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The Best Moments of one of the Worst Years in Horror: looking back 20 years to 1996

August 24, 2016

This is a follow-up article to:
The Best Moments of one of the Worst Years in Horror: looking back 20 years to 1995


There are great horror films (e.g., Saw, The Conjuring), there are typically color-by-numbers trope-rich sequels (e.g., A Nightmare on Elm Street after part 3) and there are zany, gory, low budget direct-to-video releases (e.g., Puppet Master and almost everything by Full Moon Entertainment).  Generally we see maybe one or two greats, several enjoyable trope-rich flicks, and countless DTV releases in any given year.  We recently did some articles on more recent “best moments” in horror: 15 Images for 15 Years of Horror, Part 1 (2000-2014): some of the greatest, goriest, most shocking and most memorably defining moments in horror since 2000 and 15 Images for 15 Years of Horror: Part 2: The Good, the Bad and the Hilarious.  But I think we all know that The Best Horror came from the 80s!

Now the year of 1996… I know what you’re thinking: “John, Scream came out that year. How can ’96 be a bad year for horror?”  And to you I have two answers:

  1. 1996 was a part of the 90s.  As a blanket statement, all years of that decade were generally bad for horror fans.  A few good gifts under the Christmas tree from mom and dad don’t let us completely overlook a stocking full of coal.  Check out my Horror Index and you’ll find very few 90s horror reviews.  There’s a reason for that!

  2. I really struggled to put together 10 decent movies for this list.  Granted, for 1995 I included The Granny and The Ice Cream Man…making 1995 twice as bad as ’96, for which the only wild card was Head of the Family (1996).  Thank God I didn’t need to turn to Carnosaur 3 (1996).

In the 1990s there were almost no sequels to please fans of proven franchises, few DTV releases worth mentioning, and the best movie referenced in this article (Scream) was probably treated as a “thriller” instead of a “horror” in your local Blockbuster store since slashers fell into that now-forgotten category.  But, in honor of our “1996 Year in Review Week” we turn back the clock 20 years to reflect on the more memorable moments that 1996’s horror had to offer.  So here are some moments from ten movies, in no particular order…

Scream (1996) made phones terrifying again, reignited our fear of stupid masks and got us to start talking about the dynamics of horror.

Why?  Because this was a metamovie, a film that permitted its characters to discuss the nature of the film itself and filmmaking.  As their classmates are killed our lead horror analyst actually explains the things one does that creates or protects victims.  We actually discuss this at length in our Scream on Elm Street podcast episode.

From Dusk ’til Dawn (1996) seems to be the Baskin’ Robbins of vampire flavors…

Cheech Marin turns into a Klingon vampire.  Danny Trejo turns into an Incredible Hulk vampire with powerlifter traps!

Salma Hayek turns into a snake demon vampire

And Quentin and George wish she just stayed hot like before…

The Frighteners (1996) was exactly the kind of game-changing movie Michael J. Fox needed after playing just too many overly likable roles (Doc Hollywood, Back to the Future, Homeward Bound) or unconvincing shlubs (Life with Mikey, Greedy, The Hard Way).  It has an awesome, scary poster that reminded me of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), aaaand Jeffrey Combs (Lurking Fear) is in it! #Winning

The Craft (1996) was one of those films I thought was just plain perfect when I saw it in high school–yes, I’m that old.  It’s so great that it’s getting a remake!  Not that movies need to actually be good in the first place to earn a remake.  This film brought together a group of teen misfits with magic and levitation.  But power corrupts and Fairuza Balk gets crazy and we get a most excellent aerial catfight.

Thinner (1996)…I really loved this movie despite it’s incredibly lame script and acting.  It is, after all, a great Stephen King story and many of his movie adaptations fell flat.  So there’s this mob lawyer and he is really, really fat.  He accidentally kills the daughter of this scary gypsy from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, who prescribes him a new “CURSE” diet and he can eat whatever he wants and still waste away into nothing.

Hellraiser IV: Bloodline (1996) brought a sense of 90s badness and style to Pinhead’s franchise.  It both went to space and presented three stories in an anthology.


Our new Cenobite starlet was not goofy like her Hell on Earth predecessors and the movie featured Adam Scott (Piranha 3D, Krampus)!


Bordello of Blood (1996) was that bonkers-tastic Tales from the Crypt movie that we all know is bad, but we all know is AWESOME!  Let’s look at the facts, shall we…?

Angie Everhart gooily tears off heads and ends up covered in gore herself…

She turns into this ridiculous monster even sillier than anything from From Dusk ’til Dawn

and Corey Feldman becomes a vampire with an excellent hole in his chest!

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) is a remake of the 1977 classic of the same name.  Now I’ll admit I never saw the original, but it couldn’t have been as batshit crazy as this. Some of the Moreau monsters are played by Ron Perlman and martial artist Mark Dacascos, the doctor/creator is played by Marlon Brando accompanied by the diminutive Nelson de la Rosa (to his left, below), and oh my goodness…is Fairuza Balk (The Craft) in two movies on this list!?!?!

Mary Reilly (1996) is the serious choice for someone who simultaneously wants to watch a horror movie, but also wants to impress his/her friends or date with this deeper, more intellectual horror period piece.  I mean, it has Julia Roberts and John Malkovich.  No one can veto this simply on the basis of it representing the horror genre.  No…there’s more here.

Head of the Family (1996) is my “oh, crap, I need a 10th movie to round out this list” pick for 1996.  This zany film was really just a good excuse to show us ex-adult film star Jacqueline Lovell’s (Hideous!, The Killer Eye, Femalien) boobs…again…as she does in pretty much all of her Full Moon releases–and God bless her for that!  But honestly, this salty little flick was kind of like direct-to-video horror’s answer to the suburban pseudo-horror The ‘Burbs (1989).

If you enjoyed this weird article, please check out last year’s edition:
The Best Moments of one of the Worst Years in Horror: looking back 20 years to 1995

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