Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (1990-1999)

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

When Kenneth Branagh (Victor Frankenstein), Helena Bonham Carter (Elizabeth Frankenstein), and Robert De Niro (The Creation) are linked to a classic horror tale, I just gots ta see it. Having read the book, this is one of its most faithful renditions. De Niro does a fine job of making us sympathize with his character.

Directed by Branagh, it also stars Aidan Quinn (Practical Magic) and Ian Holm (Alien).
Trivial gossip:
While filming Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Carter began an affair with Branagh while he was still married to actress Emma Thompson.

Guillermo del Toro (Blade II) is at it again, lending both his creature and diretorial vision to this neat little horror flick about a genetically-engineered cockroach terrorizing the people of Manhattan.

Based on Donald Wollheim‘s short story and co-starring F. Murray Abraham (Thir13en Ghosts) and Charles S. Dutton (Alien 3).

Nightbreed Diego's pick
Derived from his novella, Cabal, Clive Barker wrote and directed this stylistic and visually-stunning tale about a place called Midian (“where the monsters go”). The denizens of Midian are monsters, freaks, and outcasts – the likes of which we’ve never seen before. (These characters were the inspiration behind one Halloween costume where I transformed myself into a resident of Midian by applying fake hair to my torso.)
My absolute favorite ‘breed is Shuna Sassi – a seductive siren covered in porcupine quills that she can throw at will.

There’s also Kinski (bearing a crescent-moon-shaped head), Leroy Gomm (who has retractable tentacles hidden in a stomach pouch), the demonistic Peloquin (Shuna Sassi’s lover), a sensuous shapeshifter named Rachel…in fact, there are too many to cite here. Just watch the movie.

Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice, Batman Returns, Sleepy Hollow, The Wolfman, Frankenweenie) composed the haunting score.
Practical Magic Diego's pick
I recently read the novel Practical Magic and found that the film (which I watch over and over) takes a number of creative licenses with the story – in this case, not a bad thing at all. It’s a romantic comedy about a family of witches (the Owenses) living under a curse…

“Maria Owens, a young witch, is exiled (with her unborn child) to an island in Massachusetts. When her lover does not rescue her, she casts a spell to stop herself from ever falling in love again. The spell becomes a curse, affecting all future generations of women in the Owens family: any man who falls in love with an Owens woman will die.” (Wikipedia)

For the most part, the scenes take place inside a gorgeous Victorian mansion. “Because the film’s producers decided the house was a big part of the depiction of the Owens’ culture, a house to accurately represent that vision was built on San Juan Island in the state of Washington. While much of the set from California was brought to that location and placed inside the house, it took nearly a year to perfect the image of the house and the interior.” (Wikipedia)

The present-day Owens family consists of two maternal and unmarried aunts, Frances (Stockard Channing) and Jet (Dianne Wiest, The Lost Boys), who dress in a Victorian manner despite the modern-day setting; their nieces Sally (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian (Nicole Kidman); and Sally’s two daughters, Kylie (Evan Rachel Wood) and Antonia (Alexandra Artrip). Sally and Gillian were raised by the aunts after the death of their parents (Dad died presumably from “the curse of the Owens women” and their mother subsequently from a broken heart) Sally Owens and her daughters have come to live with the aunts after the death of her husband (that damn Owens Curse again) So we now have three generations of Owens women living under the same roof.

Throw-in Gillian’s homicidal boyfriend (Goran Visnjic) whom she’s running from and a investigator (Aidan Quinn) hot on his trail. There are spells, a possession/exorcism, and Midnight Margaritas!

Directed by Griffin Dunne (An American Werewolf in London) and produced by Denise Di Novi (Batman Returns).
Soundtrack:  Although all the tracks are wonderful, I purchased it because of the two Stevie Nicks songs (“If You Ever Did Believe” and “Crystal”).

Predator 2
Predator (1987) established that the aliens are drawn to areas of extremely high temperatures, violence, and bloodshed. In this sequel, LA police battle Preditors during a 1997 heat wave/turf war between two drug cartels.

Danny Glover (Beloved), Gary Busey (Silver Bullet), Bill Paxton (Aliens, Near Dark) star.

Cannibalism. Apparently a subject matter that’s uncomfortable. Ravenous is morbidly horrifying with just a soupçon of dark comedy thrown in. The setting is a remote military outpost in 1840’s California. It borrows from the infamous Donner party tale and the myth of the Wendigo (“anyone who consumes the flesh of their enemies takes their strength but becomes a demon cursed by an insatiable hunger for more human flesh.” Wikipedia)
Quirky movie with a strong cast:  Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, Jeffrey Jones (The Devil’s Advocate, Beetlejuice, Sleepy Hollow), John Spencer, Neal McDonough, and David Arquette. (The delectable Pearce and McDonough are yummy enough to eat. Smack!)

