Forgotten HORRORS of the 90’s you NEED TO KNOW
I would venture to say that the 1990s were the last golden age in the history of cinema. The 21st-century development of new technologies and media effectively diminished the importance of cinema in culture. So although in the 90s such film genres as romantic comedy, action, thriller or science-fiction experienced a real boom, in the case of horror films, after the fat decades of the 70s and 80s, there came a moment of breathlessness. This does not mean that nothing happened in the horror movies of the 1990s. At this point, every horror fan will probably mention ten sensational titles with the famous The Ring or Blair Witch Project at the forefront. In the meantime, with this list, I would like to remind you of a few horror movies that you probably know, but in my opinion require a reminder. Here’s a list of forgotten ’90s horror movies every movie buff should know.
The Reflecting Skin, dir. Philip Ridley, 1990
Philip Ridley is an incredibly gifted storyteller. He is the author of fiction for both adults and younger audiences. In the world of cinema, he is remembered primarily as the author of the screenplay for the The Krays (1990) by Peter Medak. After cashing a check for the script for the aforementioned picture, as well as receiving funds from the BBC, Ridley decided to try his hand at film directing. The creation of The Reflecting Skin was inspired by graphics from the famous American Gothic series by Grant Wood, as well as the painting by Andrew Wyeth, a representative of American scene painting and social realism. The Reflecting Skin is set in 1950s Idaho. Although the picturesque rural setting with its dominant green meadows and endless golden fields of wheat may at first glance evoke a warm feeling of nostalgia (Dick Pope is the cinematographer), Philip Ridley’s debut is a vision of a world in which evil lurks. We observe how it slowly comes to the surface through the eyes of eight-year-old Seth Dove (Jeremy Cooper), who is still unaware of the threats. A boy who, more than his mother’s progressive mental illness (Sheila Moore), his father’s homosexuality and a certain secret (Duncan Fraser), his brother’s radiation-related atomic bomb disease (Viggo Mortensen), is terrified by the suspicion that the Doves’ neighbor (Lindsay Duncan) is a vampire. The Reflecting Skin skin seems to be an inexplicable creation, which is why Ridley’s first work is often compared to David Lynch’s paintings. The Brit’s film has a unique atmosphere and is oddly appealing, although the themes it touches on are rather off-putting. Hypnotic, terrifying, bristling with allegories, a touch of Gothic, Philip Ridley’s painting remains deep under the skin long after the screening.
Cronos (dir. Guillermo del Toro), 1993
This time, the debut of a director definitely more familiar to horror fans. Cronos was appreciated in director’s native Mexico’s and also won a special award at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. In his debut, del Toro talks about a peculiar, insect-like device that allows its user to stay young and live forever. Cronos is a horror game full of religious references touching on vampire themes. The Mexican created a strange but satisfying mix of styles and genres. So it’s funny, scary, melodramatic and romantic. And although it is not a work without errors, it certainly had to draw attention to the then 29-year-old artist, who with great self-confidence paid homage to vampire films and at the same time gave them a different, specific expression. Cronos is del Toro’s first film about monsters, or rather about how a man can become a monster and how a monster can be human.
Addiction, dir. Abel Ferrara, 1995
It just so happens that the third film on this list will again refer to vampire themes. Again, however, it will be a completely different take on this beloved theme by cinema. In a way, Abel Ferrara’s Addiction ties in thematically with both The Reflecting Skin and Cronos. How? The black-and-white work of the controversial American director is, after all, a misanthropic and depressive story about evil, or rather about human addiction to evil. Although thanks to Addiction Ferrara appears as an intellectual whose vampires quote Heidegger. His horror is also the top commercial entertainment in terms of cinematography and style. Addiction is a cool, atmospheric and layered horror film filled with philosophical questions and social commentary. This is probably the most successful work in the American filmography, which was lifted by the excellent Lili Taylor on her small shoulders.
The Day of The Beast (El día de la bestia), dir. Álex de la Iglesia, 1995
After a slightly depressing proposal from Abel Ferrara, it’s time for a film that will still leave you in a climate of horror, but at the same time will add a lot of black humor. Day of the Beast was a hit in Spanish cinemas in the mid-1990s and actually launched the career of its director, Álex de la Iglesia. Iglesia, using Esperpento, an aesthetic category that deforms reality through grotesque, absurdity and irony, has created a film that pays homage to the horror genre and at the same time plays with it. The day of the beast is, above all, a well-thought-out and extremely sincere project that simply cannot be forgotten. It is also worth remembering him through the prism of excellent acting performances, in particular Álex Angulo, who died in 2014, playing the role of Angel Beriartuy’s father.
Thesis (Tesis), dir. Alejandro Amenábar, 1996
Another debut and another Spanish-language film on this list. Alejandro Amenábar’s Thesis is a production made for little money, which in my opinion beats the most famous work of the Chilean, The Others. Why? First of all, Amenábar’s debut touches on the damn intriguing and disturbing theme of the so-called snuff movies, i.e. films depicting scenes of real murders, torture or rape. Secondly, Thesis puts forward extremely interesting, bold and original… theses. Thirdly, Ana Torrent delivers a unique, phenomenal performance. Fourthly, the sultry atmosphere, great editing and excellent soundtrack make it difficult to wash this production off after the screening. The thesis is terrifying because it tells the truth about people. We are all fascinated by sex and violence, and it is they that most often drive us to action.
Cure (Kyua) dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 1997
Here is one of the best films of the 90s in my opinion. As soon as I remembered Kurosawa’s film, I immediately bought its Blu-ray release. The treatment initially gives the impression of a crime film typical of the last decade of the 20th century, about a serial killer and a detective who is obsessed with catching the villain. However, what for many creators is not only the starting point for the story, but actually its essence, for Kurosawa becomes only the beginning of a sophisticated, terrifying story about the nature of evil with supernatural elements. The idea for Cure came to Kurosawa’s mind after watching the news. Subsequent reports of the capture of a killer, accompanied by trivial statements by the neighbors of this or that one, according to which the killer always bowed to them and was very kind, provoked the director to think that perhaps someone forced all these polite criminals to do bestial acts. The treatment is permeated by questions about human identity. The director also puts forward a bold thesis, expressed through Mamiya’s actions, according to which, in order to completely get rid of the evil dormant in man, one must escape the imposed framework and reset the value systems. In short, if you want to be free from evil, you should dehumanize yourself. This is a terrifying, but at the same time clever statement, which is emphasized by the last scenes of Cure that remain in the mind for years after the screening.
As a supplement to the above list, I recommend you a text by Krzysztof Walecki entitled: 5 horror movies from the 90s that you don’t know but you should. Be sure to write in the comments if you know the films listed here, and if so, whether you remembered about them.