As we truck along with our year-by-year breakdown, we present to you the 15 Best Horror Films Of 1998. This is the year that gave us an adorable killer doll love story, the return of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode, and Marvel’s first big-budget superhero movie (which features more blood than the entire MCU combined). Let’s get started…
15. Species II
Director: Peter Medak
Stars: Natasha Henstridge, Michael Madsen, Marg Helgenberger, Justin Lazard
Patrick Ross, the astronaut son of a senator, is infected by an extraterrestrial virus during a mission to Mars and subsequently causes the deaths of many women upon his return. To stop him, the scientists who created the human-extraterrestrial hybrid Sil in the original Species try using a more docile clone of hers, Eve.
Where the first Species was a B-movie movie that didn’t want to admit it to itself, this sequel plays out in the opposite direction. It knows that it’s smut and it loves it. This sequel is mainly about breasts, gore and our lady alien running in slow motion, breasts bobbling up and down a la Bionic Woman (nothing wrong with that). The acting is awful. The dialogue is atrocious (paraphrased quote: her estrogen level is way up as if she was in heat… urgh) and the plot is filled with holes (one example: Eve isn’t supposed to have men around but every dude in the house enters her “jail”. Even worse than that is once they actually do capture the male alien, they also bring him to her pad! What?). Still, overall, this is a movie with no artistic pretensions and, undoubtedly, many flaws, but watch it in the right frame of mind and it’s quite enjoyable.
14. Urban Legend
Director: Jamie Blanks
Stars: Jared Leto, Alicia Witt, Rebecca Gayheart, Loretta Devine
After Wes Craven’s Scream resurrected the slasher genre in 1996, studios quickly jumped on the bandwagon and produced endless teen slashers to capitalize on the craze. For the most part, these movies were cheap imitations, utilizing the same techniques and dialogue as Scream and populating the cast with TV teen drama actors. Urban Legend is no different. In fact, it was perhaps the most shameless Scream rip-off of the era.
The film follows a group of trendy archetypical college kids as they slowly realize their campus is the stomping ground of a serial killer who patterns their kills after urban legends. In other words, it’s Scream based at a college with a killer obsessed with urban legends instead of horror movies. Urban Legend is by no means the pride of the slasher genre, but it does have its moments. At the very least you get to see some obnoxious college students meet their demise in admittedly inventive ways. The executions consist of a hanging, a dog in the microwave, and soda being replaced by chemicals to complete the ole Pop Rocks death. It’s certainly a flawed film, but definitely worthy of a revisit.
13. The Last Broadcast
Directors: Stefan Avalos, Lance Weiler
Stars: David Beard, Lance Weiler, Stefan Avalos, Lance Weiler
When looking into this movie, the three phrases that really jump out at you are “mockumentary”, “murder”, and “Jersey Devil”. Kind of hard to screw that equation up, isn’t it? Well, the reason you might not have ever heard of this movie was because the year after this was made, a little movie called The Blair Witch Project was released. Blair Witch really showed a lot of people how entertaining a mockumentary can be, even when based on a fake urban legend. Despite Last Broadcast being made before Blair Witch, it didn’t get released until after Blair Witch, who at that point had already taken the movie industry by storm. Not saying that Last Broadcast was as good as Blair Witch, but it never really got the chance at success it could have had.
The film deals with a documentary filmmaker named David Leigh, and his investigation of the Fact or Fiction murders, where a pair of public-access television cable TV hosts were murdered in mysterious circumstances. Leigh sets out to find the truth behind these killings while making his documentary. Fun fact: The Last Broadcast is believed by some to be the first feature-length video shot and edited entirely on consumer-level digital equipment.
Director: Wilson Yip
Stars: Jordan Chan, Emotion Cheung, Sam Lee, Yiu-Cheung Lai
Woody Invincible and Crazy Bee are two wannabe tough guy slackers who work at a fledgling VCD store in the New Trend Plaza, a shopping mall. After picking up their boss’s car, the two hit a man who is carrying a soda containing a biological chemical that turns the drinker into a flesh eating zombie. After thinking that the man wants the drink, the two pour some down his throat and toss him in the trunk. They return to the mall. The man, now a zombie, escapes from the trunk and begins attacking others and turns them into zombies. The mall closes for the night with our heroes, and some other mall employees, still inside. Looks like it’s gonna be a shitty night for all.
