October is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “31 days of horror.” Don’t bother looking it up; it’s true. Most people take that to mean highlighting one horror movie a day, but here at FSR, we’ve taken that up a spooky notch or nine by celebrating each day with a top ten list. This article about the best horror films from 1993 is part of our ongoing series 31 Days of Horror Lists.
Let’s take a journey thirty years back, all the way to the wonderful year of 1993. The Buffalo Bills became the first team to lose three consecutive Super Bowls, Charles Barkley was named the MVP of the National Basketball Association, and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers debuted on Fox Kids. Over in the world of film, Steven Spielberg reshaped how we view summer blockbusters for a second time with the release of his prehistoric adventure, Jurassic Park. The dinosaurs ruled our imaginations and the box office, earning more than four times the second-highest-grossing film of the year, Mrs. Doubtfire. And in the world of horror, a modern master made his debut while old legends returned to the big screen. 1993 might not be top of mind for many when it comes to the genre, but it was a good year with plenty of new offerings to choose from. And we put our collective brains together to form an excellent top ten.
If you expect to see the aforementioned Jurassic Park top this list, you won’t. Sure, a case could be made that Jurassic Park is a horror film. It’s certainly in the realm of horror. What are dinosaurs, if not giant monsters? But Spielberg never fully takes the film in that direction. With Jaws, Spielberg played with our fears. With Jurassic Park, he played with our sense of wonder. But fret not because another Stephen makes multiple appearances. And we’ve also got a Jason, a Guillermo, and a Tim! Now turn down the Nirvana or Pearl Jam, grab your favorite order from McDonald’s, and enjoy the best films of 1993 as voted on by Rob Hunter, Meg Shields, Brad Gullickson, Jacob Trussell, and yours truly.
10. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
There are a lot of things you can say about the Friday the 13th franchise as a whole, but you can never call it boring. Sean S. Cunningham and crew take risks by throwing out the most bonkers ideas and just running with them. Case in point: Jason Goes to Hell. This wild move opens with Jason being tricked by an undercover FBI agent, ambushed by a SWAT team, and then destroyed by an airstrike. We think Jason is finally dead, but oh no, his heart is still beating. So, the coroner eats it, as coroners often do. This allows Jason to possess the coroner’s body and start killing again. From there, Jason can jump from body to body as he pleases and keep the body count rising! Bounty hunter Creighton Duke (Steven Williams) and his crazy hat conclude that Jason can only be killed by a member of his bloodline. I love this dumb movie. (Chris Coffel)
9. Body Bags
Body Bags is a party. Sure, it carries the same flaws that all anthology films carry. Some segments work better than others, but the quality of the tales within is not really the point. Body Bags is a place where we let John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper cook. They’re masters playing in the genre they mastered. As a bonus, the film is swimming with cameos from fellow directors like Wes Craven and Sam Raimi, as well as staples like Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, David Naughton, Stacy Keach, and David Warner. If horror is your jam, you’ll grove to Body Bags no matter what, but a few of the stories will probably stick with you as well. I’m partial to “The Gas Station,” but it’s “Hair” I probably find myself returning to the most. The way those follicles scream — that’ll haunt ya. (Brad Gullickson)
If your movie has Clint Howard as a drug dealer, it’s pretty safe to say your movie is likely pretty good. That’s the case with Ticks, a direct-to-video creature feature in which our man, Clint, uses steroids to enhance weed but accidentally ends up juicing ticks in the nearby woods. A pair of social workers from Los Angeles take a group of troubled teens on a wilderness retreat to these very woods, offering up fresh blood for the mutated ticks. Tyler (Seth Green) is the first to discover the giant ticks, but of course, the adults don’t believe him because he’s a stupid kid. Ticks is a fun splatterfest of pulsating eggs, dripping green goop, and bloodsuckers bursting out of body cavities. It also features Alfonso Ribeiro in a hilarious role as Panic, a streetwise tough guy. (Chris Coffel)
7. Body Melt
Vimuville hopes to be the next great dietary supplement. This new vitamin pill is designed to create the ultimate healthy human, but it’s very much in the testing stages. And the poor residents of Pebbles Court are the test subjects. Body Melt is a splatterfest satire that takes on the fad diets and the greed of capitalism. A true Ozploitation classic that wears its Aussie roots proudly on its sleeves, Body Melt has more than one exploding penis, a placenta that comes to life, and face-hugger tentacle things. There’s even a little cannibalism, just for good measure. Body Melt is gross-out horror at its ooziest and gooiest. (Chris Coffel)
6. The Good Son
After the death of his mother, 12-year-old Mark (Elijah Wood) goes to live with his aunt and uncle in Maine for winter break while his dad goes on a business trip. Mark starts spending time with his similarly aged cousin Henry (Macaulay Culkin), and at first, it’s just your standard boys being boys shenanigans. Henry’s fascination with death starts to give off serious serial killer vibes, and Mark knows he must stop him before he kills… again? The Good Son is an effective, creepy thriller with two great lead performances. Culkin has real moments of pure evil and does a stellar job playing a manipulative little shit. The film’s edge-of-the-cliff finale is still one of the more insane endings from a studio film. This film is also responsible for me being convinced that every time I drive under an overpass, some dumb kid is going to toss a dummy over the side and cause a major pileup. (Chris Coffel)
