15 Underrated Horror Thrillers of the 90s That Will Keep You Up at Night
Here are some of the decade's most thrilling yet lesser-known horror films.
1. Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 22%
The sequel to the cult classic takes us back to the eerie urban legends, but this time we're in New Orleans. Annie Tarrant's life takes a drastic turn when her father is brutally slain, and the Candyman myth resurfaces with a vengeful sting. Unlike the typical boogeyman tale, the story weaves through her family's dark secrets, threading into the heart of the Candyman's curse. Annie's investigation propels her through a grim maze of hauntings and murders.
2. In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 58%
Imagine a world where a horror novelist's creations become a bit too real. That's what insurance investigator John Trent faces when he's hired to find the missing writer Sutter Cane. His search leads him to a town that shouldn't exist, straight out of Cane's novels, where reality and fiction lose their boundaries. With monsters lurking and townsfolk losing their grip on sanity, Trent's skepticism is shattered in a crescendo of cosmic horror. But he may just be a pawn in a much darker, written script.
3. Lord of Illusions (1995)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 58%
Clive Barker strikes again with a tale where magic isn't just sleight of hand, but something much more sinister. Detective Harry D'Amour stumbles into the world of illusionist Philip Swann, but the tricks are frighteningly real. Swann is a former cult member whose dark past refuses to disappear like a stage rabbit. When his old cult leader resurfaces, seeking power beyond the grave, D'Amour must confront the kind of evils that no magic act can contain.
4. The Ugly (1997)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 40%
In the dreary halls of an asylum, we meet Simon, a confessed serial killer. Dr. Karen Shoemaker wants to understand the madness behind the man, but she gets more than she bargained for. Simon's mind is a twisted gallery of horrors, each victim's face a gruesome painting. Yet, there's a deeper darkness, something that's been following Simon, whispering the urge to kill. The doctor's journey through Simon's psyche is a relentless descent, and the truth is as hideous as the madness itself.
5. Cube (1997)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 63%
Imagine waking up in a strange, cubic room with no memory of how you got there. That's the cold opening for a group of strangers in Cube. Each room is dangerous enough to end someone's life, and the group must rely on each other's skills to survive. The cube is indifferent, its traps ruthlessly efficient. Mathematics, ingenuity, and sheer will are their only tools.
6. Event Horizon (1997)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 34%
In the cold vastness of space, the rescue vessel Lewis and Clark is sent to answer the distress signal of the Event Horizon, a ship long thought lost. The crew, led by Captain Miller, soon discovers that the ship's experimental engine did more than just disappear; it visited a dimension of pure chaos and now is a vessel of unspeakable horror. As they try to salvage the doomed ship, the crew experiences haunting visions, and their sanity begins to unravel.
7. Ravenous (1999)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 51%
Set in the isolated Sierra Nevada of the 19th century, this tale of survival turns to cannibalism, where a motley crew of soldiers encounters a stranger with a ghastly appetite. Captain Boyd, grappling with his own demons, is caught in a surreal nightmare when the stranger's hunger reveals a darker legend. They say consuming the flesh of your enemies gives you their strength, but at what cost? The men are drawn into a spiral of primal instincts, with each bite taking them further from humanity.
8. The Dark Half (1993)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 59%
Horror writer Thad Beaumont thought burying his pseudonym, George Stark, would be the end of an era. But soon it turns out his problems have only just began. When people associated with his alter ego start dying, Thad's own life becomes a suspense-filled plot. Stark's not just a name on a book cover; he's a violent manifestation with a will of his own, forcing Thad to confront the physical embodiment of his darkest impulses.
9. Braindead (1992) – also known as Dead Alive in North America
Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%
Before the epic grandeur of Middle Earth, Peter Jackson served up a splatter-fest with a side of cheeky humor. Lionel, a mama's boy, has his life turned upside-down when his overbearing mother is bitten by a "Sumatran Rat-Monkey" at the zoo. Her untimely death is only the beginning as she returns with a ravenous lust for flesh. Lionel's battle to contain the outbreak, armed with lawnmowers and kitchenware, turns into a blood-soaked ballet. It's gross, it's over-the-top, and it's an absolute riot of the undead kind.
10. Body Snatchers (1993)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 70%
A teenage girl, Marti Malone, is on the brink of an unimaginable reality when she moves to a military base with her family. The isolation is suffocating, but the real terror lurks beneath the surface. The base is ground zero for an alien invasion, where the inhabitants are replaced by emotionless duplicates while they sleep. Paranoia escalates as Marti and her family must stay awake to avoid being "snatched". It's a race against sleep in this atmospheric thriller that preys on the fear of losing oneself.
11. The Night Flier (1997)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 33%
A reporter named Richard Dees is cynical about his work, chasing down tabloid stories. His skepticism is challenged when he pursues a story about a murderer who travels by a black, private airplane, landing at rural airfields to commit grisly crimes. The killer, Dwight Renfield, is no ordinary villain; his vampiric tendencies leave a trail of blood that's all too real. What is the truth behind the Night Flier, and can Dees handle the story he's so desperate to break?
12. The Reflecting Skin (1990)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%
In the heartland of America, during the post-war 1950s, young Seth Dove's life is a mixture of the mundane and the macabre. His fascination with death takes a dark turn when he starts to believe that his neighbor, a reclusive English widow named Dolphin Blue, is a vampire responsible for a series of child murders.
13. Dust Devil (1992)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 29%
A shape-shifting, hitchhiking serial killer roams the desolate landscapes of South Africa, seeking out his next victim while pursued by a determined detective. The killer, a mystical force known as the Dust Devil, believes he's performing a righteous duty by cleansing the world of the weary and the sorrowful. Wendy Robinson, escaping her own troubled life, crosses paths with this enigmatic figure and must confront her own demons in the process.
14. The Addiction (1995)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 74%
Philosophy student Kathleen Conklin's life takes a harrowing turn when she's bitten by a vampire in New York City. Her transformation is a philosophical journey as much as a physical one, where addiction to human blood becomes an allegory for the nature of evil and free will. As Kathleen struggles with her newfound thirst, she becomes entangled in existential musings and the stark choice between embracing or resisting her monstrous nature.
15. Nadja (1994)
Rotten Tomatoes score: 64%
In the underbelly of New York's nightlife, Nadja, Dracula's daughter, mourns her father's death and seeks to break free from her family's shadow. She encounters both the familiar pull of her vampiric lineage and the desire for a different life. Shot partially with a Pixelvision toy camera, the film exudes an ethereal, lo-fi aesthetic that complements its tale of modern gothic ennui.