Make the Case: 5 Most Underrated 1990s Horror Movies

Jason Goes to Hell The Final Friday
Jason Goes to Hell The Final Friday

While we’re not halfway through 2024 yet, we are halfway to Halloween, which is objectively more exciting than New Year’s Eve anyway. This thought seems to be particularly popular in Florida, where I’m now surrounded by an endless array of freaks and Disney fanatics who keep their Nightmare Before Christmas yard ornaments out all throughout the calendar year. I guess living here isn’t terrifying enough.

But it’s apparently rubbing off on me. Our home is turning into an autumnal coziness hellscape, which is nevertheless charming, and I’m watching even more horror movies than ever. That brings us to this month’s Make the Case, featuring five 90s horror movies I consider to be the most underrated. Your mileage with this subject will vary, and I cannot stress that enough. Nothing is truly underrated in a fandom where movies like Spookies receive a sumptuous 4K Blu-ray release (as it should), but nevertheless these are the five 90s horror movies I wish more people would see.

Celebrating Halloween in April might seem weird to you, but honestly, even if you don’t live in Florida, maybe pretending it’s October will be good for the ol’ mental health. It’s certainly doing wonders for me.


5. Cemetery Man (1994)

Cemetery Man
Cemetery Man

Director: Michele Soavi

Cemetery Man features the greatest Rupert Everett performance that doesn’t include an orangutang. I’m joking a little, because the man is fantastic in pretty much everything, but Everett’s manic, cynical, and above all else hilarious performance in this film is a singular treat.

Playing a cemetery caretaker named Francesco Dellamorte, Everett never fails to match the endless parade of oddities and dangers his character endures on a daily basis. Cemetery Man is an Italian curio that classifies itself as a horror comedy, and unquestionably goes for broke trying to keep both of those things running a fevered, surreal pace across 100 completely unhinged minutes.

Tragedy and mayhem are big parts of Cemetery Man, which has a better cult following than most of the movies we’re covering here, but still deserves a wider range of appreciation. Especially if you consider yourself to be a fan of classic horror films. The movie is certainly funnier than it is scary, but there is something unnerving and effecting about this movie’s bleaker and stranger moments. Cemetery Man is a unique ride and you should take it immediately if you’ve only now heard about it.


4. Mister Frost (1990)

Mr Frost
Mr Frost

Director: Philippe Setbon

Mister Frost is another horror movie I need more people to see. Before he decided to coast on his quirkiness with tedious MCU appearances and some of the worst voice acting ever left in an allegedly major animated feature, Jeff Goldblum was one of the most interesting actors of the 80s and 90s. Mister Frost should be a frequent talking point in any discussion of his best performances, but it seems largely forgotten.

The premise, by the way, has Goldblum as a mysterious man who informs a police detective (Alan Bates) that he has dozens of murdered bodies in his backyard. Indeed he does, and it’s off to an asylum where Goldblum’s Mister Frost stops speaking for two full years. Until he meets Dr. Sarah Day (an exceptional Kathy Baker), and tells her casually that he is in fact Satan, and that she will eventually murder him.

And what happens beyond that, I won’t say. But it’s a masterclass in creepiness and tension, with the relationship between Frost and Day providing the kind of chemistry between two actors and characters that can drive even the wildest story. Don’t sleep on this one. It’s long overdue for a serious reappraisal, and it reminds me that I wish Jeff would do more horror movies.


3. Popcorn (1991)

Popcorn (1991)
Popcorn (1991)

Director: Mark Herrier

Popcorn is the story of a group of college kids throwing a B horror movie marathon, who find themselves targeted and picked off by some lunatic in a movie theater. It’s a good, simple premise that leaves room for comedy and horror in a way that can be tricky to balance, but immensely satisfying to the viewer if it’s done well. And for the most part, Popcorn goes about its strange approach to humor and horror in a way I find to be charming as hell. There are movies with masked killers running around a movie theater, shopping mall, what-have-you. None of them have the atmosphere or bizarre tonal choices of Popcorn.

Popcorn is not a supernatural horror film, but it certainly feels like one as we learn that a short film being screened at the festival has ties to a frightening cult incident from decades earlier. The story beats may occasionally be familiar, but I’m willing to promise that Popcorn is more likely than not going to surprise you with how those beats actually unfold.

Boasting a strong cast that includes horror regulars like Dee Wallace, Kelly Jo Minter, and Jill Schoelen, Popcorn is a pleasing tribute to b-horror legends like Roger Corman and William Castle, particularly in the movies within the film, but it also tells its actual story with a dreamlike style that keeps you watching, with an ending that must be seen to be believed.


2. The Guardian (1990)

The Guardian (1990)
The Guardian (1990)

Director: William Friedkin

At one point, The Guardian was held up as an example of just how far William Friedkin had fallen from massive successes of the 1970s like The French Connection and The Exorcist. While I wouldn’t dare suggest this movie about a magical, evil nanny and a magical, evil tree is as good as either of those two established masterpieces, I do think The Guardian is one of the most underappreciated oddities of the 1990s. But while I don’t think it’s a particularly great film by any stretch of the imagination, I do think it’s far more entertaining than it gets credit for.

Furthermore, most of that entertainment seems to be intentional. Jenny Seagrove as Camilla the nanny with a bonkers supernatural secret gives a performance that is at times both ludicrous and kind of frightening. The character reminded a little bit of Damian’s nanny from The Omen, only if she was the star of the whole deranged show. And to be sure, Jenny Seagrove is easily the best thing about The Guardian. Even as the movie gets stranger and stranger, she stays at the center and keeps you fixed on the reality that yes, sometimes you just have to sacrifice a dumbass couple’s baby to a magical tree.

The Guardian isn’t for everyone, and there’s some debate to be had over just how seriously this movie actually takes it premise and plot, the ending of which surprisingly lives up the momentum of the bedlam we’ve witnessed so far. I think Friedkin understood the inherent silliness of this material, but also sought to see if something actually scary could be taken from the end result. I don’t think he quite gets to the finish line for that with The Guardian, but the effort is enormously fun to watch all the same.


1. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

Director: Adam Marcus

I went back and forth a little on whether or not it made sense to call the ninth entry in one of the most iconic and influential horror franchises of all time an underrated film. But ultimately, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday is no ordinary ninth entry in one of the most iconic and influential horror franchises of all time. The movie promised to end the saga of Jason Vorhees, which it did for about eight years, and it promised the character would go out in truly spectacular fashion.

Not surprisingly, critics absolutely hated this movie in 1993. Unfortunately for the film, directed by Adam Marcus from a screenplay by Jay Huguely and Dean Lorey, fans were pretty pissed off at the movie, too. To this day, Jason Goes to Hell is usually at the bottom of any given Friday the 13th ranking. It usually trades the spot with the also-despised Jason X, but it would seem as though people by and large hate The Final Friday even more.

And I just don’t. In 2020 I ranked this film as my fifth favorite Friday the 13th movie, and I think that’s still about right. I love the concept of Jason’s evil passing from one person to the next, creating a type of chaos and bleak atmosphere that this series desperately needed. The movie’s sense of humor also helps as the story just goes further and further off the deep end. The Final Friday is filled to the brim with wild swings at doing stuff that would be different and somehow still feel like it was part of this franchise. Most of those swings work for me, as does one of Kane Hodder’s best turns as the character. I also think The Final Friday has some of the most interesting characters in all eleven films.

So prevalent are these qualities to me with a film that most people despise, I’m willing to consider Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday the most underrated horror film of its decade.

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