Every time I do one of these lists, I feel like I’m hammering another nail in my coffin. But, I’m a glutton for punishment and the morbid destiny that awaits me.
Unlike the year’s predecessor, lower-budget horror dominated 1991. I feel like a good portion of these are considered mediocre in the general public’s POV. But, I also know that in that same breath, we still watch the shit out of them. That has to amount to something. Also, if you got no love for Full Moon, we might have a problem there, buddy.
Plus, you know, nostalgia and stuff.
Anywho, I’ve attached some handy Amazon links with the movies listed in the case one or two catches your eye and need to expand your beautiful horror collection. Full disclosure: I may earn like two cents or something if you buy through this website. Buy hey, if enough of you buy Puppet Master 3, I could totally get a Crunchwrap Supreme for dinner! I’m certainly not opposed to that.
Now onwards to the best horror movies of 1991!
10. Puppet Master 3: Toulon’s Revenge
Ahh the Charles Band masterpiece of The Puppet Master returns in the second sequel of the franchise and takes us out of the creepy hotel setting and straight into World War II. We get to see our little friends fight off Nazis, with the new addition of Six Shooter joining the band of marionettes- and really, those are both huge selling points right there. We also get not one, but TWO origin stories involving Leech Woman and Blade, which totally makes me overlook the fact the story is set in 1941, when in fact according to the first film, Toulon died in 1939.
Honestly, its a little boo-boo but all the puppet action paired with the former statements, makes you forget all about it and just enjoy Six Shooter unloading his guns into Nazi-scum with his wonderous little painted smirk.
9. WE GOT A TIE
Subspecies/The Pit And The Pendulum
I just couldn’t choose between both these Full Moon gems so I’m breaking the rules and giving them BOTH the number nine spot!
Let’s start with the intelligent Subspecies. The film lays out a fresh take on the old, and sometimes tired, vampire story with many films to follow later in the catalog. The practical effects and stop-motion puppets that Full Moon is infamous for, are done superbly well here in a film where a kingdom of a family of vampires thrives in this dark, gothic horror fairy tale with some KING Angus Scrimm thrown in the mix. The film also really goes balls deep into the folklore of the creatures, and is actually filmed in Romania instead of a back-studio lot which really puts the movie in a class of its own in the vampire genre.
It’s really hard not to love this one with a vampire family feud going on with some college students in the mix to get the story going. Perfect independent, straight-to-VHS horror film in 1991!
Another Full Moon treasure, The Pit and the Pendulum starring Lance Henriksen is a must see for any horror fan. Derived and twisted from the brilliant mind and tales from Edgar Allen Poe, the adaptation is directed by master Stuart Gordon and in true Gordon fashion- the movie is just so beautiful to look at.
Set in the Spanish Inquisition, Grand Inquisitor Torquemada (Henriksen), leads the way in a bloody reign of terror in outing people as a witches. The torture scenes are pretty gruesome, and Henrikson really gives his all in the part; In an almost over the top kind of way that really sells the shit out of this horrid character.
UGH. I remember first seeing this horrifying piece of cinematic terror at a slumber party back in the early 90s’ and lemme tell you- it put the fear of GOD in me in regards to EVER getting pregnant for the next 10 years. Well, until my daughter came along in 2004, but hey it was enough to scar me until I was an adult and ready. So if you want a crash Sex-Ed course for your pre-teens, Unborn is the way to go.
As far as feminine body-horror goes, this flick ranks right up there as we follow a woman in an in-vitro fertilization program run by a sketch doctor and wild shit happens to her body. However, what comes out of it is the tippy-top cherry of that pregnancy horror sundae. It’ll forever haunt the baby blues out of you.
7. Sometimes, They Come Back
There are two types of people in this world: those who love this Stephen King TV adaptation from the Night Shift collection, and those who want to bury it inside deepest pits of TV Movie Hell where these greaser ghosts were trying to avoid all along.
I’m happy to say I’m not of the latter, thank you.
The movie relays on more practical thriller scares rather than gore. And perhaps as follow up only a mere six months after of the premiere of IT, maybe it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Anyways, the movie follows a high-school teacher and his family who come back to his home-town to face his past that entails his older brother being murdered by a greaser gang in his childhood years. Now the slick dicks are dead, and are possessing the bodies of his students in an effort to murder him.
Poor Tim Matheson can’t catch a break. Pick up the nostalgic 90s’ Stephen King TV gold here!
6. Cape Fear (1991)
The in-your-face reboot of J. Lee Thompson’s 1962 thriller modernized by the pair of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro managed to revamp the classic into a terrifying, paranoid tale of psycho, rapey revenge.
The all-star cast of a film follows a lawyer (Nick Nolte), his wife (Jessica Lange), and daughter (Juliette Lewis) through hell and back as De Niro toys and stalks each one after his lengthy prison sentence of which he blames his lawyer (Nolte) for. It’s downright skeevy at times and makes it uncomfortable to watch at certain points- especially the scenes between De Niro and Lewis. However, it’s just another example of a how a classic thriller-horror can be redone in the right way.
Fun Fact: Steven Spielberg was penned to direct the remake, and had Bill Murray in mind to play as Max Cady. But, Scorsese took over and obviously brought in his alumni for the villainous role. This could have been SUCH a different vibe and honestly, I would have loved to see that.
5. Sleeping With The Enemy
Alright, alright I know what some of you are thinking… “This isn’t horror?!” Well, my response to that is goddamnit Patrick Bergin and his knives for eyes scared THE FUCK outta me as a kid and I’ll be damned if someone tries to argue that hiding from a spouse that’s literally breaking your bones every other week isn’t a scary scenario, you be very wrong my friend.
