s nothing but a forgettable film that just happens to have some legendary soft-porn scenes.
14. Village Of The Damned
Director: John Carpenter
Stars: Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Paré
A reworking of the 1960 film of the same name and the original Midwich Cuckoos novel, Village Of The Dammed follows a small American village who is visited by some unknown life form which leaves the women of the village pregnant. Nine months later, the babies are born, and they all look normal, but it doesn’t take the “parents” long to realize that the kids are not human or humane.
As a remake (or, really, a re-adaptation), this version of Village Of The Damned is solid because it remains faithful to the plot of the original but adds its own twists and ideas. A paranoid, post-1984 Big Brother vibe that shows a wariness towards big government, conspiracies, and cover-ups is substituted for the Cold War sensibilities of the original films. There’s an early scene where the government descends on the town in an almost militant fashion, and we see one of our protagonists, Dr. Vernercharacter, talking to some mysterious government officials in a dark room. It’s kind of creepy, and we’re not even sure if we can trust Vernercharacter herself; the sort of cynical, paranoid tone of these proceedings feels ripped right out of George Romero’s The Crazies. The story is set across a decade and would be easy to pick apart, but such activity would divert attention from the film’s chief asset, its general mood and atmosphere, which improves on multiple viewings.
13. Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers
Director: Joe Chappelle
Stars: Donald Pleasence, Paul Rudd, Marianne Hagan, Kim Darby
Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers is frequently labeled the black eye of the Halloween franchise. While it’s not a profoundly stimulating picture, there are worse in the franchise (see Halloween: Resurrection), and at the very least, Curse can lay claim to attempting to bestow Myers a legit backstory; a reasoning for his mass murdering ways. Does that attempt pay off? No. To be entirely honest it doesn’t pay off. But hey, it’s the thought that counts right?
The film opens with Michael’s niece Jamie, now 15 years old and inexplicably pregnant, giving birth to a child, which is then promptly kidnapped by the unexplained “Man in Black” (who briefly appeared at the end of Halloween 4) and his cult. A nurse later helps Jamie and her baby escape, and Michael of course shows up and kills the nurse. Jamie and her baby flee in a stolen pickup truck and she manages to call in to a radio station and warn Haddonfield that Michael is returning. She is quickly impaled by Michael and killed, but not before hiding her baby in a bus station, where Tommy Doyle, the child Laurie Strode babysat in the first film, conveniently finds it. Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis, now a retired recluse, hears Jamie’s plea on the radio and decides to go back to Haddonfield to warn everyone, yet again.
12. The Mangler
Director: Tobe Hooper
Stars: Robert Englund, Ted Levine, Daniel Matmor, Vanessa Pike
Based upon the Stephen King short story of the same name (which appeared in his inaugural short story collection, Night Shift), The Mangler follows a policeman as he investigates a series of mysterious deaths at an industry laundry. He soon discovers that a professional speed iron has becomes possessed by a demonic spirit, and the laundry’s sinister owner has been sacrificing his employees to ensure his financial success. It’s nutter butters.
To start, the short story this is based on is great. But when it is brought to the screen, it’s just ridiculous. It’s so over-the-top, but it also doesn’t have anywhere near the budget to be as over-the-top as it wants to be. There are so many weird choices in The Mangler that leave you to question every single decision that was made. And that’s why it’s actually an amazing viewing experience. As bad as The Mangler is, there’s no way you can say it’s not enjoyable. You’ve got the amazing team of late-career Tobe Hooper and Jess Franco’s screenwriter Harry Alan Towers in charge of the story. The decision to turn a movie about a killer laundry press into a detective movie is absurdly genius. Sure, it stretches out the joke, but the beauty of this film is that there is no joke. Not to the filmmakers.
Director: Brett Leonard
Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Christine Lahti, Alicia Silverstone, Jeremy Sisto
Loving husband and father Hatch Harrison is brought back to life after a nasty car accident. His second chance at living comes with a price though. Not only has he brought something from the afterlife back with him, but he is now psychically linked with Goth poster-boy serial killer Vassago. Heaven, hell and murder collide.