The second-best “zombies let loose in a shopping mall” movie ever made, this Hong Kong horror comedy came out before all things zombified came back in vogue, and is a total riot. Similar in tone to Edgar Wright’s later Shaun Of The Dead, the film has a lot of fun goofing off zombie tropes and expectations whilst also clearly in love with its ancestors. There’s lots of cool gore but also some surprisingly poignant moments – you might not expect that from the beginning, given that right from the off there’s an anarchic, hilariously scrappy approach, as our two lead characters/idiots yak over the film’s own opening credits, which they appear to be watching inside the movie we’re watching.
11. Whispering Corridors
Director: Ki-hyeong Park
Stars: Kang-hee Choi, Gyu-ri Kim, Min-jung Kim, Mi-yeon Lee
Whispering Corridors centers on a student, Lim Ji-oh, and her new friend, Jae-ji, who are in their senior year in high school…a haunted high school. After a teacher is lynched by a ghost, everyone sees her body hanging outside the school and assume that she committed suicide. The perverted, abusive principal of the school, known un-affectionately as Mad Dog, takes over the class while the new teacher, Miss Hur, gets ready to start teaching. Miss Hur is a former student at the school, whose best friend, Jin-ju, killed herself in the school 9-years earlier. Can Ji-oh and Miss Hur discover the source of the school haunting before it’s too late and comes for them?
Made at the commencement of the Japanese horror-boom, Whispering Corridors is a complex, sometimes difficult (not negatively so) film that would surely reward multiple viewings. Although it’s a horror film on its face, and very rewarding at that, its heart is more of a poetically dramatic picture of its subtexts and social commentaries. Like much non-U.S. horror, it is worth viewing, but fans only used to American films will have to adjust their expectations in terms of pacing and clearly stated, linear plotting.
10. Phantasm IV: Oblivion
Director: Don Coscarelli
Stars: A. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, Bill Thornbury, Angus Scrimm
What makes the fourth entry of the Phantasm series, Oblivion, so special? The continued growth of the story, more specifically, the back-story finally bestowed to the Tall Man. For three full films we’ve been wondering where the hell this guy comes from and why he does what he does. It’s been a mystery, and the Tall Man has remained silent for the bulk of his screen time. So he hasn’t given us much with which to dissect. This film gives fans something to chew on, and a back-story that, while not thoroughly explored, is enough to leave fanatics satisfied.
Set literally seconds after the end of Phantasm III, Oblivion finds Reggie at the mercy of the Tall Man, who ominously warns him to “take great care in how he plays” as “the end approaches.” Meanwhile, after the last film’s somewhat bewildering ending, Mike has somehow hit the road in search of the Tall Man’s secrets. It soon becomes apparent that Mike isn’t fully in control, however, as the Tall Man seems to be guiding Mike to the Funeral Mountains in Death Valley. Here, Mike will journey through time and dimensions to uncover some truths about the Tall Man. Reggie, on the other hand, is in the road in hot pursuit, where he once again encounters some minions of the Tall Man. Thus, the film is essentially split between the two characters’ narratives before culminating in another bewildering encounter with the Tall Man.
Director: Joe Chappelle
Stars: Peter O’Toole, Rose McGowan, Joanna Going, Ben Affleck
Based on the 1983 Dean Koontz novel, Phantoms revolves around a small town in Colorado where everyone has seemingly disappeared. Dr. Jenny Pailey has brought her sister back to town with her, only to find a lot of people dead. Luckily, the sheriff and two of his deputies are still around… but not for long. Something is out there. Their only clue comes from a name written on a mirror: Dr. Timothy Flyte, who might know a thing or two about what’s going on. He eventually shows up with the FBI… only to have even more people get dead.
What’s great about Phantoms comes from its blend of the genre: part haunted house, part creature feature, part supernatural, part plague. That’s a good concoction that keeps the story from feeling overly clichéd. Even more, Phantoms is a hell of a dark movie, not only in tone but in brightness. You might have to adjust your screen just to see the damn thing. Even then, you’ll struggle to understand the action unfolding. Sometimes you can’t see a thing beyond a lot of screaming. But the tone is even darker. Everything here plays bleak, almost angry. Sure, some lighter moments pop up here and there, but overall it’s all uncompromising. For a 20 year-old low-budget flick, the special effects still hold up quite well, which might have been why the filmmakers decided to eliminate as much light as possible. Keep the creature in the shadows and we’ll all have nightmares as we can’t nitpick the unrealistic nature of the effects to death.
8. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later
Director: Steve Miner
Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett, Adam Arkin, Michelle Williams
After the train wreck that was Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers everyone was surprised Dimension Films and Miramax had the gall to bring ole paleface back yet again. Still, bring him back they did, in a film made to mark the 20th anniversary of the original Halloween. And you know something? They actually did a decent job this time. Perhaps realizing the previous film had become a confusing mess with a plot consisting of evil cults, a convoluted bloodline, adopted children and Paul Rudd, Halloween H20 scraps it all and instead provides an alternative timeline in which the events of Halloween 4, Halloween 5 and Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers never happened.
Let’s recap: On Halloween in 1963, Michael Myers murdered his sister, Judith. In 1978, he broke out to kill his other sister, Laurie Strode. He killed all of her friends, but she escaped. A few years later, she faked her death so he couldn’t find her. But now, in 1998, Michael has returned and found all the papers he needs to find her. He tracks her down to a private school where she has gone under a new name with her son, John. And now, Laurie must do what she should have done a long time ago and finally decided to hunt down the evil one last time. Fun fact: The original working title for the film was Halloween 7: The Revenge Of Laurie Strode.
7. Bride Of Chucky
Director: Ronny Yu
Stars: Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Katherine Heigl, Nick Stabile
The fourth entry of the Child’s Play franchise opens with Chucky’s ex-girlfriend Tiffany resurrecting our favorite killer doll. After a few misunderstandings (which includes Chucky killing Tiffany and transferring her soul into a doll), the two end up on an impromptu road trip, leaving countless dead bodies in their wake.
Yup, Chucky is back with a new look, a new girl and a new agenda. The whole “Andy” plot was getting old and Don Mancini (who wrote the first 3) breathes new life into the franchise taking a whole new direction. Match that with the Hong Kong directing finesse of Ronny Yu and you get a sequel that not only reinvents the series but stands firmly on it’s own two feet. Bride Of Chucky is a hilariously campy and surprisingly diverting horror sequel that’s always smartly aware of its own ridiculousness. Of course amidst all this campy fun, Chucky is definitely not scary anymore and the suspense is almost non-existent. Compare the vibe of the original Child’s Play with this one’s… they’re polar opposite. This is definitely what you could call a horror comedy. You interested in seeing old Chuck smoke some weed, get laid or fly through a car window in slow motion? If yes, this one will make your day. Hop on this pint size road trip with us…
6. Deep Rising
Director: Stephen Sommers
Stars: Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Anthony Heald, Kevin J. O’Connor
Deep Rising should not to be confused with Deep Impact, the huggy asteroid movie that came out the same year. Deep Rising is the opposite of that film, mainly because at no point in Deep Impact does a giant tentacle monster angrily chase its protagonists as they jet ski through an exploding cruise ship. Essentially, the story follows a group of heavily armed hijackers who have boarded a luxury ocean liner in the South Pacific Ocean to loot it, only to do battle with a series of large-sized, tentacled, man-eating sea creatures who have taken over the ship first.
This is such a fun, nasty flick that it’s hard to believe it hasn’t developed more of a cult following. It’s a monster movie at heart, but with machine gun action, gory horror and a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek comedy. While it’s obviously an Alien-clone set on the high seas, Deep Rising is bloody and entertaining enough that we don’t give a Xenomorph’s ass. It’s Poseidon Adventure, Alien, any heist movies, Jaws, and a little art house flick called Titanic all in one.
Director: John Carpenter
Stars: James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee, Thomas Ian Griffith
Jack Crow is a vampire hunter who, along with one of his partners, Montoya, and a prostitute, Katrina, survives an attack from the Master vampire, Valek. Since Katrina was previously bitten by him, Crow takes her along because anyone who is bitten by Valek becomes telepathically linked to him until they themselves turn into vampires a couple days later, and Crow is hoping to find him with the help of her. It seems Valek’s mission is to steal a black, wooden cross from a Roman Catholic church that will enable him to become so powerful that sunlight will not destroy him.
Helmed by the great John Carpenter, Vampires is a straight-up fun movie, one that indeed delivers horror and action thrills. It creates a great vampire mythology and puts a modern cowboy archetype up against it. While fans will always compare Carpenter’s later movies with his early genre classics, Vampires is excellent entertainment, even if it isn’t an “important” or “milestone” horror event.
