When it comes to the gold era of slashers, most will say it was the 1980s, but the 1990s are not to be ignored.
When it comes to the golden era of slasher films, most will say it was the 1980s, but the 1990s are not to be ignored as they brought us an amazing bunch of films and some that redefined the sub-genre (including one that’s getting a fifth sequel this weekend). Here’s our list of the Best 90s Slasher Films:
This one is considered a fantasy slasher, so it’s a bit controversial as to if it is a slasher or not. For this list, let’s consider it one. It’s fantastic and Andrew Divoff is 98% of why it’s so good. This film is his and he makes it the best it could be. His work is both charming and menacing, giving his character an aura that makes the whole film what it is. It’s creepy, it has great kills, and the cameos in this one are to die for. Seeing Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, Reggie Bannister, Tony Todd, and hearing Angus Scrimm not only gave the film some serious cred, but it also helped make it a fan favorite from the start. The special effects are still on point, proving that practical wins over CGI any day and that hiring someone like Robert Kurtzman to direct a script by Peter Adkins (Hellraiser II and III) could only lead to a fun film.
Urban Legend (1998)
A film that takes urban legends and brings them to life, something many had been wanting to see more in cinema. The fact that it’s also a slasher film is fantastic. Another strong point here is the cast which includes Joshua Jackson (for whom horror was a surprising choice), Jared Leto, Alicia Witt, Rebecca Gayheart, Michael Rosenbaum, Tara Reid, Danielle Harris, Loretta Devine, and Robert Englund, so that cast is stacked. Or at least it was back in 1998. That being said, the film has some great kills and some truly creepy set-ups with a dark sense of humor that is just perfect. The way they bring things into being slightly meta with the class about urban legends and how they aren’t real helped put this film in the realm of Scream and New Nightmare. Urban Legend got a sequel in 2000 which felt a bit more like a B-movie but is also quite entertaining and another sequel in 2005 that centered on the Bloody Mary urban legend and better left alone.
A film that even MoMA recognizes as a high-quality film, Candyman is a movie that even over 30 years later is still scary and still will get fully grown adults to check closets and avoid mirrors. It’s the real deal and it is possibly one of the best adaptations of a Clive Barker story. Important changes were made to the story to bring it to the screen and those only helped enhance the themes therein and make it a scarier urban legend. The performances by Tony Todd as the titular character and Virginia Madsen as Helen Lyle are strong still to this day. The remake/sequel took the film and took it somewhere different while retaining the heart of it. Both films make for a great double feature.
The master of reinvention at this point, Wes Craven, who brought one of the best 1980s slasher killers to the screen, created with Scream a whole new sub-genre of slasher: the self-referential, meta slasher where the victims know what a slasher is. Indeed, they know the rules, and know how to survive, yet they all die one by one, some in obvious ways, others in brand new and entertaining ways. Craven directed the film, but he’s not the only one deserving of credit for the reinvention of the sub-genre as it was written by Kevin Williamson, so the story is all him, with directing by Craven, something that gets overlooked at times. Scream has since led to lots of copycats and five sequels so far. The cast of this original is strong, and they give great performances, including those of Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, and Rose McGowen, to name a few. The most memorable to film nerds might just be Jamie Kennedy as Randy who is the exposition dude without being completely crazy here, giving the viewer their grounding character, the one they can relate too while watching this slasher about slashers.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Before he made Scream, Craven did kind of a dry run for the “meta horror film” with New Nightmare. It takes the leads of A Nightmare on Elm Street and sets them in a world where they are themselves, movie stars who have worked on one of the most successful horror franchises, and sets Freddy after them in their “real” lives. This one is a clear predecessor to Scream and is all Wes Craven, showing he understood more than a little about the genre he helped make popular and how to twist it to reinvent it. The cast is led by Heather Langenkamp playing a fictional version of herself, Robert Englund pulling double duty as himself and as Freddy, John Saxon as himself, and Miko Hughes as Dylan, Heather’s fictional son. The cast here had to work with an unusual style of script, and they nailed it. The film is creepy, almost creepier than the original and it is truly violent in a new way. This is how you reinvent a franchise and end it (Freddy Vs Jason not withstanding).
Runner-ups: Ice Cream Man (1995), Bride of Chucky (1998), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
Did we forget an important title? Did we skip your favorite? Let us know!