Based on the 1992 novel of the same name by Dean Koontz, Hideaway is a dark, unrepentant and highly engaging piece of Gothic flash candy. Sure, it’s not the character study that was the book, but it came through in its own right. If you’re in dire need of a hallucinatory, morbid and aggressive fix, you should consider seeking out this flick. Now step into our Hideaway, we have a sculpture we want to show you… SLASH! SLASH! SLASH!
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Stars: Aidan Quinn, Kate Beckinsale, Anthony Andrews, John Gielgud
Professor David Ash is invited to Edbrook to calm the fears of the elderly nanny of the Mariell family. Nanny Tess is seeing things, and Ash’s book debunking such phenomenon makes him a good choice to set her mind at ease and convince her she is just tired and stressed. But soon after arriving David too begins to doubt his senses, and watching the odd behavior of the three grown Mariell children doesn’t make his task any easier. In fact, he begins to think Nanny Tess isn’t really just tired and stressed out after all.
Based on the novel of the same name by James Herbert, Haunted is charming, touching, frightening, and constantly entertaining. Perhaps the best scene is when David tries to trap a possible ghost outside of the Mariell mansion, and from out of nowhere, a cloud of dust spins in fascination. Soon after, a distorted ghost that sobs uncontrollably is conjured that floats away, beckoning David to follow it to the angry lake. This is one of the many truly magical moments found in this film. The sound effects are just as impressive as the visuals (the sounds of the howling wind and crashing rain are terrific). Also, the score is heartbreakingly lovely. This is a modest little film that deserves a look-see, especially if you like things that go bump in the night.
9. Tales From The Hood
Director: Rusty Cundieff
Stars: Clarence Williams III, Corbin Bernsen, Joe Torry, David Alan Grier
Not only is its title an obvious riff on Tales From The Crypt, but so too is its frame story, which features its own sort of crypt keeper in Mr. Simms, a mortuary attendant that’s visited by a trio of teenage drug dealers. While these three are itching to buy a stash of “the shit” from Simms, the elderly mortician instead decides to play horror story host by revealing the macabre details behind the latest corpses to arrive at the funeral home. Each victim fell prey to supernatural circumstances of some sort, and it soon becomes clear that this trio has stumbled into a sinister haunt whose true horrors have yet to be unleashed.
Tales From The Hood presents four short urban-themed horror stories centered on concepts such as police brutality, domestic abuse, racism and gang violence. Today, TFTH’s best remembered story is likely KKK Comeuppance, which feature a white racist terrorized by ambulatory black slave dolls, a kind of off-kilter tribute to 1975’s Trilogy Of Terror. Director Rusty Cundieff, producer Darin Scott, and a visibly committed cast created something special here, and it’s a small shame that their film didn’t birth a perennial series.
Director: Larry Fessenden
Stars: Larry Fessenden, Meredith Snaider, Aaron Beall, Patricia Coleman
Sam is a self-destructive, vaguely artistic New York bohemian who has recently lost his father and his long-time girlfriend. At a Halloween party he meets a mysterious, beautiful, androgynous woman named Anna. He embarks on a kinky, sex-charged relationship with her; but soon he suffers from a mysterious illness, and eventually comes to believe that Anna is a vampire.
So, what is Habit about? Vampires? Alcoholism? Addiction? Urban disconnectedness? The oppressive, nameless fears of metropolitan life? Sex? Disease? Or is it about Mars, Venus and the great chasm between the sexes? The answer is yes to all of these and more. The script is wildly ambitious, with wolves running loose in Central Park, a shattered fire hydrant showering an auto accident’s aftermath, late night strolls passing racy photography shoots (a restaging of Nelson Bakerman’s Wall Street Nude Project), etc. The film possesses a modern timelessness (excepting the diner scene’s giant mobile phone), more concerned with character than plot. Some might complain about the leisurely pace, about whether we really need to see Sam cleaning out the litter box or pour his two cups of coffee into a saucepan for reheating, but each scene has its rewards, especially upon repeat viewings.