Guillermo del Toro’s first feature film has a special place in my heart because it’s the only film I’ve ever had to turn off because I didn’t want to see what happened next. I have a strong stomach. I’ve seen some really depraved, instantly-put-on-a-watchlist shit. But I just couldn’t deal with the idea of this adorable, kind, innocent grandpa (Federico Luppi) getting chewed up and spat out by a clockwork heroin vampire beetle. I didn’t have it in me. Obviously, I’ve since summoned the courage to return to Cronos. And while horrible shit does indeed befall our geriatric protagonist, the film is also (as much of del Toro’s work tends to be), full of kindness, heart, and empathy for all parties involved. Even the film can’t stay mad at Ron Perlman’s hulking, plastic-surgery-obsessed goon. He’s too fun! Cronos is an addiction-coded nightmare of blood, beetles, and unexpected skin sloughing. And it all works as well as it does because of how dang much we care about vampire grandad. It’s a door kick-off debut. And like the best debuts, it contains many of the kernels that would later color its creator’s career. It’s much more than a curio. Gird your heart. (Meg Shields)
4. Needful Things
Max von Sydow stars as Leland Gaunt, the mysterious owner of a new antique store in Castle Rock, Maine. This store is unique in that it manages to have whatever the townspeople of Castle Rock desire, and Gaunt is willing to make everyone’s desires a reality for a small price. Von Sydow is clearly having a blast as the devilish trickster, turning the people of Castle Rock on one another. Ed Harris is the no-nonsense sheriff of Castle Rock determined to put an end to Gaunt’s fiendish pranks. J.T. Walsh steals the show as Danforth “Buster” Keeton III, the town selectman and shady boat salesman with a serious gambling problem. Walsh constantly goes to 11, losing his shit nonstop throughout the film’s two-hour runtime. When the film reaches its big finale, the entire town of Castle Rock has finally caught up with Walsh, and it’s pure chaos. When the ashes fall, Gaunt smirks on his way out, musing that it’s not his best work but still pretty good. Look, I’m not going to say that Needful Things is the best Stephen King adaptation, but a case can be made. (Chris Coffel)
3. The Dark Half
George Romero doesn’t get enough attention for the work he produced beyond his core Living Dead films. While, yes, Night through Day are masterclasses in zombie storytelling, the legendary filmmaker had far more tricks up his sleeve than mere undead madness. Case in point: The Dark Half, his second collaboration with Stephen King after Creepshow. Based on King’s novel, which was inspired by his work writing dark fiction under the name Richard Bachman, the film follows literary darling Thad Beaumont (Timothy Hutton), who slowly loses his mind after it’s revealed he writes trashy novels under the pen name George Stark. However, once the cat is out of the bag, and Thad decides to call it quits with his nom de plume, his alter ego, George doesn’t take it lying down. What transpires is a clever recreation of the Jekyll and Hyde story, brought to life by Hutton’s deliriously entertaining performance as he gluttonously devours every bit of scenery each chance he gets. Horror may have been in an incubation period before the rise of the meta-slashers in the mid-1990s, but it was still producing top-rate genre fare like this little unsung shocker from Romero and King. (Jacob Trussell)
2. Body Snatchers
Before I jump into praising Abel Ferrara‘s underseen entry in the Body Snatchers franchise, let’s marvel at the fact that three of our favorite horror films from 1993 feature the word “Body” at the start of their titles. I’m unsure if that’s more telling about us or the state of things in 1993. Moving on… Ferrara’s film is the third of four feature adaptations of Jack Finney‘s 1955 novel, The Body Snatchers, and it’s arguably the third best as well, seeing as it can’t touch the 70s version, would probably lose to the 50s adaptation, and is worlds better than 2007’s travesty, The Invasion. Both Larry Cohen and Stuart Gordon worked on the script side of things, while Ferrara, best known for exploitation gems and low-key crime films, directs with an eye for action and horror thrills. The film adds a new wrinkle to the book’s already present commentary by setting it on a U.S. Army base where conformity is even more of a mandate, the practical effects deliver some gooey goods, and it has the gumption to kill a kid in its final minutes. Gets my stamp of approval! (Rob)
1. The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of those films that has completely transcended beyond being just a mere film. It’s its own brand; depending on who you ask, it’s a way of life. It’s one of those movies that sometimes feels a little too popular, to the point that it feels uncool to like it. But let’s be real — we all love The Nightmare Before Christmas. Jack Skellington’s desire to move out of his comfort zone of Halloween and take on Christmas is a classic that will never be anything less. The mad minds of producer Tim Burton and director Henry Selick blend into one spooky and imaginative world, and the gorgeous stop-motion animation is as breathtaking today as it was back in 1993. Composer Danny Elfman delivers some of his best work, and Chris Sarandon and Catherine O’Hara are perfect as Jack and Sally. It’s a Halloween staple, it’s a Christmas staple, and it rightfully sits atop the mountain of 1993 horror. (Chris Coffel)
Alright, hop back in the time machine, travel back to the present, and continue to make your way through 31 Days of Horror Lists!