1998 horror cinema embraces the Scream blueprint
1998 is a special year for me since this was when I started dating my future wife. We met in 1997 in French class at the University of Texas in Arlington (UTA). It was an everyday class at 8 am and I was lucky to be awake, let alone very social. But in 1998, the class moved to 10 am, and by March we were dating. So many movies from 1998 - 1999 have a special meaning to me as some type of benchmark in our relationship. Not many of those will be horror since she is not a fan of the genre, but in the beginning, she tried to give it a go. It wasn't until we were a few years into our marriage when she finally said, "no more."
First up for me is Urban Legend. I don't know how I made it through 2 years of Scream(1&2) and I Know What You Did Last Summer without mentioning my complete obsession with Dawson's Creek(Kevin Williamson is responsible for all 4). Now we all know Dawson was a waste of space, and the real reason to watch the show was Joey (Katie Holmes) and Pacey (Joshua Jackson).
Urban Legend continued the blueprint set up by Williamson & the Scream producers - hot, young talent with well-written dialogue, tongue-in-cheek humor, and a good twist. The cast is a powerhouse of talent that would be around for years dominating both the big and the small screens. And even though he wasn't a main player in the movie, they did cast Joshua Jackson. Could there be any doubt that it wouldn't be my #1?
Brad Dourif(voice of Chucky) & Robert Englund(Freddy Krueger) both have fun roles and add some cool Easter eggs to the movie. You have to rent or buy to stream this classic.
Blurb - A college student suspects a series of bizarre deaths are connected to certain urban legends.
Joe Chappelle, the director of Halloween VI, strikes next with Dean Koontz's Phantoms. This would have been my #1 if not for Urban Legend. Why you ask? Because Ben Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms, yo. While the movie is very different from the book, it does a great job of capturing the creepiness and emptiness of the story. And look closely, it's another group of young up & coming actors at the center of the film.
However, even if the movie was utter trash, it would still be high on the list since it is a major influence on the cinematic look and feel of Konami's Silent Hill game & franchise. It's another rent/buy to watch.
Blurb - In the peaceful town of Snowfield, Colorado something evil has wiped out the community. And now, its up to a group of people to stop it, or at least get out of Snowfield alive.
The script for The Faculty was actually finished and floating around since 1990, but no one was interested in making the movie. I mean we saw how mistreated the genre was back then. However, with the success of Scream (the theme continues), Miramax snatched it up and brought in Kevin Williamson - aka Scream's creator - for a rewrite. Add in From Dawn til Dusk's director, Robert Rodriguez, and you get a fun, fast-paced, action-filled, horror movie.
And do I need to point out the cast? Josh Hartnett, Elijah Woods, Shawn Hatosy, Clea DuVall, Usher, & Jordana Brewster. The theme continues and works in this film. You can check it out on HBOMax.
Blurb - When Casey Connor, Herrington High School's newspaper photographer, witnesses the murder of a nurse and sees her alive again, he decides to investigate the bizarre happenings.
Before Marvel ruled the movie world, before Sony released the very first Spider-Man or Fox introduced us to the X-Men, New Line Cinema gave us Blade. Marvel has a wonderful history of including monsters in their Super Hero comic lines, especially in the 70s and 80s.
Many of these characters saw a bit of a rebirth in the 90s, one of which was Eric Brooks, or Blade as he is known on the streets. His first appearance is in the Marvel classic Tomb of Dracula #10 as a secondary character, but he soon was leading the way in many of the horror-based storylines Marvel put out. He also was one of the first characters to come back in the 90s when Marvel began a push to "rediscover" its monster-loving past.
One of my favorite actors is Wesley Snipes. So you can imagine how excited I was when one of my favorite stars was going to be playing a Marvel Super Hero on the big screen. Snipes was interested in playing Black Panther - he actively campaigned for the role for years until he simply aged out of the role - but he saw the potential of the character and embraced the role of the Daywalker.
The soon-to-be-wife put up with being dragged to this movie on opening night, but was not as enthusiastic to get right back in line to see the next showing when we got out. You can stream it on Peacock.
Blurb - A half-vampire, half-mortal man becomes a protector of the mortal race, while slaying evil vampires.
It's a bit more commonplace for a hit show to get a movie nowadays, but it was a novel concept when X-Files got one after season 5. Chris Carter, the show's creator, wanted to end the show after completing the 5th season and then tell the story with a series of movies.
Fox saw $ and refused, instead telling Carter to bridge season 5 & 6 with the movie. The movie was shot during the hiatus of seasons 4 & 5 though, and reshoots would pull the actors away from the show during season 5. You can see episodes where one or the other is less prevalent because of it. You can see the movie on HBOMax.
Blurb - Mulder and Scully must fight the government in a conspiracy and find the truth about an alien colonization of Earth.