n. a little bit

Sleepwalkers Diego's pick
Written by horror-master Stephen King (Carrie, Silver Bullet). “The film centers around the last two survivors of a vampiric shapeshifting species that feed on the life force of human female virgins.” (Wikipedia)

The two survivors being an incestuous mother-son pair (Alice Krige and Brian Krause) who transform into werecats. Interestingly, the one thing they’re terrified of is cats, who “see through their illusions, but can inflict severe to fatal wounds upon them with their claws.” (Wikipedia)
Cameos:  Ron Perlman (Alien Resurrection), Clive Barker (Nightbreed), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London, Innocent Blood), Joe Dante (The Howling), Tobe Hooper, and King. Me-ow

Sleepy Hollow
I’m a fan of Tim Burton (Frankenweenie, Beetlejuice, Batman Returns), Johnny Depp (A Nightmare on Elm Street), AND Christopher Walken (Batman Returns, The Sentinel). (You can’t miss Burton’s visual style and I’m sure this movie was a big hit with Steampunkers.)
Based on The Legend of Sleep Hollow by Washington Irving, it’s infused with some interesting elements not found in Irving’s original tale – such as the terrifying Hessian (played by Walken).
Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice, Nightbreed, Batman Returns, 2010’s The Wolfman, Frankenweenie), a long-time Burton collaborator, wrote and produced the score.
Strays Diego's pick
Made-for-television movie written by Shaun Cassidy, and starring the gray cat from Pet Sematary (Church) leading a pack of ferocious felines.
The Addams Family
Based on characters by cartoonist Charles Addams and the TV series, the film was Barry Sonnenfeld‘s (Addams Family Values) directorial debut. Anjelica Huston (Addams Family Values as Morticia) was nominated for a Golden Globe. Raúl Juliá (Addams Family Values as Gomez), Christina Ricci (Sleepy Hollow and Addams Family Values as Wednesday), and Christopher Lloyd (Addams Family Values as Uncle Fester) round-out the cast.
Top notch representation of the “bizarre, macabre, aristocratic family” (Wikipedia).
The Arrival
You may not have ever heard of this movie, but I recommend for two reasons:  Charlie Sheen (Who’s an underrated actor) and the design of the aliens (check out their “knees”…).

David Twohy (Pitch Black) directed.

The Craft
The Craft is another movie I watch again and again. Big fan of Fairuza Balk (The Island of Dr. Moreau) – who happens to be Wiccan – and composer Graeme Revell (Pitch Black). The film focuses on a group of teenage witches whose magic backfires on them. The beautiful Assumpta Serna plays the owner of a local metaphysical store where the girls get their “five-fingered discounts”.
To ensure the subject matter was handled accurately and appropriately, the producers enlisted a real-life Wiccan as an adviser.
The Devil’s Advocate

There are references to both Milton’s “Paradise Lost” and Dante’s “Inferno” in the ambitious script with Al Pacino chewing-up the scenery as the fallen angel himself. Keanu Reeves (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Constantine) plays hot-shot attorney Kevin Lomax who is persuaded to come work for a prestigious NY City law firm headed by John Milton (Pacino). It’s not long before Lomax realizes he’s in league with the Devil himself, who has a few secrets to unveil.

I absolutely loved the set designs especially Milton’s penthouse/office, complete with metal-encased fireplace, animated wall sculpture, and infiniti pool. Co-stars Charlize Theron, Jeffrey Jones (Ravenous, Beetlejuice, Sleepy Hollow), Craig T. Nelson, and Heather Locklear.

The Island of Dr. Moreau Diego's pick
This third film based on the 1896 novel by H. G. Wells (Having seen the other two, THIS is by far my favorite) is directed by John Frankenheimer (Prophecy). This version’s been updated, with references to implants and genetic engineering; and
stars the iconic Marlon Brando (as the mad scientist, Dr. Moreau) and Val Kilmer as the protagonist. Fairuza Balk (The Craft) is perfectly cast as tje cat-like hybrid, Aissa. Co-starring Mark Dacascos (Brotherhood of the Wolf) as a leopard hybrid, Ron Perlman (Alien Resurrection, Sleepwalkers) as a goat-like hybrid, and Nelson de la Rosa as Dr. Moreau’s “mini-me”.

The ever-talented Stan Winston (Pumpkinhead, Aliens, Predator) was responsible for the transmutations. Check them out: Behind the Scenes at Stan Winston Studios

Wikipedia cites this an “American romantic horror film”. I’d like to add that it has “bite” and a cast of favored actors:  Jack Nicholson (The Witches of Eastwick), Michelle Pfeiffer (What Lies Beneath, Batman Returns, The Witches of Eastwick), and James Spader. Bit (!) parts by David Schwimmer and Allison Janney.

(As always, Pfeiffer has the last laugh…er bite.)

My favorite (Halloween) films from 1950-1959
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1960-1969
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1970-1979
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1980-1989
My favorite (Halloween) films from 1990-1999
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2000-2009
My favorite (Halloween) films from 2010-2017

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