4. The Faculty
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Stars: Elijah Wood, Jordana Brewster, Josh Hartnett, Robert Patrick
What happens when you combine Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, The Thing, and basically every movie John Hughes has ever made? You get The Faculty – a horror tale set in a High School where the students suspect the teaching staff of being aliens, who are intent on making the students their victims.
In the late ’90s, horror filmmakers had started to make movies that were more and more unlike the slasher flicks of the ’80s. Thanks in part to Wes Craven’s Scream (written by The Faculty writer Kevin Williamson), and other movies like it, horror films were moving towards a more clever formula by not only poking fun at their predecessors but by blending in other genres like comedy, sci-fi, and even romantic comedy. One of the best movies to come out of that trend’s three or four year window was Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty. Rodriguez was fresh off of making From Dusk Till Dawn, and took a lot of the same formula that worked for that project into his new film. Yes… the main story is almost a note for note rip-off of Body Snatchers, but Rodriguez and Williamson admit that by referencing it multiple times throughout the movie. Indeed, The Faculty is a witty deconstruction of genre movies – and a bloody good time.
Director: Gregory Hoblit
Stars: Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Donald Sutherland, Embeth Davidtz
Serial killer Edgar Reese is put to death and the cop that caught his ass, John Hobbes is all smiles. Alas, the loony’s death is only the beginning as his spirit continues to raise some hell by body hopping from one live host to the next!
In short, Fallen is an exceptionally effective chiller. The suspense of the feature is very taut creating a haunting sense where, eventually, John Hobbes becomes deeply unsettled by. Being stalked by a supernatural killer that is generally intangible who can transfer itself from one person to another with a simple touch was brilliant. There is a chase scene which uses this one concept to great effect. The misdirection of the film is also ingenious. This story is all told from a certain perspective that you will not put into alignment until the end. Our protagonist’s voice-overs are excellently handled to be both ambiguous as to the truth the first time around, but also, be entirely perfect on repeat viewings fitting into what you already know. This is mainly a testament to the screenplay of Nicholas Kazan, and the direction of Gregory Hoblit. Voice-overs can tend to be a little dry without the proper direction and context. Here, we have the right tone which feeds into the detective noir investigative aspect of the story, and ultimately, as something much more.
Director: Stephen Norrington
Stars: Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N’Bushe Wright
Based on a Marvel Comics character with roots in Hammer horror movies and ‘70s Blacksploitation cinema, Blade was released to the world and caught everyone completely by surprise. Director Stephen Norrington and writer David S. Goyer took the elements of the comic and crafted a taut, thrilling tale centered on a half human/half vampire stalker of the undead.
Fans were treated to a horror/action hybrid that would lay the groundwork for the soon-to-explode popularity of superhero pictures. Though, with that being said, it’s hard to imagine a film this risky being made today (even though Deadpool has recently made R-rated heroes cool again). But with the overlooked original and its equally impressive follow-up, the first two features in this comic book franchise make for a great one-two punch of uniquely engaging superhero flicks.
Director: Hideo Nakata
Stars: Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani, Yûko Takeuchi, Hitomi Satô
In the time since its release, it’s easy to recall how Hideo Nakata’s Ringu turned Japanese urban legends and ghastly folklore into a cottage industry not only for his home country, but for the Western hemisphere as well. Once Hollywood caught wind of the wildly successful supernatural chiller (which still reigns as the highest grossing horror film in Japanese history), the course was set, as a gaggle of vengeful spirits would haunt multiplexes and video stores for the first few years of the new millennium.
There’s a certain irony to how that virtually endless parade of knockoffs diluted the effect – after all, most of them were taking their cue from a film centered on the potency of a cursed videotape whose bizarre, searing images result in a viewer’s death within a week. However, revisiting Ringu after all these years provides a strong reminder as to why this film managed to cast the mold: it’s a perfect mix of mystery, campfire storytelling, and dread atmosphere. The film has a minimalist intensity that can stop the heart with a simple flash-cut or a well-timed fillip in the musical score. Not since A Nightmare On Elm Street or Hellraiser has a horror film featured a more effective hook, and few have delivered it with more effectiveness.
Let us know your favorite horror movies of the year in the comments below.