The ’80s set the stage for slasher films, but the ’90s revitalized them, breathing new life into a horror subgenre that had gone stale. Introducing a plethora of new “teen” talent, some badass final girls and higher production values, the genre was equipped to reach wider audiences and bigger box office success. Here’s a look back at 13 slasher films that prove the ’90s were one of the most important decades in horror history. In alphabetical order:
1 / Bride of Chucky (1998)
In the fourth instalment of the Child’s Play series, Chucky is brought back to life through a voodoo ritual by Tiffany Valentine (Jennifer Tilly), a past lover of Charles Lee Ray. When their reunion doesn’t go as planned, Chucky kills Tiffany in a climactic bathtub scene, which transports her soul into a bride doll. As the two possessed dolls go on a murder spree, you can expect a lot of fun kills (and laughs) along the way. The film was met with mixed reviews, but it’s actually Chucky actor Brad Dourif’s personal favourite in the series (mine too for that matter!).
2 / Candyman (1992)
Candyman is considered one of the most terrifying murderers in slasher history, thanks to the talented performance by Tony Todd. While studying urban legends, Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) learns of the tale of a spirit summoned by calling his name five times in front of a mirror. After testing this theory, she must fight for her life as a string of murders occur. This supernatural slasher is penned by Clive Barker, also known for 1987’s Hellraiser, and makes horror movie history introducing audiences to a Black serial killer. Candyman is Tony Todd’s favourite role he’s played to date.
3 / Child’s Play 2 (1990)
Chucky is back and badder than ever in this follow up to the late ’80s Child’s Play. After Andy’s mom is admitted to a psychiatric hospital (sadly Catherine Hicks doesn’t reprise her role!), Chucky finds Andy in foster care and is even more determined to claim his soul. This may be the shortest running Chucky movie at 84 minutes, but it still made an impact, opening as the #1 film at the box office back at the start of the decade.
4 / Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998)
Jamie Lee Curtis makes her triumphant return as Laurie Strode for the 20th anniversary of the small town slasher film that launched her acting career. It was actually JLC’s idea to reunite the cast and crew for this sequel as a thank you note to fans. Sadly, John Carpenter opted out when Moustapha Akkad disapproved of his directing fees, but news of the film still caused a frenzy among fans, who were excited for the return of the ultimate final girl, Laurie Strode.
5 / I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
Hot off the heels of Scream, this novel turned teen dream slasher features a sexy cast, savage kills and an unforgettable chase scene of Sarah Michelle Gellar, well known at the time as Buffy Summers. Kevin Williamson is to thank for the clever screenplay, blending laughs and screams effectively through egotistical-yet-likeable characters. Sure, writer Lois Duncan was strongly opposed to her book becoming a slasher, and the film wound up on Roger Ebert’s ‘Most Hated’ list, but among horror fans, it’s definitely a crowd-pleaser.
6 / I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)
Hook-wielding fisherman Ben Willis is back for revenge in this island-style follow up to I Know What You Did Last Summer. Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) returns, this time joined by bestie Karla Wilson (Brandy) and as a storm rolls in, bodies begin to pile up (10 to be exact). While not on the same level as the original, it has some bloody fun moments. It’s also the last we see of Jennifer Love Hewitt in a scary movie; she left the genre to avoid being typecast as a scream queen. Is there a problem with that JLH?
7 / Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
With 12 films starring the campground killer Jason Voorhees, it’s hard to believe this is the only Friday that took place in the ’90s. Making $15.9 million at the box office, it was actually the highest-grossing horror movie of 1993, a slight improvement over Jason takes Manhattan. This sequel leans more on supernatural elements, featuring Jessica (Kari Keegan), a new Voorhees relative, who must destroy Jason before he becomes immortal. Another bonus: Director Adam Marcus only thought it fair to showcase both male and female nudity equally in the film.
8 / Popcorn (1991)
During a horror movie marathon in the packed Dreamland theater, a behind-the-scenes homicidal man-of-many-faces quietly (and creatively) kills off the organizers of the event one-by-one. It’s all part of a much larger plan though, involving revenge on the two people he holds responsible for the loss of his mother in a fatal fire that took place in the same theater many years ago. Although apparently set in “anywhere” U.S.A., this film was filmed entirely in Kingston, Jamaica and features horror icon Dee Wallace Stone among its fun, committed cast.
9 / Scream (1996)
Wes Craven’s self-aware horror film, Scream, is to thank for the resurgence of the slasher film. Released at a time when the genre was pretty much considered dead, Scream reinvented the wheel, delivering an innovative cinematic experience. Craven and Kevin Williamson masterfully crafted suspense, keeping audiences on their toes from start to finish, and presented meta-commentary on the horror genre in a respectful way. With one of the best casts in horror history, including Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Skeet Ulrich and Drew Barrymore, Scream is the ultimate slasher recipe, often imitated, never duplicated.
10 / Scream 2 (1997)
Where some sequels fail, Scream 2 is proof that a sequel can, indeed, live up to the original. Kevin Williamson came up with the idea for Scream 2 while still writing the script for Scream, and the story flawlessly builds on what was started in 1996. The film is again perfectly cast, bringing in all-stars like Jada Pinkett Smith, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Timothy Olyphant to join the previous Woodsboro survivors. The whodunnit mystery and killer reveal is just as thrilling as the first, and with earning one-third of its $101.3 million gross in its opening weekend, it’s clear fans were craving more.
11 / Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)
This movie demonstrates that you don’t have to be anywhere close to the prom to die on prom night, as Matthew McConaughey and his brother, Leatherface, take great pleasure in terrorizing a group of next generation Texan teens, including a young Renee Zellweger, after their vehicle crashes during a reckless drive through some remote woods on prom night. Although both a critical and commercial failure after it was eventually released (after sitting on the studio’s shelves for two years, and before it was re-cut), aside from featuring pre-Oscar winners McConaughey and Zellweger early in their careers, this fourth installment of the TCM series also includes uncredited cameos by the original classic’s stars Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain, and John Dugan.
12 / Urban Legend (1998)
If you’re in the mood for a suspenseful slasher with stylish atmosphere, and a talented cast, look no further. Following the Scream craze, Urban Legend, which follows a killer on campus murdering students in the style of well known urban legends, is often overlooked and underrated. The film pays homage to ’80s horror gems with creative kills and a jaw-dropping final reveal. You can also expect cameos from horror royalty like Brad Dourif, Robert Englund and Danielle Harris.
13 / Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Freddy Krueger dreams of making a killer comeback into the real world and is convinced that the only way to achieve that is by killing actress Heather Langenkamp, who Freddy believes is still Nancy Thompson, his primary foe in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). And if the only way to get hold of Heather’s attention (and throat) is by going through her loved ones, literally, then so be it. Even though this generally well-reviewed film reunited actors Langenkamp, Robert Englund, John Saxon, and writer-director Wes Craven, New Nightmare is surprisingly the poorest-performing film in the Nightmare franchise.
Check out a list of the best ’80s slashers here.
Written in collaboration with Scarlett O’Scara.
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