Movies & TV / Columns

A Bloody Good Time: Top 10 Horror Films Of 1995

February 2, 2017 | Posted by Joseph Lee

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

Last week, we looked at the worst horror films of 1995. Hitting ’95 only gives us four years left in the decade, which I’m sure we’ll get to at various points this year. But after hitting the worst, it only makes sense to now look at the best. Like I said last week, 1995 wasn’t a great year in general, but there were some gems in the genre once you get past all the crap and medicore stuff. Not as many as other years, but still enough for me to put together this list.

#10: Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t love this sequel nearly as much as I do the original, as it mostly serves as a remake of the same story. After all, if something works, Hollywood’s going to do it again. The sequel’s still good though, because it gives us the full origin of Candyman. Tony Todd’s acting is really solid in this, particularly in that sequence. It makes up for the fact that the plot is otherwise very similar to the original, except for the person Candyman targets being a distant relative.

Not every villain needs an origin story, but I’ve always enjoyed the fact that Candyman is a tragic figure. It doesn’t excuse his killing and it doens’t make him any less scary, because he has that giant hook on his hand. It’s a decent sequel and the last good Candyman movie, because the less said about Day of the Dead, the better.

#9: Godzilla vs Destoroyah

This is still in my top five Godzilla movies for a reason. It’s the big finale of the Heisei era and it ended things by killing off Godzilla. That’s not a huge deal now, because Godzilla’s died multiple times, including in his first outing. At the time, it was a big deal because Toho was playing it like Godzilla was done. He didn’t come back until ’99, and that was likely only because of Sony’s poor attempt at a remake.

Destoroyah is a great monster to put him against because he looks like this huge demonic monstrosity. He’s not even Godzilla’s only threat. Godzilla opens the film on a rampage becuase he’s in the process of having a nuclear meltdown. Godzilla dies and it’s actually kind of sad. But this is one of the best movies in Toho’s long-running series, showing respect for their biggest moneymaker.

#8: Screamers

Screamers is my kind of B-movie. Peter Weller plays one of a team of people on a planet where robots are evolving, robots that we created. They’re killers that let out loud high-pitch screams when going after a target, and rapidly become Terminators disguised as people. This movie is everything Terminator Salvation should have been, with maybe a little bit more camp than that movie had. It’s certainly as close to Robocop vs Terminator as we’re ever going to get.

But there’s lots of great lines, particularly from Weller. He is really the only character given development except for The Bad Guy and The Love Interest. The bad guy here is so obvious that I think it’s supposed to be. No red herrings in this one. Anyway, if you like your sci-fi horror with a good side of cheese then this is for you because there’s a lot of it. It’s just really fun, a lot more fun than perhaps it should be, but that’s part of the charm.

#7: Hideaway

This is one of those movies I expected nothing from but it ended up surpising me. You’ve seen the plot before, a man can see what a killer sees. He ends up having the prove that he is not, in fact, the killer. Yet this is benefitted from the performance of Jeff Goldblum, who is still really good even when he phones it in. He’s not phoning it in here, although he could have given the B-movie trappings.

The movie also features Jeremy Sisto, a tremendously underrated actor, playing the villain. Alicia Silverstone is there too, back around the time she started to get really big. There’s nothing in Hideaway you haven’t seen before, but it has some fun performances and is overall pretty enjoyable.

#6: Castle Freak

And now for a movie from Stuart Gordon, based on a H.P. Lovecraft story, starring Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton. No, it’s not Re-Animator. No, it’s not From Beyond either. They worked together on a third film, the last time they would all work together like this. I’m not going to lie and say Castle Freak is anywhere near as good as the other two films, it’s not. However, it is a fun B-movie with a lot of nasty gore and another great Combs performance.

In this film he’s a recovering alcoholic who moves into a castle that he and his family inherited. They don’t know there’s a mutant living in the cellar, which has been tortured for years and willing to kill others. I think my only real problem with this movie is the score, which sort of takes the wind out of the more serious moments. It’s a cheesy score for a movie that tries to play it serious. Richard Band was sort of doing the same score for everything once Full Moon started. But if you can ignore it, and I can, you get a fun monster movie.

