1996 - The Revival of the genre
So after 5 years of questionable decisions by the studios, I feel like we are getting back on track. All because of my #1 horror movie of 1996 ...
Coming off the bizarre struggle that was directing Vampire in Brooklyn, Wes Craven was offered to direct Scream but turned it down. He was thinking of doing a remake of The Haunting or even distancing himself from horror altogether. A young fan confronted the director and accused him of going soft and selling out. That and finding out Drew Barrymore had signed on was enough to get Wes Craven to call Miramax and agree to do the film.
Getting Craven was important because the writer, Kevin Williamson, knew the director really needed to understand the nuances of the script to make the movie work. Romero, Boyle, Raimi, and Rodriguez were all approached about the movie, but Williamson stated none of them got it.
The film started a slew of copy-cats, but it also gave new life to the genre by paying homage to the heavy hitters that came before. It's a perfect movie to bring fans back to the genre, and introduce new fans to the world of horror films. You can stream it on Peacock.
Blurb - A year after the murder of her mother, a teenage girl is terrorized by a new killer, who targets the girl and her friends by using horror films as part of a deadly game.
Peter Jackson teamed up with Michael J Fox (in his last leading role in a film) to give us The Frighteners. Filmed in New Zealand, Peter Jackson's digital company had to expand from its 1 computer to 35 to meet the demands of the CGI required to make the film work. This is a precursor to his taking on the heavy visual feet of the Lord of the Rings Movies. Jackson was shooting for a PG-13 rating, but no matter what he did, the MPAA kept it at R so he upped the violence to justify the rating. You have to rent/buy to stream this one.
Blurb - After a tragic car accident that kills his wife, a man discovers he can communicate with the dead to con people. However, when a demonic spirit appears, he may be the only one who can stop it from killing the living and the dead.
Quintin Tarantino was supposed to direct From Dusk til Dawn but wanted to focus on the scriptwriting and acting as his character Richard Gecko. He had just been a part of a 4 director anthology film (Four Rooms) and he showed the script to one of those directors. Robert Rodriguez jumped at the opportunity. Stream it on HBOMax.
Blurb - Two criminals and their hostages unknowingly seek temporary refuge in a truck stop populated by vampires, with chaotic results.
In the same vein as Scream, The Craft introduced viewers to a fresh batch of faces. It also was trying for a PG-13 rating but because of the subject matter, they were slapped with an R. You can stream it on Starz.
Blurb - A newcomer to a Catholic prep high school falls in with a trio of outcast teenage girls who practice witchcraft, and they all soon conjure up various spells and curses against those who anger them.
I enjoyed the 4th installment of the Hellraiser franchise, Hellraiser IV: Bloodline. However, it bombed in the theater and would be the last film in the franchise to get a wide theatrical release. The director, Kevin Yagher, had a falling out with the studio and disowned the movie, leaving before it was completed. The Director's Guild generic Alan Smithee was credited as the director - this is used when the actual director doesn't want to be credited. Stream it on Paramount+.
Blurb - In the 22nd century, a scientist attempts to right the wrong his ancestor created: the puzzle box that opens the gates of Hell and unleashes Pinhead and his Cenobite legions.
Tales from the Crypt returns to theaters with Bordello of Blood. It was supposed to be the 2nd movie of a planned trilogy, but it bombed and the studio pulled the plug on the 3rd movie. From all reports, Dennis Miller was a nightmare on the film as he was also filming his TV show at the same time. They had to bend over backward to meet his demands, causing many on set to become resentful of the actor. This one is a rent/buy to stream if you want to watch Miller improvise most of his parts.
Blurb - The Crypt Keeper returns to tell the story of a funeral parlor that moonlights as a vampire bordello.
Based on a Philip K Dick story and with a screenplay by Dan O'Bannon(Alien, The Return of the Living Dead), Screamers is a fun blend of science fiction and horror. O'Bannon had been working on the script since 1981. It was filmed in 1995 but released in January of 1996. You have to rent/buy it to stream.
Blurb - A military commander stationed off planet during an interplanetary war travels through the devastated landscape to negotiate a peace treaty, but discovers that the primitive robots they built to kill enemy combatants have gained sentience.
David Twohy, the writer of the first 2 Warlock movies, wrote and directed one of my favorite movies from 1996, The Arrival. Before Charlie Sheen went all crazy, he was a machine putting out 2-4 movies a year. This movie didn't do as well in the US box office as everyone was gaga for Independence Day, but I think this movie is a more chilling take on the whole alien invasion theme. Stream it on tubi & IMDB(Prime with ads).
Blurb - Zane, an astronomer, discovers intelligent alien life. But the aliens are keeping a deadly secret, and will do anything to stop Zane from learning it.
Full disclosure - I can't stand Julia Roberts. Mary Reilly was supposed to be a Tim Burton project, but he pivoted and went with Ed Wood instead. John Malkovich and Roberts didn't get along, and you can see it in their performances. That said, you don't get too many Jekyll & Hyde adaptations so there's that. Stream it on HBOMax.
Blurb - A housemaid falls in love with Dr. Henry Jekyll and his darkly mysterious counterpart, Mr. Edward Hyde.
After a series of made-for-TV projects, Tom Holland(Fright Night & Child's Play) returns to the big screen with Thinner. Based on the Stephen King story, Holland tried to be faithful to the source material, but the producers changed the ending after negative feedback from test audiences. Stream it on HULU and Paramount+
Blurb - An obese attorney is cursed by a gypsy to rapidly and uncontrollably lose weight.
Written & Directed by Eric Red (writer of Near Dark & Body Parts), Bad Moon tackles his vision of a traditional werewolf movie. It got little to no advertising when it came out, but has grown a cult following. Stream it on Peacock, amc+, and tubi.
Blurb - After being bitten by a werewolf in the jungle, Ted looks for a cure. His lawyer sister, with a son and dog, invites him to park his camper by her house in the woods and live out of her fridge.