Scream arrived on the big screen with a bang in 1996, highly anticipated by horror fans as it was the new film from Wes Craven. Scream grabbed the audience’s attention from the offset with a brilliant stalk and slash opener killing off its main star, Drew Barrymore, right away.
Scream shocked the audience at the ending (spoiler alert) when it was revealed that there were actually two killers all along. This had never happened before, and led the way to a few sequels in which a pairing was the case. Scream was brilliant at the time as it was so self-aware of its genre and it was a welcome addition to the horror genre.
Misery is of course based on the book by Stephen King and is a great adaptation, largely in thanks to Kathy Bates playing Nurse Annie Wilkes. When famous author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) crashes his car in the snowy mountains he is pulled to safety by Annie and taken to her home.
The pacing of Misery is just right, it is a brilliantly scary horror film and the audience don’t know what is coming next (unless they’ve read the book of course). Stephen King wrote a terrific novel in Misery, and luckily the screen adaptation lived up to it.
8. Stir of Echoes
The lovely Kevin Bacon plays Tom Witzjy in Stir of Echoes, a husband and father living in a rented house with his family trying to make ends meet. When his hippy sister in law hypnotises him at a party, he blacks out and suddenly finds himself hallucinating and seeing things he did not see before. His behaviour gets increasingly erratic and he behaves in increasingly strange ways as he hears and sees things from a vision of a young girl.
Stir of Echoes is brilliantly eerie, and it is one of those horror films that has an actual story and moral tale to it. It is very scary in its build up, and when the conclusion of the mystery is revealed it is very scary, but also very sad. Kevin Bacon is great playing his role along with Kathryn Erbe as his wife, Maggie.
Ringu is another Japanese horror and mystery film of the 1990s. Ringu was a massive hit when it came out across the border, and was of course subsequently remade by America in 2002. The story of Ringu has a simple premise. Do not watch the videotape, if you watch the videotape you will die in seven days. But yet, people still watch the videotape.
Ringu is such a great horror film because it combines an old folk tale and appeals to all generations of movie goers. The films pace is perfect, it builds up the tension perfectly and it is constantly ticking closer to the end of the seven days. The film leaves a lot of the horror to the audience’s imagination and this proves such a success. It is also very very scary and creepy which is always a must for a brilliant horror film.
6. Jacob’s Ladder
Jacob’s Ladder is a psychological horror film which stars Tim Robbins as protagonist, Jacob, who is suffering from strange hallucinations since his return from the Vietnam War. The flashbacks and hallucinations continue to get worse and Jacob has to try to understand what is happening to him.
Jacob’s Ladder is quite a depressing film, but it is most definitely worth watching. It is incredibly powerfully acted and the direction and writing are brilliantly done. It is viscerally frightening and incredibly dark, but these factors enable it to be a brilliant psychologically creepy horror film. Tim Robbins is brilliant in his role, fully embodying his character.
Another Japanese horror film (there were a spate of brilliant ones in the 90s) Audition, frightened the audiences back in 1999. Audition stars Ryo Ishibashi as Aoyama, a widower. Along with his friend who works in film, Aoyama decides to start dating again and decides to use auditions as a dating service. One of these women is beautiful Asami (Eihi Shiina) and the two start a relationship. However, Asami is not all that she seems.
The premise is quite a common trope in a horror film (the woman not quite as she seems), but it is done so well here it is absolutely brilliant, be it absolutely disturbing. It is a highly grisly film and did cause some walk outs when it premiered. It is not one for the fainthearted, but a brilliant horror film.
4. From Dusk Till Dawn
The film begins as quite a good kidnap film. Clooney and Tarantino play brothers, Richard and Seth, criminals who end up kidnapping the Fuller family and driving across the country in their camper van. They cross into Mexico and end up holed up at a bar called the Titty Twister. From then on the film switches genre and turns into a survival film as the group defend themselves from a fierce and hungry bunch of vampires.
When I watched it, I had no clue at all that it was a vampire film so the shock when Salma Hayak turns from sexy dancer to fanged vampire was huge. It is a vampire film with a difference and certainly a memorable one. Each actor plays their part to perfection and mostly you are routing for their survival. It is one of Clooney’s best roles as an anti-hero and Tarantino also plays his role despicably well.
He of Game of Thrones fame, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, plays Martin, a law student in this fantastic Danish film. To earn money whilst he is studying he takes a job as a night watchman at a morgue. That sounds creepy enough. He lives with his girlfriend and together they spend a lot of time with another couple. There is also an ongoing case in the city in which local prostitutes are being murdered and scalped. Martin meets the Detective investigating the case at his new place of employment.
The film turns into a murder mystery as well as a horror film as we race to establish who is killing all these women. There are many suspects and red herrings, and when the killer is finally revealed it is in a heart stopping scene which takes place in the flat of his latest victim. Nightwatch is a truly frightening film; watch it in the dark with the doors locked. It was remade in 1997 starring Ewan MacGregor in the lead role, and whilst not as good as this version it is still a good watch and still very frightening.
2. The Sixth Sense
The Sixth Sense, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, has now become such an iconic film since its release on the screens of 1999, and mostly remembered for its surprise twist (which even people who have not seen the film know by now). It stars Bruce Willis as Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist, who is working with 9 year old Cole (Haley Joel Osmont) and trying to get through to him. Cole says he can see dead people. And he most certainly does.
Toni Collette is also brilliant as the put upon Mum of Cole. The ending is almost staring you in the face once you know it, but Shyamalan does it so well the audience don’t realise until the end. It is definitely a re-watcher, to see all the little things you missed which were hints throughout the film.
1. The Silence of The Lamb
Jodie Foster plays Clarice Starling in this highly acclaimed and Oscar winning film. It is a blend of horror, thriller and crime genres but it is most definitely one of the scariest films ever. Directed by Jonathan Demme, The Silence of the Lambs won five Oscars for Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally), Best Director (Jonathan Demme) and Best Picture.
The performances in The Silence of the Lambs are brilliant, especially Hopkins and Foster. Hopkins morphs into Hannibal Lecter, and he is literally terrifying. Ted Levine is incredibly creepy as Buffalo Bill and the conclusion of this film with him and Foster is heart pounding. The cinematography and overall feel of the film is gloomy and atmospheric, and contributes to the terrifying mise en scène. The Silence of the Lambs is one of the best films ever made, and definitely the best horror film of the 1990s.