7. The Addiction
Director: Abel Ferrara
Stars: Lili Taylor, Christopher Walken, Annabella Sciorra, Edie Falco
Similar to the previous entry on this list, in Abel Ferrara’s take on the vampire genre, vampirism is a metaphor is addiction. Together with frequent collaborator Nicholas St. John, who wrote the screenplay, Ferrara explores the mean streets of New York once again. Amongst dope peddlers and junkies listening to Cypress Hill, the philosophy student Kathleen is bitten by the sardonic vampire Casanova.
This is not a movie for the faint hearted. But then Abel Ferrara‘s films never are. This bizarre and intense picture operates at a number of levels: first of all, as a suitably blood-festooned vampire flick (although the word vampire is never mentioned). Secondly, it operates as a philosophical reflection on human evil and redemption and finally as an amusing take on certain aspects of university life, probably best appreciated by those directly involved in that venerable institution. Scary, funny, magnificently risible, this could be the most pretentious B-movie ever… and that’s meant as a compliment.
6. Castle Freak
Director: Stuart Gordon
Stars: Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Jonathan Fuller, Jessica Dollarhide
Taking the basic concept of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Outsider and building a powerful, gruesome drama around it, Stuart Gordon’s unfortunately-titled Castle Freak is a gem in direct-to-video horror, coming to you from the good folks at Full Moon.
Dennis Paoli, who also wrote the Lovecraft adaptations Re-Animator and From Beyond, scripts this tale of a broken family that finds their dysfunction made manifest in the form of a ghoulish, cannibalistic freak prowling an ancient castle. John Reilly has inherited an Italian estate from a distant relative, a reclusive duchess who recently dropped dead. Unfortunately for John and his family, the duchess left a terrible secret deep in the cellar: chained in a tiny room is a pale-skinned, long-haired monstrosity, a once-human freak by the name of Giorgio who has spent his life in shackles for some unknown crime. But now, he’s breaking out – in a particularly icky sequence, Giorgio tears off his thumbs in order to shed his chains and returns to the surface world. Glorious mayhem ensues…
5. Mute Witness
Director: Anthony Waller
Stars: Marina Zudina, Fay Ripley, Evan Richards, Oleg Yankovskiy
Billy Hughes, a mute makeup artist working on a slasher film being shot in Moscow, is locked in the studio after hours. While there she witnesses a brutal murder, and must first escape capture at that time, then keep from being killed before convincing authorities of what she’s seen. Plot twists galore follow as Billy tries to stay alive.
In many ways, Mute Witness would make for the perfect double-feature companion to Brian De Palma’s Blow Out. That film similarly toys with movie magic and filmmaking, although it has a decidedly crueler tone and outcome than this one. In that way they infinitely complement one another, for you could have your soul crushed by Blow Out and then have it uplifted again by watching Mute Witness immediately after. Regardless of what he made after afterwards, director Anthony Waller deserves praise for so perfectly knocking this film out of the park. It is beautifully shot, expertly plotted, and wonderfully performed from start to finish. Seek it out when you have the chance.
Director: Roger Donaldson
Stars: Natasha Henstridge, Michael Madsen, Ben Kingsley, Forest Whitaker
Earth’s scientists receive transmissions from an alien source regarding an alien DNA along with instructions on how to splice it with human DNA. A government team proceeds with the genetic experiments. They choose to induce a female, because a female would have “more docile and controllable” traits. Or so they thought. The end result of these experiments is Sil, a killer alien seductress who will stop at nothing to successfully mate with a human male.
