I normally like to talk about 30 year old horror movies every October. This year is going to be different for two very good reasons. First: I’ve been doing the yearly old-nerd podcasts with Dave for several years now, and anything truly outstanding (or abysmal) can be discussed there. Second: there just aren’t any horror movies from 1989 that are worth talking about to me. There’s a lot of crap for sure, but I don’t want to spend 1000 words talking about terrible things. Most of them don’t even fall into the “so bad they’re good” category. The best thing about Pet Sematary was song The Ramones did for it. Well Fred Gwynne was great, but that’s about it. Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween had some pretty bad sequels that year too, but I don’t really have anything besides that to say about them.
So this year I’ll be looking at the much more fun horror year of 1999. And while there are no Oscar winners in here, there are certainly several that are fun even if they aren’t great films. There aren’t even any that came out that year I hated. Maybe some that I’m indifferent to or never got around to seeing, but nothing that I just want to trash. It’s always tough for me to judge if horror movies are well known or not because I have so many friends that are into scary stuff too. To me most of these should be fairly well known, but if you haven’t seen any of these then please do so. Everything here has my spooky seal of approval.
The funniest of 1999’s horror movies. Before Devon Sawa was cheating the Rube Goldberg machine of death in Final Destination he was trying to stop his evil severed hand from destroying his life, and killing everyone around him. I know a killer demon hand may sound too familiar to you Evil Dead 2 fans out there, but it’s very different. Idle Hands is a horror-comedy that’s heavy on the comedy, and a perfect movie for the MTV generation. I giggled heartily at all of Seth Green’s jokes about getting high, and Mr. Husband had his eyes glued to Jessica Alba. That’s pretty much exactly what the movie was going for, but don’t be alarmed. There’s still plenty of death, blood, and a little gore for those of us that like that too. I haven’t seen this one in years, but I think I’ll see it again after this.
I know Sleepy Hollow wasn’t particularly well received, but cast your mind back to when Tim Burton was still a good director and Johnny Depp wasn’t an aging caricature of himself who was hell bent on playing silly roles he wasn’t right for. A lot can change in 20 years. Looking at it through that lens it’s a damn good movie now. At the time I think most people just thought it was a little boring. We actually own this one though, and even if I haven’t seen it in a long time I’m still a fan. It’s absolutely stunning to look at, Danny Elfman’s soundtrack is perfect, and the cast is great. Christopher Walken is deeply unsettling as The Headless Horseman. If you find nothing else about this movie creepy you can at least appreciate how frightening he looks. If you didn’t like it when it came out you should give Sleepy Hollow another chance.
I’m not totally sure that I would classify this as a horror movie, but I guess cannibalism threw a bunch of points for it into that area. Sorry if that’s a spoiler, but if you haven’t seen it by now then that’s your own fault. Ravenous is gritty, visceral, and sometimes quite funny. The performances by are what take it from being an okay movie to a great one. Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, and Jeffrey Jones (who was also in Sleepy Hollow that year) really sell the script. It’s about more than just cannibalism though. You also get to contend with the horrors of war, fear, and human nature. This might be the least well known of the movies here so go see it if you haven’t already.
The Asian horror game is strong. Even if you’ve never seen an Asian horror movie you’ve probably seen an American remake of one. The Ring, The Grudge, and Oldboy are all remakes. The originals are always better. No one has remade Audition by Japanese horror director Takashi Miike yet. I’m kind of okay with that too. Mr. Husband loves this one, and even bought it. Just like with Oldboy I’m good having seen it once. There is a certain level of body horror and and realistic torture that is too much even for me. I need things lightened up by a lack of realism or even humor. Audition starts off as a relationship drama, but turns into a torture movie that makes Hostel look PG-13. If that sounds like too much for you check out another of Miike’s movies, The Happiness of the Katakuris. It’s filled with blood and guts, but it’s actually a wacky romp. Wacky blood and guts are fun for anyone.
Back before SyFy made giant monsters into garbage, and well before they churned out some crappy sequels this movie was art to me. Not true art, but the art of making a fun and engaging monster movie. Where else are you going to get Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, and Brendan Gleeson fighting a giant alligator raised and fed by Betty White? Nowhere else, that’s where. Only the first Anaconda comes even close to matching its ridiculous brilliance (and most of that was due to Jon Voight’s terrible accent). Yeah I know it’s stupid, and has no redeeming qualities as a film, but this isn’t a film. It’s a popcorn creature feature that doesn’t try to be something it isn’t. I occasionally get duped by SyFy into turning on one of the sequels (or the cable guide listings are trying to trick me), but the first was by far the best.
Deep Blue Sea
My absolute favorite horror movie of 1999. Or sort of horror. Maybe horror/sci-fi. There’s not truly anything scary about it, but it does have super intelligent sharks terrorizing an underwater research center that the cast can’t escape from. If that sounds vaguely like last year’s The Meg it should. The only thing about The Meg that bugged me was how much it borrowed from Deep Blue Sea. You don’t get the all star cast of Lake Placid, but you do get Thomas Jane, Stellan Skarsgard, and Samuel L. Jackson. You also get LL Cool J, Michael Rapaport, and a parrot so kind of a mixed bag there. Thanks to this movie anytime anyone gives a big inspirational speech I immediately picture a shark jumping up and grabbing them mid-speech. I think that scene was supposed to be a jump scare, but it was more of a jump surprise that they actually did that. Hey, if Joe and Gary from the American Sci-Fi Classics track are reading this: I’m so down for a panel on Deep Blue Sea at Dragon Con next year!
I didn’t forget about The Blair Witch Project, but we did a panel onit at Dragon Con, and I know Dave will post the entire thing sometime this month. You’ll have to check back to hear what Dave, Nicole and Ryan Cadaver, and I thought about it. There are tons more horror movies released every year than I could ever talk about. These are what I consider to be the best so don’t “at” me for not talking about The Sixth Sense or something truly bad like House on Haunted Hill. There just isn’t enough room at the top of the top guys. And a movie starring Chris Kattan is never going to be at the top of any list I do.