Julia Roberts plays a battered woman who faked her death in order to escape her maniac husband and start a new life elsewhere. Things are looking up as she scores a house next door to a hunky theater professor, until the insane ex catches on to her game and tracks her down.
The film touches on PTSD from domestic violence and the lasting effects it can have on a person. Which I can totally relate to as, full disclosure, I myself am a DV survivor, And when I say survivor, I was close to being killed numerous times. So this movie in particular is quite horrifying to me. It’s something that actually isn’t far at all from a lot of women’s stories and that in itself, is enough horror for me indeed.
4. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
Listen man, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare might not be the most beloved of the franchise. However, it’s the first Freddy film that was released theatrically when I was old enough to have a movie date with friends alone. That, paired with the tremendous hype surrounding it with Robert Englund hacking himself like the Springfield Slut to MTV, Universal Studios, and late-night talk shows with specials promoting the demise of Freddy, it’s hard not to love this mess.
Oh and it was in 3-D too!
The Final Nightmare was to be the end-all of the Springfield Slasher by the hands of his only living heir, his child no one ever knew he had. We had a new group of teens to be taken down one by one along with several notable celebrity cameos to give Freddy a proper send-off including Nightmare alumni Johnny Depp, then couple Roseanne Barr Tom Arnold, and Alice Cooper. While the film ultimately isn’t ass strong as its predessors, it has a faithful charm only a Fred-Head would truly understand and I’ll die on this hill with this shit show.
3. Child’s Play 3
The line alone, “Don’t fuck with the Chuck” is well enough alone to land Chucky’s third film in the top three spot.
Chucky is back torturing a teenage Andy whose been shipped off to a military school. However this time, before he gets to to his original “friend to the end”, he runs into Tyler- a naïve young cadet that becomes manipulated in Chucky’s game and doesn’t realize it until the shit has already hit the fan.
I love everything about Child’s Play 3. Chuck’s comedic chops really shine in the third installment without it getting too corny- and that’s the last time unfortunately it happens in the ongoing series. From his shenanigans’ in the military academy, to the war grounds, to finally the carnival in the haunted hell ride is the coolest journey in this cat and mouse game.
2. The People Under The Stairs
I have no unearthly idea why there’s so much hate for this movie- trust me, I’ve heard way more negative than anything– and I’m probably going to catch hell for this but I DON’T CARE. Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs is goddamn glorious and as about as underrated as it gets. There is so much story going on in this film it can be easy to lose focus on the underlying horrific reality leeching on the cruelty of humanity.
All the madness of abuse, slumlords, racial stereotypes with class-based conflict and manipulation is a complete projection of society at the time and is just as ever relevant today in 2021. Maybe even more so.
The story begins with “Fool” a street-smart kid who teams up with his criminal neighbor to steal a rumored bundle of gold from their asshole landlords. What they find inside the home of the demented brother and sister duo is a lot more than what they bargained for. An abused young girl. Gimp suits and shotguns. And a terrifying secret hidden under the stairs.
I mean if you’ve seen it-you know but in the case you haven’t, I’m gonna stop and direct you to this link where you should immediately buy this and put it in your eyeballs. Thanks.
- The Silence of The Lambs
I think it’s no surprise that the film that forever scarred me into ever getting to a size 14 in clothing, was going to be on the tippy-top of this list!
The Silence of the Lambs 1991 adaptation taken by the writings Thomas Harris made infamous in his series of novels, is and always will be-the perfect horror movie. Hannibal is so many words, is like the great white shark you never saw coming from the depths of the ocean, albeit a shark with more manners anyway. He’s cunning, highly intelligent, and for the most part, he terrifies us merely with his words. There’s no gore or action on his part for the majority of the film minus the one incident during his transfer where we actually get to see what Hannibal “The Cannibal” is actually capable of. He induces that fear in us psychologically, making us use our imagination in his conversations with Clarice. That’s one HELL of a thing to pull off in a film and thirty years later I still think about this movie at least once a week because of it.
Then, there’s Buffalo Bill. The complexity of his confused and angry character that leads him to killing and skinning women for his own personal body suit is enough to give anyone the skivvies. Throw in an awkward naked dance paired with some Q Lazzurus and we got ourselves one of the most memorable scenes from any horror movie in history. Much like with Lector, we don’t actually SEE Bill do his dirty deeds, they are only mentioned and we see a glimpse of the aftermath of one of his victims via Clarice Starling and the FBI team. Giving way, for us to use our minds and imagining the horrors these women succumbed to Which can be more frightful in any case.
Which lastly, bring us to Starling. the Mother Mary of this trifecta who has clawed her way through sexist pigs of the FBI program in an effort to escape her past and honor her deceased father. Hannibal, along with being the world’s deadliest serial killer is also a renowned psychiatrist and sees RIGHT through her upon their first meeting. That exchange sets the tone for the entire film and is one of the goddamn most utterly disturbing scenes in the while film.
Well, I mean besides ol’ Jamie Gumm dancing in front of a camera.
So yeah if you don’t have this in your collection, I don’t even know what to say other than please remedy this immediately here!
Bonus Addition! Best Family Horror Obviously Goes Toooooooooo…….
I was trying to stick to straight horror for this list, but there’s NO WAY I could even think of leaving this out. The Addams Family, while not a scary film by any means, is part of our very important horror culture growing up and have been for generations. So it gets a whole category all to it’s self because I do what I want- in my best Cartman voice.
Charming, funny, iconic lines for days, The Addams Family is the perfect go-to for any movie night in with the family, or hell by yourself! It’s spun by the perfect cast, Raul Julia, Angelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd, and a tiny Christina Ricci displaying everything we loved about these characters’ for decades and they will always and forever be, unmatched by those personas they perfected on the big screen.