Movies & TV / Columns

A Bloody Good Time: The Top Ten Horror Films Of 1994

January 15, 2015 | Posted by Joseph Lee

Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)

90s month continues as we look at the best horror films of 1994! Yes, 1994 won the poll and it’s easy to see why. It’s a pretty strong year in a decade that didn’t have a lot of strong years in the genre. Even 1994 is a little uneven. You’ll see in this week’s list that it starts out kind of weak, but finishes strong. The movies I consider weaker you may like a lot more than I do! Who knows? Maybe everyone’s wearing their nostalgia goggles today. I definitely wouldn’t call any of the films on here bad, that’s for sure.

One brief note: There’s a lot of websites that say In The Mouth of Madness is a 1994 film. It is not. I don’t care what user-edited sites like imdb or Wikipedia say. The movie was released on February 3, 1995 in the US. Oh and The Crow is a superhero movie. Horror-influenced, sure, but still a superhero movie. I’m not throwing Ghost Rider on a best of 2007 list.

#10: Night of the Demons 2

The Night of the Demons series is kind of under-the-radar for a lot of horror fans. The first film is definitely a “love it or hate it” affair and the sequel is more of the same. It’s the third film and the remake that are absolutely horrible, in my opinion. This one isn’t so bad. It features the return of Amelia Kinkade as Angela, this time having a lot more fun with the role. It also has a fairly likable cast, which makes the deaths have a little more impact.

If the Night of the Demons movies hit in the 80s instead of almost ten years later, they may have had a longer lifespan. They were essentially 80s slashers with a ton of gore that somehow got released in the wrong decade. You don’t have a lot of room in the 80s when the first film is out in 1988, towards the end of the slasher boom. Anyway, if you want to see some nasty gore and a fun villain, you could do worse than Night of the Demons 2.

#9: Godzilla vs SpaceGodzilla

Here’s a perfect example of what I mean by “weaker”. This film feautres a cool villain and some even cooler monster fights, but it sort of sits in the middle of the Godzilla franchise. It’s not too bad to be considered the worst and it’s nowhere near the top ten. However, it’s still a true Godzilla movie with everything you expect, and it’s from the best (in my opinion) series of Godzilla films, the Heisei years.

Sure, I’ve got problems with the story and Godzilla’s kid (only a few steps above Minilla), but SpaceGodzilla is great. He’s a cross between Godzilla and Biollante and space (or maybe Mothra and space, we’re not sure). He’s a formidable challenge for the big lizard. If you’re into Godzilla movies, you’ll have fun with this. If you’re not, then you probably scoffed at its inclusion and moved on. No harm, no foul. Moving on…

#8: Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead

Sure, I hate Rocky and Tim. Sure, this is the weakest of the Phantasm series. Who cares? It’s still a Phantasm movie and at the end of the day it still has many of the fun bits that the series is known for. You can’t really hate a movie that tries this hard to entertain you, can you? The Tall Man isn’t really scary anymore, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t fun to watch. Angus Scrimm always makes his roles enjoyable. As he proved at Flashback Weekend, he can make singing about kissing prairie dogs enjoyable (yes, this happened. I have video proof).

The best parts of this movie are once again seeing Reggie on the road and getting some more answers about why The Tall Man wants Mike so bad. Sure, it just raises more questions, but at least the story was moving along. 2015 is the year of Ravager, so I’m really hoping it answers all the questions I have. Actually, considering the way this series goes, I’ll be happy to just get one solid answer. Half an answer? This isn’t exactly a coherent series, is what I’m saying. That’s kind of the point.

#7: Brainscan

I’ve said before that Brainscan needs to be remade and I stand by that. It’s flawed and the concept could be mined for a really scary horror film with the way games have advanced over the years. This was made in a weird period where no one in Hollywood had any idea how virtual reality or the Internet worked. So naturally video games were also puzzling. It also has a performance from Edward Furlong that’s hit or miss, at best.

However, this movie is still something of a anomaly of 90s horror. Like the Night of the Demons sequels, it came out a decade too late. We would have had at least three Brainscan movies if this thing opened during the height of Freddy-mania. T. Ryder Smith’s Trickster comes off as Freddy-lite at times anyway, but only by design. He was clearly doing his best and is easliy the best part of the movie. The movie tries to be a little bit of everything and while it doesn’t always succeed, it is an engaging story with a variation on a cliched ending that actually works in this case.

#6: Shallow Grave

This one is kind of a cheat, because it’s not explicitly horror. Even calling it a horror comedy may be stretching it, but it’s still a very dark comedy. If a comedy about people killing people and losing their minds isn’t a horror comedy, what is? Where do we draw the line? This one features Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Ninth Doctor as roommates who find out their new flatmate is dead with a huge bag of money. After cutting up the corpse and disposing of it, they keep the money.

The money eventually drives a wedge between the three and one of them loses their minds in a pretty funny way. It only gets worse from there. This was Danny Boyle’s first movie and it showed just what he was capable of as a director. It also had strong performances from all three of its cast members (Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston and Kerry Fox). It’s a dark comedy that you may not have had the chance to see. If not, go check it out.

