Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Horror Films From 1991

There was a tremendous amount of truly awful films from 1991. I seen sixty-eight films from the year and gave twenty-five of them a failing mark. That left me only 43 films to choose from, and twenty of those received just a pass (2.5/5). I have compiled these top ten lists for every year of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and have never failed that many films in a single year. Sitting through some of these films was like stabbing myself repeatedly with a blunt object. In any case, this is what I came up with; I rated the film in the number one spot 5/5, the film in the two spot was rated 4.5/5, films three, four and five were rated 4/5 and films six through ten were rated 3.5/5. I rated just one other film 3.5/5 and that was Bloodsucking Pharaohs of Pittsburgh.

*Have you entered my Grunge Cinema Criterion Contest to win a $50 Criterion gift certificate? You still can here.

*Only feature-length films will be included on the top ten lists for the decade; I do not include shorts, documentaries or made for television movies.

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#10 THE BONEYARD
Directed By: James Cummins

The Boneyard is a little oddity that I missed out on in the 90s and only discovered a few years back. Two cops attempt to enlist the aid of a psychic who has helped them solve cases in the past. This exchange is quite bizarre and strangely serious considering what occurs later in the film. The case they need her assistance with involves a man who has been arrested for keeping children locked in his basement. The accused claims he had no choice due to a family curse that must be fulfilled. The two cops and the psychic end up at the morgue which is where the majority of the film’s action takes place. This film is far more fun than it is frightening. It obviously doesn’t want to be taken too seriously. The effects are cheesy and over the top and quite wonderful! The little zombie children had delightfully nasty looking makeup and the creatures were ridiculous but definitely a blast. There is a 50 foot tall zombie poodle for god’s sake! Most of the comedy comes from the visuals and not the dialogue. This is a wee bit of a shame since they cast Phyllis Diller as a cranky night clerk named Miss Poopinplatz and Norman Fell as coroner Shepard. More effective verbal humour would have gotten this one even higher marks. However, the visual humour is impressive and really is a hoot! Have I mentioned there is a 50 foot tall zombie poodle?!! If you are a fan of the horror-comedy genre and you like it cheesy I think The Boneyard is a must see!

BONEYARD

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#9 HIRUKO THE GOBLIN
Directed By: Shin’ya Tsukamoto

I am definitely a fan of Shin’ya Tsukamoto’s films and particularly his outrageously creative visuals. The man knows how to make the most of camera angles, lights and color and while Hiruko the Goblin is definitely a more light-hearted affair than some of his other entries like Tetsuo, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer and Tokyo Fist it certainly screams of his visuals. Professor Yabe and a young female student discover a creature in a cave nearby the school and are quickly attacked after which all hell breaks loose. Soon a nasty little goblin named Hiruko who was buried under the local high school that is closed for summer holidays is suddenly lively and stealing heads. Hiruko the Goblin has a spirited enough pace and a decent body count and features a possessed Janitor, human heads on mechanical spider bodies, gore, strange crustacean/insect creatures, and a character with a penchant for creating bizarre Macgyver-esque gadgets from kitchen implements. Hiruko the Goblin is a horror comedy with outrageously fun albeit cheesy effects. The effects are really as amusing as they are creepy. While I would not say Hiruko the Goblin is a film for children it does have a child-like joy about it full of silliness and crazy creature effects. Hiruko the Goblin’s story is a bit needlessly complicated and characters could have been better developed but it was pretty damn fun despite that and well worth a look.

HIRUKO THE GOBLIN

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#8 POISON
Directed By: Todd Haynes

Poison is a weird but interesting collection of three intertwined stories, each shot in a unique way. One story is about a boy named Richie who allegedly shot his father to death who than, according to his mother flew out the window. The segment is done in a documentary style and is a collection of interviews with various people who knew Richie including classmates, teachers, his family doctor and his mother. Another story is filmed in black and white seemingly intended to mimic the sci-fi horror from the fifties. A scientist succeeds in isolating the elixir of human sexuality. When visited by a fellow female scientist and a great admirer of his work he becomes distracted and accidently drinks the elixir. The elixir transforms the scientist into a murderous leper. The third story is about a gay inmate named John Broom. Broom becomes attracted to a fellow prisoner who he recalls in flashbacks was taunted and tortured as a youth when they were both in an institution for juvenile delinquents. In the early part of Poison I thought perhaps the stories were connected in some way, but really the only thing that connects them is a theme of sexuality. The sexuality in the science fiction and prison stories is obvious from my summary. The story of the boy Richie also has its sexuality as the young boy witnesses his mother having sex with another man. In two of the interviews a doctor comments on Richie’s genitals and a student claims Richie exposed himself. To say the film is ambiguous is an understatement. I enjoy an ambiguous story but Poison leaves behind a little more mystery than I cared for. I can’t say I found it unappealing though. The visuals throughout were intriguing, alluring, disturbing and at times mesmerizing. I especially enjoyed the black and white sci-fi segment. Although Poison does contain some horror elements I would not classify it as a horror film. It is more art house fare than anything.

