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The Video Store Days #3: Unsung 90's Horror


On today's edition of The Video Store Days, we take a look at some of the unsung horror films from the 1990's. Some of these may be very familiar to you, some not, but these are just a sampling of the many 90's horror films that I think every horror fan should see.


Today I want to talk about 90’s horror. Now, I have already covered Full Moon Pictures so they won’t be talked about here. I just want to talk about some of the films that I discovered during The Video Store Days that I think need more attention.


GRAVEYARD SHIFT is one of the most hated Stephen King adaptations and I understand why to a certain extent. I get that the characters aren’t the greatest and that the film seems to be plotting along at times, but this is a film about a giant fucking bat. Of course, we don’t know that until well into the film’s runtime, but there is a giant bat and it eats people. There is also a brilliant Brad Dourif character here that has to be seen to be believed. I find the film to be really entertaining with the reveal of the bat to be a pretty scary moment. People focus on the few negatives the film has and forget that the film is about a HUGE FUCKING BAT that eats people.


DR. GIGGLES is a film that had my attention the moment I saw the trailer. Robert G. Durant was now playing a psychotic doctor whose weapon of choice was whatever he pulled from his doctor’s bag all the while giggling hence the name Dr. Giggles. I remember that my mother went to see this in the theater as Larry Drake, who plays the titular character, was on the then popular tv show L.A. Law and she wanted to see what he could with a horror film. When she came home after watching the film, she told me all about it. She even ruined some of the kills for me, but I was just glad that she liked it. I did not get a chance to see the film until it came out on VHS. To say that I was impressed would be an understatement. I LOVED DR. GIGGLES. I found the horror to be lightened up a bit more than what I was used to by this time, but the lead performance by Drake and the humor really won me over. Seeing what Dr, Giggles would pull out of his bag next was actually suspenseful for me, but the payoff was worth it. I was disappointed that the film didn’t do that well at the box office because I would have loved to seen this turned into a series of films. I know that Drake would have been down with becoming the new face of slasher movies and we would have loved to have seen what kind of crazy kills the filmmakers would come up with.


RAISING CAIN is one of Brian DePalma’s best films. He creates characters that look like so much fun to play and sets them loose inside of a world where only these characters could exist. John Lithgow plays a man with multiple personality disorder who finds out his wife is cheating on him and decides that he is going to do her in. The film was released in 1992 and flopped at the box office as people really didn’t know what to make of the film. I also think that DePalma’s last minute decision to change the first act around with the film’s second act actually hurt the film. Instead of building up to the reveal that Cain might be crazy, we are thrown right into the middle of everything and have to find our way to the top. Scream Factory, a few years ago, released a “director’s cut” of the film that actually started life as a fan edit. DePalma saw this fan edit and endorsed it as his director’s cut. This version actually fixes the problems the theatrical cut had and makes the film a lot more tense and suspenseful. This is definitely one of the most underrated films to come out of the 90’s and something that everyone should see at least once.


TICKS is the kind of film that you either rent on the spot without knowing anything about the film or you skip it because it sounds like a really shitty film. Those who actually rented the film would find themselves watching a really good flick. The plot of the film sounds like it was ripped from a FRIDAY THE 13TH script. We have a group of at risk teens being taken by bus to the woods where the are to do some community service. While in the woods, they encounter the titular ticks and all hell breaks loose. The film is interesting for casting Alfonso Riberio, who was a big star thanks to his role as Carlton on THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR. Here is a guy who has one of the biggest prime time comedies on the planet, slumming it in a direct-to-video horror flick about killer ticks. Seth Green is also here, but he wasn’t as known as either Riberio or lead actress Ami Dolenz. The film is a lot of fun, features a crazy Clint Howard performance, and has some great practical effects work done by none other than the guys over at K.N.B. Effects. This is a must watch for horror fans looking for something they have never seen before.


After hitting it big with TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY and doing pretty well for himself in the often overlooked sequel to Pet Sematary, Edward Furlong would sign on to do a film about a killer video game called BRAINSCAN. The film was released into theaters in April of 1994 and flopped. It came to video pretty soon after that and became a film that many saw back in the day but will shoo away nowadays. I don’t know why. The film captures the rainy season of any suburb really nicely while giving us some things that we have never seen before. Because the film was released during that lovely time in the 90’s where everything had have some form of CGI in it, we get the Trickster, who isn’t CGI himself, but is introduced via CGI. This effect was kind of cool back then, but looks like shit nowadays. In fact, Trickster was supposed to be the new 90’s horror icon like Freddy or Jason, and he would have been had the film done better at the box office. The film focuses on a video game that is a real experience. The murders that happen in the game also happen in real life. Who could be the killer and how could that person be the killer? Is the video game turning people into killers? You will just have to watch to find out. I do recommend BRAINSCAN as a 90’s capsule as well as a fun horror flick that doesn’t require too much from its audience. Trickster is actually a really cool villain and would have loved to have seen him in another film.