#5: Tales From the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight

I feel like I just wrote about this movie recently. Oh well, I can do it again. Demon Knight is great and it’s the best of the Tales from the Crypt movies in a walk. It’s everything that made the show so good stretched out to 90 minutes. You have a ton of gore all over the place, some excellent creature effects and Billy Zane treating the scenery like his own personal buffet. Normally that kind of performance would be out of place, but not in a movie lik this.

Demon Knight, I feel, is the first really good movie on this list (not that the rest aren’t good, because they are) because it succeeds at what it sets out to be. It wants to be a nasty, fun, extended episode of the hit show and that’s what it is. If you’re into the show, you’ve probably already seen this. If you haven’t, give it a watch. It’s definitely the better of the three films with the Cryptkeeper’s likeness attached.

#4: Species

I almost feel like Species is underrated now 22 years later. It doesn’t seem to get a lot of love from the horror community. That could be because the sequels have sort of run the series into the ground. It could be because it’s almost been a decade since anyone attempted a Species movie. But the first is a slick sci-fi horror film that, when it uses practical effects, looks really good. We’ll ignore the mid-90s CG that is featured in the film’s finale because they do not hold up.

The film follows an alien/human hybrid that develops into an adult female within months. All she wants to do is mate, but she’ll also kill those who get in her way. There’s also the problem that if she successfully mates, her offspring will doom mankind. In order to stop her, we have an all-star cast including Michael Madsen, Forest Whitaker and Marg Helgenberger teaming up to take down the dangerous Sil. The creature effects, I should note, were designed by HR Giger, who previously created the xenomorph in Alien. They look fantastic, as you’d expect.

#3: Lord of Illusions

This is the last film Clive Barker ever directed. I don’t know this for sure, but I’d have to say it was because he grew tired of studios meddling with his vision. Lord of Illusions, like Nightbreed, was cut down severely by the studio before hitting theaters, and it didn’t do very well as a result. The difference is that it had a unrated cut immediately upon hitting home video, so fans didn’t have to wait to see what Barker’s original vision was.

Lord of Illusions is a great mind-trip of movie with Scott Bakula as beleaguered detective Harry D’Amour, a character who sadly has only appeared in the one film but has had many adventures in book form. If you’re a fan of Barker’s stories, this is right up your alley. It’s just as good as Hellraiser or Nightbreed, in my opinion. It’s a great horror film that’s more adult than a lot of the horror we get these days.

#2: Seven

I thought about making Seven my #1 pick. It’s certainly a great film and probably deserving of it. But I’ve caught some criticism for including Seven on my horror lists in the past. So I’ll hedge my bets and make it #2, although I feel like my top pick definitely deserves it. Anyway, I still feel Seven is a horror film and not that stupid “psychological thriller” tag Hollywood likes to use when they’re ashamed of the genre. It’s basically a giallo set in America, right down to the nasty different deaths. If this were directed by Argento no one would have said anything.

Anyway, you don’t need me to tell you that Seven is great. It features a tremendous class, with Kevin Spacey’s role especially great. He’s chilling as John Doe and he’s part of the reason the ending works so well. Then you have the discoveries of his previous victims, including Sloth. The discovery of Sloth remain one of the most frightening scenes in the genre, another reason why I include it in the genre. The film is grotesque and macabre in all the best ways.

#1: In The Mouth of Madness

Do you read Sutter Cane? Arguably John Carpenter’s last great film (depending on how good you think Vampires is), In The Mouth of Madness isn’t a direct adaptation of a Lovecraft tale but it’s clearly inspired by them. It certainly has plenty of references to Lovecraft’s work and feels like something he could have written. The thing I love about this movie is just how delightfully insnae it is, particularly toward the end.

Sam Neill is on point as the star of the film, seemingly game for whatever Carpenter threw at him. It wasn’t his last time in a film like this, as he’d later do Event Horizon and that got just as crazy near the end. This is one of those horror films I can watch over and over and tend to quote semi-regularly. Did I ever tell you my favorite color is blue?

Ending Notes:

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