Underappreciated '90s horror movies you haven't seen
After the growing trend of franchise milking in the 1980s, the '90s offered a little more originality for the tired horror genre. As the pattern of the gory slasher flicks fell to the wayside, the horror scene of the '90s grew to be a more eclectic place with a broader variety of scares. With big titles like The Sixth Sense, Sleepy Hollow, The Silence of the Lambs, and The Blair Witch Project hitting the big screen, horror fans had plenty to, ahem, Scream about. But thanks to the technological wizardry of streaming, some of these underrated horror films can be given a second chance. From fantastical vampire flicks to meta (and murderous) movies, here's a list of some underappreciated '90s horror films you probably haven't seen and should definitely check out. Written and directed by renowned filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, Cronos is one of his less talked about titles. The film's relative obscurity is probably a result of the film's limited release in the United States. When Cronos made its way to American audiences in 1994, the film opened in two theaters and would go on to show in only 28 theaters during its run in the United States. According to The Washington Post, 17 of those screens were located in Los Angeles, limiting the pool of potential viewers. Despite its low audience turnout, Cronos was very well-received among critics, and it currently holds a 90 percent critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. Cronos may have underperformed upon its American debut, but the film is definitely worth a watch. With likable characters, mysterious artifacts, and a fun spin on the classic vampire formula, Cronos is sure to please both horror and del Toro fans alike. Though the film has received a sizable cult following, Cube is a unique film worthy of even more widespread attention. In this grisly horror flick, a group of strangers awakens to find themselves trapped in a massive cube-shaped puzzle with a seemingly endless number of small cube-shaped chambers inside. As the group navigates this maze, they must determine if the next room contains a deadly trap or if it's safe to enter. Without any food or water, the confused party must quickly find an exit, something that's much easier said than done. Outside of its premise, what sets Cube apart is its use of sci-fi themes and aesthetics. The Canadian film was shot with a low-budget, so the filmmakers had to get creative. For the vast majority of the film, only one set design is used, but by utilizing clever lighting techniques, the film never feels stale or lazy. Similarly, the repetitive looking rooms create a sense of claustrophobia and helplessness that works to the film's advantage. Jacob's Ladder is a psychological horror film originally released in 1990. The film begins in 1971 during the Vietnam War. Jacob Singer, a combat medic, and his unit are under attack, so Jacob runs into the forest in a panic, but he's stabbed with a bayonet before blacking out. Jacob's Ladder is a fascinating story that delves into the psychological trauma of war and loss, as well as the threat of looming insanity. With conflicting information and progressively troubling delusions, it's difficult to discern what's real and what's fabricated inside Jacob's mind. Though the film is depressing, it's exceptionally written and well-executed. Jacob's Ladder is bound to leave viewers with a sense of unease that many other horror flicks could only hope to achieve. After the death of his wife, Shigeharu Aoyama has been out of the dating game for many years and is noticeably lonely. Aoyama's concerned son urges his father to remarry, thus prompting a search for the perfect wife. Aoyama's film producer friend conjures up the idea of an audition for the ideal woman. Under the guise of auditioning for a new program, women begin pitching themselves to Aoyama. After reading the resume of a woman named Asami Yamazaki, Aoyama is enamored and immediately sets his sights on dating her. Audition is a prime example of Japanese horror, offering a slow build-up that climaxes in a disturbing series of events. Yamazaki's transformation from a polite, meek woman into an eerie, cryptic figure is very well done, and is sure to send a shiver down your spine. Wes Craven is undoubtedly one of the most well-known and respected names in horror. With plenty of big hits under his belt like A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Hills Have Eyes, Craven's work has had a massive impact on the genre. In the '90s, Craven's Scream reinvigorated the slasher genre, mainly by satirizing overplayed horror conventions. However, Scream isn't Craven's first horror title with a comedic slant. Fool assists with the robbery, but he ultimately finds himself trapped in the Robinson home. While narrowly avoiding the crazy Robinson couple, Fool comes across Alice, an abused girl, locked inside the house. Even more horrifying, a group of stolen children is hidden under the stairs, living in darkness and kept alive by human flesh. Desperate to escape the house of horrors, Fool and Alice must avoid the murderous, blood-crazed Robinsons. The