The early 1990s was a weird, transitional phase for the horror genre. The slasher boom, which was accompanied by a werewolf boom and a vampire boom, had burned out by the end of the decade. The last Halloween and Friday the 13th entries in 1989 performed poorly at the box office, as did Freddy Krueger’s that same year.
So what would horror become in the following decade? Especially after ten years of wild excess? Well, after the huge success of The Silence of the Lambs in 1991, horror would get bigger, glossier, and a little more respected. 1992 was a peak year for the genre during that decade. And here are some of the horror (and horror adjacent) movies from that year, each currently celebrating its 30th anniversary. Ones that you should definitely check out this Spooky Season.
Let’s get the facts out of the way; Alien 3 is nowhere near as good as Alien or Aliens. And it’s definitely not the sequel anyone was expecting after James Cameron’s incredible action-packed second film. But Alien 3, which was David Fincher’s directorial debut, still has much atmosphere and enough genuinely unsettling moments that make it worth watching.
Sigourney Weaver is as incredible as ever as Ellen Ripley, now the only woman trapped on a penal planet with an assortment of murderous male prisoners. Oh, and one very murderous xenomorph who has been stalking her for years. Throughout, you can see the hints of the brilliant director Fincher would become, even when it gets lost in the film’s meanderings. Worth watching at least once. And at the very least, it’s better than Alien: Resurrection.
Army of Darkness
Technically, this movie came out in North America in 1993. But since they released it first in Europe in 1992, we’re going to count this as a ’92 movie. Sam Raimi completed his original Evil Dead trilogy with this one, which maintained the horror/comedy style of Evil Dead 2. But Army of Darkness didn’t just rehash the second movie. Raimi made a horror/medieval fantasy/time travel hybrid comedy, which is filled with visual flair, and one amazing punchline after another. This movie fully perfected Raimi’s visual style in fact. And Army of Darkness truly made Bruce Campbell’s Ash an icon, and many people consider this one the best of the Evil Dead trio.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Dracula had been brought to life literally dozens of times on screen before 1992, most memorably by Bela Lugosi and then later, by Christopher Lee and Frank Langella. But Francis Ford Coppola did what no other big screen adaptation had done before, and stick to the plot of Stoker’s novel (With a little Anne Rice-style Goth romanticism thrown in for good measure). The result was an absolutely unique film.
Gary Oldman gives an all-time performance as the undead Prince Vlad of Transylvania, as does Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Van Helsing. (Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder are also in this movie. That’s all I’ll say about that). The true reason this movie shines so brightly is the absolute feast for the eyes and ears it is. Every frame is a visual wonder, and the score is rapturous. With this film, we pick up new details with each viewing.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the most iconic TV shows of all time. But it simply wouldn’t have existed without this horror comedy, released five years earlier. Truthfully, a lot of this movie doesn’t work; the tone is all over the place, and a lot of the jokes just don’t land. But Paul Reubens is amazing and hilarious as the vampire lackey who just won’t die. And the basic idea of a ditzy cheerleader who was born to be the killer of the undead yields a few memorable comedic moments. Sarah Michelle Gellar would later make anyone instantly forget Kristy Swanson ever slayed a vamp. But this movie has its charms.
Say his name five times. We dare you. Although the re-imaging/legacy sequel that came out in 2021 was excellent, Bernard Rose’s original Candyman is the root from which it sprang. Based on a Clive Barker short story, Candyman is deeply creepy, and one of the best films to explore the power of urban legends on our collective psyches. And the incredible Tony Todd instantly joined the ranks of horror icons like Freddy and Jason from this one performance. We would also be remiss not to mention the score from composer Philip Glass. One of the best horror scores ever, not just from the ‘90s. This is an important film in the African-American horror genre, and ultimately the entire horror genre, period.
The slasher genre had burned out by the time Dr. Giggles came out in 1992, and died a pretty quick death at the box office. But years of VHS rentals at the height of the Blockbuster Video explosion made this cheese-fest beloved by some today. Essentially, the titular “Dr. Giggles” was a deranged mental patient, whose father was a doctor who collected the hearts of his patients for a deranged experiment. His son, played by Larry Drake, now escaped from the asylum, goes on a killing spree in the great slasher tradition, even if he himself was never exactly a great slasher. They showed this one at many a ‘90s teen slumber party.
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth
The first two Hellraiser films are pillars of ‘80s horror, and Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth… is not quite that. This was the first Hellraiser film to lose Clive Barker in all but name, and it winds up feeling like a generic horror movie of the era because of it. Still, it can’t be all bad as long as Doug Bradley is our Pinhead, and also gets a chance to play the human he once was. The wildly blasphemous scene of Pinhead imitating Christ’s crucifixion saying “I am the way” almost makes up for the Cenobite with CDs in his head who used to be a DJ. We’re not really sure what that was about.
Although not one of the greatest Stephen King adaptations, Sleepwalkers is nevertheless quite a guilty pleasure. The film’s plot is about the last two survivors of a vampiric species of shapeshifters. Ones that drain the life force of human female virgins. There are a lot of fun moments in this one, but it never quite lives up to the King name. Starring Brian Krause. later of Charmed, Twin Peaks’ Madchen Amick, and future Borg Queen Alice Krige, the screenplay was actually an original work written by King for the screen. It doesn’t live up to the quality of his best stories, but at least it’s better than Maximum Overdrive.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
David Lynch and Mark Frost’s original Twin Peaks TV series, centering on the murder investigation of homecoming queen Laura Palmer, often felt like it lived in the aftermath of a horror film. Well, David Lynch’s 1992 prequel to the series, Fire Walk With Me, is that horror film. And it brought every disturbing hint and subtext from the show to the surface in a totally unforgettable way. The movie was not sold as a horror film, much to the anger of some ticket buyers. But that’s exactly what it was. There are images and moments in this film so disturbing they’ll stick with you forever. A crucial part of the overall Twin Peaks story, and one of the ’90s best horror films.