40. The People Under The Stairs (1991)
Director: Wes Craven
Stars: Brandon Quintin Adams, Everett McGill, Wendy Robie, A.J. Langer
In the late Wes Craven’s filmography, The People Under The Stairs often gets lost among the likes of the slasher glory of Nightmare On Elm Street, the game changing meta Scream, and exploitation classics like The Hills Have Eyes, among many others. Which is a damn shame. Though it certainly has its admirers, especially among the hardcore horror fans out there, this seems to be a largely undervalued title on his CV. It definitely falls into a category all its own, moving deftly from horror to comedy to social allegory, all wrapped in a wonderfully lunatic package.
The story follows Fool, a youngster who gets convinced to break into the creepiest house on the block — the one the kids avoid and the adults whisper about. Turns out, the reputation is well earned, as it belongs to two slumlords who have been evicting people and letting their tenants live in squalor, but there’s so much more going on. There are gimp suits, deformed creatures living under the stairs and in the walls, and the couple’s young, psychologically wounded daughter Alice, who becomes Fool’s ally as he tries to figure out what the hell is going on in that house – and escape.
39. Leprechaun (1993)
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.
38. Scream 2 (1997)
Director: Wes Craven
Stars: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Liev Schreiber
Do you like scary movies? Director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson decided most people probably did. With 1996’s Scream they breathed life into a flagging genre by creating a new knife-wielding icon who, crucially, was aware of all the horror movie villains who’d gone before.
The second film follows Sidney Prescott as, after enduring the horrors of the first film, she moves away to go to college. With most of her friends dead, she intends to make a clean break and restart her life. But she’s haunted by her past, seeing ghosts – or Ghostfaces – everywhere she looks, and unfortunately, it turns out she’s not just imagining it. Like you’d expect from any self-respecting slasher sequel, the body counter is higher in Scream 2, and the kills are gorier. Where Scream was riffing on the slasher genre, Scream 2 is riffing on the slasher sequel, and having loads of fun with it.
37. The Craft (1996)
Director: Andrew Fleming
Stars: Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, Rachel True
A newcomer to a Catholic prep high school falls in with a trio of outcast teenage girls who practice witchcraft and they all soon conjure up various spells and curses against those who even slightly anger them. Imagine The Lost Boys, only they’re girls instead of boys – and they’re witches instead of vampires. Considering it was aimed at a teenage audience, The Craft is surprisingly dark. The final act alone has some scares that wouldn’t feel out of place in a “proper” horror movie (the film is technically a “supernatural thriller”).
Also, the film’s portrayal of witchcraft is a bit more interesting than the standard Hollywood portrayal, and it certainly doesn’t represent it as essentially “evil”, which makes a nice change. Overall, despite a few niggles, The Craft is a decent little film with a well-written script, strong performances and some surprisingly grim moments given its target audience.
36. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
Director: Jim Gillespie
Stars: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Freddie Prinze Jr.
Four teens share an ominous pact one fateful July 4th evening. After accidentally colliding with a mysterious stranger crossing a barren, secluded portion of highway, they dispose of the body rather than face their responsibilities and report the tragic incident. Now on the anniversary of wicked indiscretion a mysterious force has returned with redemption in mind and terrifying taunts of I Know What You Did Last Summer…
Today, telling somebody “I know what you did last summer”, and meaning it as a threat just wouldn’t fly. Everybody knows what you did last summer – it’s all over Facebook and Twitter, there are probably a thousand selfies on Instagram of you holding a cocktail the colors of a sunset, and a Vine video you took from a plane window. Back in the GeoCities land of 1997 though, things were different; it was almost possible to keep things private. Almost.
35. Bride Of Chucky (1998)
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…
34. Wolf (1994)
Director: Mike Nichols
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, James Spader, Kate Nelligan
Worn down and out of luck, aging publisher Will Randall is at the end of his rope when a younger co-worker snatches both his job and wife out from under his nose. But after being bitten by a wolf, Will suddenly finds himself energized, more competitive than ever, and possessed with amazingly heightened senses. Meanwhile, the beautiful daughter of his shrewd boss begins to fall for him – without realizing that the man she’s begun to love is gradually turning into the creature by which he was bitten.