To be honest, I didn't see Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island until 2006 or so; it was around when my boy was 4 or 5. It's an amazing movie, and it is the reason there has been such a long line of successful direct-to-video Scooby-Doo movies these past 24 years. It's movies like this one that can introduce young people to the fun of a good horror movie without needing years of therapy afterward. Unless you have Boomerang, you will have to rent/buy to stream.
Blurb - The Mystery Gang reunite and visit Moonscar Island, a remote island with a dark secret. Daphne wants more than just a villain in a costume, and they get more than they ever expected.
Steve Miner (House, Friday the 13th Part 2 & 3, Warlock) gets back in the director chair to tackle Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. It had a treatment by Kevin Williamson that incorporated all the Halloween movies as set up for this sequel, but in the end, they decided to simply ignore everything after Part 2 - sound familiar?
And even though they used other writers, the Scream blueprint is front and center here. A young cast, some up & coming talent, and in the center an icon of horror. You can check it out on Paramount+.
Blurb - Laurie Strode, now the dean of a Northern California private school with an assumed name, must battle the Shape one last time, as the life of her own son hangs in the balance.
Disturbing Behavior is another movie following the Scream model. It also was supposed to be around 115 minutes long, but the studio just couldn't help itself and forced the director to edit it down to 85 minutes after some test screenings. They won't release the original cut but those who've seen it claim it is the superior film. I'd have loved to see 30 more minutes of Katie Holmes ... I mean this movie. Check it out on HBOMax.
Blurb - The new kid in Cradle Bay, Washington stumbles across something sinister about the town's method of transforming its unruly teens into upstanding citizens.
Stephen Sommers, the director of the live-action Jungle Book(1994), pops up 4 years later with Deep Rising. They lost about a year in production just working on the CGI effects on the monsters. They wanted Harrison Ford, but once he passed on the role the budget was downsized. Treat Williams stepped in as he often does when a non-de-script action star is needed for a role. It's a rent/buy to own. Be warned, if you watch it on TV you are going to miss about 30 minutes as they cut it down to fit in a TV slot with commercials.
Blurb - A group of heavily armed hijackers board a luxury ocean liner in the South Pacific Ocean to loot it, only to do battle with a series of large-sized, tentacled, man-eating sea creatures who had already invaded the ship.
The voice of Chucky. Brad Dourif says his personal favorite of the franchise is Bride of Chucky. This movie injected new breath into the franchise. You can stream on SYFY.
Blurb - Chucky, the doll possessed by a serial killer, discovers the perfect mate to kill and revive into the body of another doll.
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer should have been another Kevin Williamson vehicle but he was simply overwhelmed with Dawson's Creek, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, Scream 3, & The Faculty. So what you get is a movie that is trying its hardest to be the original and failing spectacularly. You can watch it on Netflix.
Blurb - The murderous fisherman with a hook is back to once again stalk the two surviving teens, Julie and Ray, who had left him for dead, as well as cause even more murder and mayhem, this time at a posh island resort.
John Carpenter was supposed to direct Halloween H20 but he wanted $10 million and a 3 picture deal to do it. Once they rejected his asking price, he pivoted to direct his movie Vampires. While it is a horror movie, Carpenter admitted the reason he chose to do this movie was the Western Vibe. He had originally wanted Big Trouble in Little China to be a western and had missed out when they put it in modern times. Stream it on Starz.
Blurb - Recovering from an ambush that killed his entire team, a vengeful vampire slayer must retrieve an ancient Catholic relic that, should it be acquired by vampires, will allow them to walk in sunlight.
A remake of a Danish film, Nightwatch might be in the same vein as Se7en and Cape Fear - meaning I don't think of them as horror but some do. I think it's an interesting film that slipped by a lot of people. The cast is jam-packed with talent. You have to rent/buy to stream it but keep an eye out for it to pop up on tubi or Netflix.
Blurb - A law student, who takes a job as a night watchman at a morgue, begins to discover clues that implicate him as the suspect of a series of murders.
Strangeland is on here as more of a curiosity. Written and starring Twisted Sister's frontman Dee Snider, he based it loosely on the band's song "Stay Hungry". Another one you will need to rent/buy to see.
Blurb - A detective pursues a sadist specializing in body modification rituals who lures teenagers through the internet.
The director of Candyman 2 gave us one of my favorite movies, Gods and Monsters, in 1998. While it's not a horror movie in any way, it does show us the last days of Frankenstein director James Whale. The chemistry between McKellen & Fraser is perfect as we watch their mismatched friendship grow throughout the picture. Fraser's performance in this film is the reason he was allowed to be the lead in The Mummy in 1999.
I've always been a fan of discovering off-the-wall movies, hidden gems, and direct-to-video films for as long as I can remember. I think it may be part of the reason I love horror so much, many of the genre's films are ignored, forgotten, or just disregarded. This is one of those movies. When it came out, no one paid much attention, but I loved it. It's a rent/buy but it does pop up on Prime every once in a while.
Blurb - The last days of Frankenstein (1931) director James Whale are explored.