An enjoyable creature feature where the creature just happens to mask itself as a beautiful, often-naked blonde. Nothing more than a big-budget exploitation flick, but it has plenty of great shock moments. In one scene Sil tries to mate with a man she meets after a car accident. They swim in his pool where Sil forces him to open his swimming trunks in order to copulate, but he refuses. After being interrupted, she kills the poor sap, morphing into her alien form, a bipedal mutant with tentacles on her shoulders and back, and flees naked into a forest without being seen. Species ingeniously combines the schlocky fun of ’50s sci-fi flicks with the foreboding tactics of Alien and the cautionary allure of Looking For Mr. Goodbar.
3. Lord Of Illusions
Director: Clive Barker
Stars: Scott Bakula, Kevin J. O’Connor, Famke Janssen, Daniel von Bargen
During a routine case in L.A., NY private investigator Harry D’Amour stumbles over members of a fanatic cult, who are waiting for the resurrection of their leader Nix. 13 years ago, Nix was gunned down by his best trainee Swann. In the meantime Swann is advanced to a popular illusionist like David Copperfield and is married to the charming Dorothea. She hires D’Amour to protect Swann against the evil cult members. A short time later Swann is killed by one of his own tricks and the occurrences are turning over, and it crackles between Dorothea and D’Amour.
This is Clive Barker, directing his own stuff (the film is based on his short story The Last Illusion), so you know what to expect: gruesome body horror, extreme physical and psychic self-mortification, occult transhumanism, apocalypse, magicians and carnie acts, obsessed and psychopathic villains seeking forbidden knowledge, whips, chains, acupuncture needles, gratuitous nudity, bloody phallic symbology, and so on. This is one strange movie.
2. The Prophecy
Director: Gregory Widen
Stars: Christopher Walken, Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen, Eric Stoltz
Heaven’s angels have gone all Civil War in the Sunday school theology-retconning The Prophecy. In one corner are the angels who remain 100% loyal to the big guy or gal upstairs. In the other corner is the faction led by the archangel Gabriel. This group isn’t cool with God lifting humanity above angels, resulting in a millennia-long war. With the two sides locked in stalemate, Gabriel travels to Earth to steal a dark soul to fight for his cause. Even though Gabriel isn’t a fan of people, he admires our knack for annihilation. Gee, thanks? In Gabriel’s way stands an almost-priest turned cop, a school teacher, and an angel named Simon.
Generally, religion and horror are the perfect mix, just look at The Omen or The Exorcist. Religion can add real depth to a horror, and whether you’re a religious person or not, it does add some substance and creepiness that a simple slasher film cannot quite get right. Religious horrors are dripping with mystery and suspense, and tend to be carried along by an interesting, and damned intelligent story. The Prophecy lives up to the religious horror expectations, and surpasses them.
1. Demon Knight
Director: Ernest R. Dickerson
Stars: Billy Zane, William Sadler, John Kassir, Jada Pinkett Smith
Based on the 1950’s EC Comics series of the same name, HBO’s horror anthology show Tales From The Crypt was a huge hit with genre fans when it premiered in 1989. From a voodoo-dabbling prostitute to a killer Santa Clause, the show offered fans something new and gruesome every week. It only made sense that they would eventually make the move to the big-screen. Their first film was suitably titled Demon Knight. The plot is simple and sweet. A man named Frank Brayker is on the run from the Collector, a demon hell-bent on acquiring a mystical key that he possesses. With nowhere else to go, Brayker holds up in an old bed and breakfast along with a half of dozen other people. Under assault by a horde of demons, they must try to survive the night and keep the key from the Collector’s hands.
This film gets a lot of unnecessary flack thrown its way. However, Demon Knight manages to deliver a fun, solidly-crafted supernatural horror flick that stands as one of the most underrated genre entries of the `90s. It has a great cast, genuinely impressive practical effects and sharply-drawn (though expectedly broad, given the genre) characters. It’s a fast-paced, energetic ride that you shouldn’t be ashamed to love.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Children Of The Corn III: Urban Harvest, Evil Ed, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, Ice Cream Man, Mommy, Night Of The Scarecrow, and Vampire In Brooklyn.
Let us know your favorite horror movie of the year in the comment section below.