People Under the Stairs is notable for its commitment to over-the-top action and fantastically campy performances. While the film isn't as grounded or even as horrific as some of Craven's better-known works, it's still an enjoyable watch in its own right. Tesis, or Thesis, is a Spanish horror film that follows Ángela, a film student working on, you guessed it, her thesis. Her topic of study, audiovisual violence, requires her to view non-conventional works, namely snuff films. Because the content she seeks isn't exactly easy to find, Ángela asks her professor to find an example in the university's archives. When she and Chema view the tape, the pair discovers that the victim killed is one of their classmates, and the person who murdered her must be somewhere close. Now wrapped up in a crime that could threaten their lives, Ángela has more than just a thesis to worry about as she becomes a target for the dastardly director. Cure is a Japanese horror film that's highly praised among critics but not necessarily recommended in casual conversation. The film begins with a mystery surrounding a string of similar, seemingly ritualistic murders. In each case, the murderer suffers from confusion and memory loss, leaving far more questions than answers. Police detective Kenichi Takabe alongside a psychologist named Sakuma, determines that there's actually just one murderer pulling strings, forcing others to kill through hypnosis. If you're into Gothic horror or just looking for a new sleep paralysis demon, Castle Freak might be the film for you. After inheriting a 700-year-old castle from a previously unknown relative, John Reilly travels to Italy with his wife and daughter. Once the small family arrives in the massive castle, they begin to notice strange occurrences such as mirrors breaking and eerie echoes in the night. As the film goes on, John realizes that he and his family are in danger, as they aren't the only ones living in the castle. Let's be honest. We don't always pick up a horror film expecting it to be good. In some situations, the cheesy, nonsensical horror films are best, especially when you're watching with a group of good-humored friends. If you're in the mood for a fun time, you'll want to look into Kolobos. Things go wrong immediately when one of the five participants is killed, and the house goes on lockdown. Now believing they're being killed off as a sort of snuff film, Kyra and the others must find a way out of the Saw-esque house and figure out who's behind the murder. After a series of brutal murders, Aaron Boone is suspected to be a serial killer by Dr. Decker, his psychiatrist. Because his dreams perfectly mimic the crime scene, the psychiatrist convinces Boone he's guilty and gives him 24 hours to turn himself in. Boone is then drugged, and in his unstable state, is hit by a truck and transferred to a hospital. There, he overhears a seemingly insane man ranting about a place called Midian, a surprising turn of events seeing how Boone has dreamed about this mythical location. Clive Barker's Nightbreed is an exciting horror title that also dabbles in both the action and fantasy genres. While there are many scenes typical of an average horror film, there are also plenty of moments featuring some epic action movie violence. (It also stars legendary horror director David Cronenberg as Boone's psychiatrist.) Additionally, Midian itself feels like something from another world, and the monster designs are all incredibly inventive, though deeply unsettling. Released in 1997, Funny Games is an Austrian film directed by filmmaker Michael Haneke. The movie follows a wealthy family who travels to their lake home for a short vacation. Shortly after arriving, the family is visited by two strange men asking to borrow eggs. As the men become increasingly confrontational, the film quickly takes a nasty turn, and the family is held captive in their own home. As the hours roll by, the family is relentlessly subjected to physical and psychological torture. Additionally, Peter and Paul, the men who invade the family's home, are horrifying psychopaths, mirroring the likes of Alex from A Clockwork Orange. With all of these elements in mind, Funny Games is a raw, sickening title that offers no distractions from wanton violence. Plus, the movie is meta in the most unusual and terrifying ways. So if you're looking for horror in its purest, cruelest form, Funny Games will be right up your alley. The Addiction tells the story of Kathleen, a philosophy student who's preyed upon by a vampire, thus giving her vampiric power as well. As Kathleen becomes more and more hungry for human blood, she finds herself luring and attacking those around her. Eventually, Kathleen's addiction to blood consumes her, effectively killing any humanity left inside her. While many vampire tropes arise throughout the film, The Addiction is still a rather unique take on the vampire flick. Unlike other films in the genre, The Addiction draws parallels between drug addiction and a vampire's lust for blood. A similarly unique twist is the overt Catholic overtones, specifically the concept of religious redemption and rebirth in the context of vampirism.