6. Trauma (1993)
A young woman escapes from the hospital where she is being treated for anorexia and attempts to kill herself; however, she is stopped by a young man and is returned to her parents, who are promptly murdered. Haunted by this, and suffering from her own psychological issues, the young woman and man try to determine who the killer–who has gone on a spree in their town–is before they also fall victim.
Dario Argento, the giallo horror master, found his work in decline throughout the 1990s, eventually entering permanent eclipse by the 21st century. However, Trauma may be his last good film: inspired by his daughter’s own struggles with anorexia (who passed away shortly after this film was released), there’s a personal edge to the film–to the point that another daughter of his, Asia Argento, stars in the film.
Still on display is Argento’s skilled cinematic eye and of course his trademark on-screen murders. While it performed poorly in both his home country of Italy and in America, its reputation has grown considerably since its initial release and is perhaps the giallo director’s last good film.
7. Castle Freak (1995)
A troubled family moves into an inherited 12th-century castle, intending to only settle there until they can sell it. The family has been destroyed by a drunk driving accident–in which the father was at fault–that killed their young son and blinded their daughter.
The castle is also inhabited by a deformed creature, who was locked away and tortured by the castle’s previous inhabitant,; he escapes, however, and the violence he enacts seems to echo the father’s own ruinous behaviors. This seems to make some sort of horrifying sense, however, when the father realizes his connection to the creature in the castle…
A suspenseful and underseen horror film, it stars cult favorite Jeffrey Combs in a weighty dramatic role as the awful father of this family. Directed by Stuart Gordon (who also helmed the cult classics Re-Animator and From Beyond), this Lovecraftian horror film was released straight-to-video and as such was unfairly maligned as a low-quality film.
But with its eerie atmosphere, great practical effects, and truly dark storyline, (the unfortunately named) Castle Freak is a cult horror film that should be unearthed from its subterranean lair for horror fans to enjoy.
8. The Addiction (1995)
Kathleen (Lili Taylor) is a philosophy student who is attacked by a vampire. After beginning to feel its effects forcing her to alter her lifestyle, Kathleen struggles with her new addiction to human blood and whether she can face living an eternal life if it means killing people along the way. Having coldly turned her friend into an undead creature against her wishes, she and her new blood-sucking compatriots turn on the faculty and fellow students before Kathleen finds some sort of redemption.
A thinking man’s vampire film, The Addiction works as a metaphor for drug addiction and is loaded with philosophical and literary references, as arguments of moral relativism and conversations about Tibetan Buddhism buttress the pros and cons of being a murderous eternal creature.
Shot with style in gritty black-and-white, The Addiction is cult director Abel Ferarra’s take on the vampire mythos and what happens when a philosophy student tries to work out the moral and metaphysical issues that come with being a creature of the night.
9. Strangeland (1998)
After being invited to a party by a stranger they’re chatting with online, who goes by the name Captain Howdy (played by Dee Snider), two teenage girls disappear. Two cops investigate, one being the father of one of the girls that has gone missing, and find one of the teens’ cars submerged in a lake with only one of the teens’ mutilated bodies. They eventually track Captain Howdy to his lair and find the other missing teen girl with her mouth sewn shut.
Although they arrest Howdy, he is found not guilty by reason of insanity and is released three years later. Although peaceful as long as he takes his medication, the people of the town haven’t forgotten what he had done, and as they try to take their revenge Howdy goes off his medication with violent results.
Written by heavy metal rocker Snider, it opened to negative reviews but has since gone on to attain cult status. In a decade where American horror began to falter, turning away from the gory slasher flicks of its previous decade, Strangeland dives head-first into these classic horror tropes, with enough disturbing content to satisfy fans of the genre.
Nostalgia fans will especially enjoy the film as it captures 1998’s cultural zeitgeist–particularly the internet’s emerging place in American culture–but horror fans will also see the film as an early adapter of the “torture porn” subgenre long before it became popular.
10. Ravenous (1999)
In the 1840s, A group of soldiers maintaining a fort in the mountains of California encounter a man who explains that his wagon train had become lost and they were reduced to cannibalism in order to survive. Following the man back to his stranded party, they find everyone else had been killed and eaten–and they are being trapped by him to endure the same fate. But after a fair amount of slaughter, some of the soldiers are brought over to the side of cannibalism, with grisly results.
A bloody film with some supernatural elements (the restorative powers of consuming flesh is a disquieting plot point), Ravenous is a mixture of gory horror and pitch-black comedy. Novelty plays a large part in the film: a rare horror film set in the 19th century, with the spectre of cannibalism and (related) rapidly dwindling cast provide much of the suspense, and the surprising juxtaposition of the beautiful landscape of the Tatra Mountains (in Slovokia, where the film was shot) as the setting for the grisly plot makes Ravenous a truly unique horror film. While a box office bomb upon release, it has since built a solid cult following among horror fans since, and it remains a potent–and strange–film in its own right.
Author Bio: Mike Gray is a writer and academic from the Jersey Shore. His work has been featured on Cracked and Funny or Die, and he maintains a humor recap TV and film blog at mikegraymikegray.wordpress.com.