Wolf is an effective attempt to place a werewolf story in an incongruous setting, with the closely observed details of that setting used to make the story seem more believable. The first hour of Wolf is pretty razor-sharp: Director Mike Nichols delights in the blacks and yellows of a bedroom lit by the harvest moon, and the cinematography is damn-near breathtaking; writer Jim Harrison focuses as much on the back-and-forth of workplace politicking as on the back-and-forth between man and wolf, and the parallels he draws are amazing; to boot, a sparkling Ennio Morricone score doesn’t hurt. The metaphorical rise of the wolf is handled with a subtle sophistication, apparent only when you consider how hammy and over-the-top the entire thing could have been.
33. Dracula (1992)
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Stars: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves
An army of shadow puppets fights against a blood-red sky. A doll hurls itself out of a castle window, passing cotton clouds on its way to the moat below. The eye of a peacock feather becomes a railroad tunnel. A train erupts from the mountainside and then chugs along over the pages of an open diary. We are inside the train. A young man is writing; the pages of the diary are projected over his face. These images all come from the first reel of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Francis Ford Coppola’s imaginative, ambitious take on pop culture’s most famous Romanian.
The original Dracula is an epistolary novel, composed of dated letters and diary entries written by different characters, and Coppola’s adaptation – scripted by James V. Hart – preserves this structure, using multiple narrators and periodically swapping protagonists. In fact, while most adaptations have attempted to radically compress Stoker’s novel, Coppola’s seems to be going out of its way to complicate it. The role of Jonathan Harker and his romance with Mina Murray are reduced to make more room for the other characters, and Dracula’s arrival in Europe is linked to the dawn of cinema and psychoanalysis. The count himself is both tragic and erotic. Introduced as an androgynous figure he transforms into a handsome, mysterious dandy who strolls around London in purple tea shades, shoulder-length hair spilling out from under his silk top hat. When he feeds, he turns into a wolf-like creature – a literal sexual predator. Fighting against pop culture expectations and a century of vampire cliché, Coppola’s approach is unique. Like it or not, no one had ever seen a Dracula quite like this.
32. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994)
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Stars: Robert De Niro, Kenneth Branagh, Helena Bonham Carter, Aidan Quinn
This version of the classic horror tale closely follows Mary Shelley’s book. The story begins in the Arctic Sea as the feverish Baron Victor von Frankenstein is rescued by a passing ship. He tells the skeptical captain the ghastly story of how he created a living monster out of exhumed corpses.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is extremely faithful to its source material. It does shorten some of the events of the novel, such as the trial of Justine Moritz, a servant of the Frankenstein family whom the Creature frames for a murder, and the death of Henry Clerval, Frankenstein’s best friend. It also adds a significant event near the end of the film. Nevertheless, this is the first movie version that actually recounts the same story that Mary Shelley originally wrote in 1818, including the framing device of Captain Walton’s expedition to the North Pole. Walton provides us with a character that finally offers the Creature some sympathy; unlike most of humanity, he treats the Creature as a person, not a monster. He also takes the tragic lessons of the story to heart, learning that sometimes actions can have terrible consequences. This framing device respects Mary Shelley’s structure, and adds dimensions to the story that previous versions have lacked.
31. Interview With The Vampire(1994)
Director: Neil Jordan
Stars: Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Christian Slater, Kirsten Dunst
It hasn’t even been a year since a plantation owner named Louis lost his wife in childbirth. Both his wife and the infant died, and now he has lost his will to live. A vampire named Lestat takes a liking to Louis and offers him the chance to become a creature of the night: a vampire. Louis accepts, and Lestat drains Louis’ mortal blood and then replaces it with his own, turning Louis into a vampire. Louis must learn from Lestat the ways of the vampire.
We’ve heard Interview With The Vampire called many things by many people in the past including “Vampire Soap Opera” (wasn’t that Dark Shadows? hmmmmm) and “The Homoerotic Vampire Movie” (snickers… maybe a bit). Our favorite one, however, is “The Harlequin Romance Novel version of a vampire movie”. That one is just priceless. But we call it something else. We call it wonderful. It’s about seduction, and either you succumb to its inky entrapments or you resist. When its mojo is working, you’ll be happy to be had. Interview With The Vampire promises a constantly surprising vampire story, and it keeps that promise.