#5: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

The 1990s were an attempt to make modern versions of many different horror monsters. We had takes on The Invisible Man (Hollow Man), The Wolf Man (Wolf), Dracula (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) and Frankenstein. While this isn’t as good as the earlier Coppola take on Dracula, it’s still an epic retelling of the tale with strong performances from pretty much everyone.

Even Robert De Niro is surprisingly good as “The Creation”. I’ve seen people rip on it for not being like Karloff, but Karloff’s a damn hard act to follow. De Niro provides his own take on the creature and he’s still equal parts tragic (although perhaps not as much) and dangerous. Kenneth Branagh does an equally commendable job as the good doctor (and the good director). The film also attempts to keep closer to the novel, which is always appreciated.

#4: The Puppet Masters

When I first saw this movie on television as a kid, I was really mad. I had just started to get into horror thanks to the Universal classics, and I heard about the Full Moon Puppet Master series and thought that if it was edited for TV, my mom would let me watch it. She did, but it turned out to be about mind-controlling slugs. BORE-RING! When I grew up and revisited the movie, I saw it was a nice little bit of paranoia fuel that seemed inspired by Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This is funny since Robert A. Heinlein’s book came out before Jack Finney’s by four years. However the Heinlein adaptation borrows from the movie that was based on a book that many claim was a rip-off of Heinlein’s original novel. Oh no, I’ve gone cross-eyed.

Before I start making complicated charts to explain all of this, let’s just go with the facts. Fact: this is a tense little sci-fi horror film that ups the paranoia and echoes back to Body Snatchers and The Thing. You don’t really know who has one of these aliens on them and who doesn’t. Donald Sutherland is great as the lead, once again battling aliens who seek to secretly control Earth. He has bad luck in that department. At least he doesn’t lose his mind this time. Right? Right?

#3: Dellamorte Dellamore (aka Cemetery Man)

What can I say about Cemetery Man? This movie is weird, man. It’s about Rupert Everett, who has to kill the dead after they rise seven nights after they expire. He falls in love with Anna Falchi (kind of hard not to) and eventually loses his mind and goes on a killing spree. There’s a lot of other random stuff happening as well, but that’s the gist. Oh and he also meets Death. Did I mention that? He meets Death, who looks like the most bad-ass version of the Grim Reaper ever put on film.

This is a horror comedy, one that’s more obviously horror than Shallow Grave. There’s so much about the movie I want to tell you, but I have a feeling that there are some who haven’t seen it and I’d hate to rob them of the awesomeness. I honestly only kind of liked it when I first saw it, but this is a film that grew on me quickly and now I can’t wait until I get to watch it again. I’d argue that Everett certainly gave the best performance of 1994 in the genre, as he completely owns every second he’s on screen.

#2: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

Here we are again, in which I have to come up with new sentences to praise Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Look, we already know all of this. It’s a subversive take on Freddy Krueger that completely changes the game from how we knew him for the past six films. It’s a great story with an attempt to make Freddy scary again (which sometimes succeeds). Heather Langenkamp gives her best performance of the series and Miko Hughes is once again creepy. You’ve probably seen New Nightmare. Do you really need me to repeat myself?

Fine. How about I talk about the love and affection it displays for the original Nightmare on its tenth anniversary? How about I talk about the great orchestral score? How about the coolness of Freddy’s redesigned glove? Wes Craven may get a lot of criticism around these parts (pretty much solely from me) but he knocked it out of the park with this movie. It’s a great sequel that can also stand alone if you’ve never seen another Freddy movie in your life. Really, all you have to know is that he existed at one point.

#1: The Stand

M-O-O-N. That spells the best horror film of 1994. The Stand is an epic miniseries based on Stephen King’s epic novel. It’s easily the best movie Mick Garris ever directed. The best part is, it actually manages to leave stuff out of the novel! It gets all the major parts but it’s easy to see why a big budget version is going to be great (especially since they too will divide it into four parts). Hopefully this can get a great blu-ray release ahead of the new version. It shouldn’t be too hard, it doesn’t look like a made-for-TV movie.

There’s so many things that make this movie great. It follows King’s book just enough to get the best parts without any of King’s normal quirks that tend to bring some of his epics down. It has a stellar cast, with everyone from Gary Sinise, Rob Lowe and Jamey Sheridan as Randall Flagg. Sheridan was so good as Flagg that when Michael Whelan did art for The Dark Tower, he drew up a Flagg that sorta-kinda looks like him. It’s a great cast in a great movie based on a great book. If you’ve got about six hours, you should give it a shot. If not, you should give it a shot anyway, just watch it in parts. It’s still on Netflix, so you should watch it there. Laws, yes.

Ending Notes:

That’s it for me. Agree with my choices? Did I leave anything out? Leave some comments here, on my Twitter or my Facebook. Next week it’s the top ten horror shows of the 90s! What’s your pick?

Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)

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