Now, JACK-O isn’t a great film. Hell, most will say that it isn’t even a good film. I would tend to agree with every one of these people, but there are some films that you hold on to because they were there when times were tough. I suffer from depression and anxiety and my got to comfort thing is film. I actually have a shelf in my movie room that is filled with my comfort films. JACK-O happens to be on that shelf. The film is advertised as a monster film but it really isn’t. The monster, the titular Jack-O, doesn’t really do much, but there is something about this film that brings me back to it. I think it has to do with the fact that its a low, low, low budget film made in a very small period of time, with a love for what the filmmakers were doing. I have a soft spot for films like this. Hell, you should see my movie collection. I have a ton of films like this and I love every one of them.


TALES FROM THE HOOD is one of my favorite horror films of the 90’s. The film, like some of the best horror films out there, is a film of its time while also being relevant in just about any time period. The film focuses on the real life horrors that members fo the African-American community face. Racist cops, black on black crime, gun violence, living in the shadow of slavery. The film looks at each of these issues as if it were four episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE with more horror. It’s also an anthology film which is something that helps the filmmakers make each story unique instead of trying to cram all of the ideas into one story. Each of these stories could be told today without any changes and it would still be as relevant as it was 25 years ago. You could take the story of the racist presidential candidate, replace him with Donald Trump, and nothing would change. It is sad that it's this way but that is the world we live in.


I know that I will get a lot of shit for putting this one the list but I like to stop people in their tracks and make them speechless. I actually like this sixth entry in the Halloween franchise. I don’t think that the film is something amazing, but I do find it oddly entertaining. You got Paul Rudd giving one of the weirdest performances I have ever seen, Donald Pleasance still rocking every Halloween film he has been in and some really crazy plotting. It is also the only film in the series, and I am counting the first one among this as well, to get the look and feel of the fall season in Illinois right. There is something about the season that rarely feels right in any film that sets its events during the fall season. I have only seen a few films get this feeling right and its is weird that its the fifth sequel in a series named after the biggest holiday of fall that would get the look and the feel just right. To me, that is one of the most important things you need to have in a film called “Halloween”. Imagine if Spike Lee didn’t get the feeling of the hottest day of the year right in DO THE RIGHT THING. It would have been a terrible thing to happen to that film and that same fate would be bestowed on to this sequel.


My love of monster flicks could not keep me away from THE RELIC. A monster is imported from another country, where it wasn’t a monster at the time, and breaks loose inside the Field Museum in Chicago. Tom Sizemore and Penelope Ann Miller have to stop said creature who likes to remove people’s heads and devour the brain. This is one kick-ass monster movie. There is a ton of tension and Sizemore and Miller are really good here. The effects are pretty damn good with the standout being when the monster picks up a guy and removes his head all in one unbroken shot. The film moves at a brisk pace and is really entertaining. The one gripe I have with the film is that Peter Hyams, who is the director, did the cinematography and he makes the picture so dark that it is hard to tell what is going on. I know what he was trying to go for, but this approach almost ruins the film. If you remember AvP: Requiem, then you will know what I am talking about.


Troma has been around for over 40 years and in those years they have given us a lot of different films. They have given us sex comedies, monster movies, kids movies, comedies, horror films, and musicals. No matter what the film they give us is, there will be no doubt that what you are watching is a Troma film through and through. TERROR FIRMER is Troma’s masterpiece. I am a believer that everyone out there making movies has a masterpiece in them. Whether we ever see that masterpiece is the question, but that's what I think. This can help explain why filmmakers like Michael Bay can make a film like THE ROCK while also giving us PEARL HARBOR or the latter TRANSFORMERS films. Anyway, TERROR FIRMER is the film that Troma was here to make. It has all the humor, nudity, and graphic violence that we have come to love while giving us some very biting satire about how films are made. TERROR FIRMER is also a really giallo without being a giallo. The film is also very funny and very, very violent. I don’t know if this would be considered Troma’s most violent film as they try and up the ante with each film they, but it has to be one of their most violent films. Any Troma fan who hasn’t seen TERROR FIRMER really needs to see it ASAP.

So there are some of my favorite horror films from the 90’s. As we all know, the 90’s wasn’t the best decade for horror but the 10 films above prove that no matter how bad things get, there is always a film or two that can make things a bit better.

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