POISON

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#7 SUBSPECIES
Directed By: Ted Nicolaou

The good people at Fullmoon contributed a few gems to the 90s and Subspecies is the first of two to make the list for 1991 (the second is in the three hole). The film opens with the return of Radu an evil vampire and the estranged son of King Vladislav. Radu has come to claim the bloodstone an ancient vessel that contains the blood of saints. Radu craves power and believes it is his birthright as the eldest son. The king isn’t having any of it and attempts to cage Radu, but Radu easily escapes and kills his father. We are than transported to a train station where we meet three young college students. The lovely ladies are the only guests staying in a historic stone building with the exception of a handsome zoologist who only studies at night. The women intend on studying the customs of the small superstitious village. The handsome zoologist Stefan as it turns out is the half brother of Radu and the two vampire brothers engage in a battle of good versus evil. Subspecies is filmed in Romania and the location and its amazing old architecture is absolutely beautiful. The effects are slim and not particularly well executed but I got a kick out of them nonetheless. As sketchy as they were I enjoyed Radu’s little demon helpers! And Radu himself is an absolute delight. He is one ugly freaking vampire. Radu is in desperate need of a manicure, drools like a leaky faucet and has a voice as smooth as sandpaper. Radu is evil to the core and is a crapload of fun! The acting in the film was tolerable enough but some of the minor characters were horribly flat. Angus Scrimm’s name is featured prominently but has only the brief appearance in the films opening scene as King Vladislav. Seems a shame they didn’t use him more, at least in some flashback scenes or something. More concentration on the vampire family and less on the women would have been most welcomed. There is a little bit of gore and nudity but overall it just barely warrants its R Rating. Subspecies is all about Radu who is one of the most entertaining vampires to grace the subgenre.

subspecies

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#6 LA SETTA
Directed By: Michele Soavi

La Setta or The Sect if the name didn’t tip you off is a satanic worship/cult sort of thing. It is a rather convoluted one at that, although not unenjoyable. La Setta begins with a flashback to 70s California but the balance of the film takes place in present day (present day 1991 that is) Frankfurt Germany. We begin with a man who kills and takes the heart of a woman who “disobeyed” and later shoots himself in the head when he is caught by police. We than meet a well meaning school teacher named Miriam Kreisl who nearly hits a man with her car and offers to take him to the hospital. The man, Moebius Kelly ends up resting on Miriam’s couch where he uses the opportunity to slip some sort of insect into her nasal passage while she is sleeping. Miriam unwillingly becomes involved with the cult who has chosen her as the mother of their unholy leader’s baby. That is probably a bit of a spoiler but I think it is blazingly clear quite early that this is the direction it is going. Soavi’s visuals are fantastic. One particular dream sequence is very trippy-terrific and the downright bizarre ritual towards the films finale that incorporates a birdman and a birthing well is still firmly imprinted on my brain. Kelly Curtis is a likable protagonist and the great Herbert Lom is solid as Moebius Kelly. La Setta has a good atmosphere and an appropriate pace that builds some decent tension. My biggest bones to pick were Pino Donaggio’s disappointing score that at times was just plain awful. I actually thought the ending was great prior to the twoish minutes they tacked on prior to the credits but this final revelation left a bit of bad taste in my mouth. I do enjoy me some devilish hi-jinx and despite its flaws I found La Setta entertaining.

la setta

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#5 THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS
Directed By: Wes Craven

I hadn’t seen The People Under the Stairs in several years before this recent viewing and remembered very little about it. I was slightly scared off by the fact a child was at the centre of the action as this can often result is a ball-less affair but The People Under the Stairs has a little something for everyone. Fool and his family have been evicted from their home by their landlords the Robesons. It is decided that they should rob the Robeson’s home. What they don’t know however is that the Robesons and their huge labyrinth-like residence are full of nasty surprises. The psychotic and incestuous brother and sister are ruthless killers that have a basement full of cannibals who were once children of the Robesons who disobeyed them. Fans of Twin Peaks will remember the delightfully coo-coo eye patch wearing Nadine Hurley and her brow-beaten hubby Ed who are both just spectacularly nuts as the Robesons in The People Under the Stairs. The performances are pretty strong across the board. The film has a spirited pace and tons of action. While gore is somewhat limited there are some nasty tidbits here and there and the effects included are very good. The house is simply magnificent with its endless labyrinth of passageways and its aging and crumbling bricks and plaster. You can practically smell the dust and decay in your living room. For me the Robeson’s and their sick twisted history was a major highlight. They throw in a kidnapped girl, a vicious dog and a little S&M for good measure. The People Under the Stairs is a fun-filled, nasty, thrilling, action-packed adventure.

the people under the stairs

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#4 964 PINOCCHIO
Directed By: Shozin Fukui

964 Pinocchio is a lobotomized cyborg sex slave who is sold to a couple of rich eccentric women. When their sex slave is unable to maintain an erection they throw him out on the street. A young woman named Himiko befriends Pinocchio after he flops down and puts his head in her lap. Himiko tries to help Pinocchio adapt and teaches him how to speak. Eventually Pinocchio begins to question who he is and both himself and Himiko take one bizarre, insane, dizzying journey through hell. I think most of us are familiar with the story of Pinocchio; the little wooden doll who wants to become a real boy. To say 964 Pinocchio is a unique interpretation of the story is probably a grand understatement! There are several, long dizzying POV shots, insane angles, quick cuts, stop motion animation not to mention one of the longest vomiting scenes of all time. A scene where Pinocchio’s skin melts off looked like they used paint for the effects judging by the thickness and bold coloring of the ooze. Pinocchio running at breakneck speed down a busy pedestrian littered street with huge clamps around his neck chained to a concrete block he is pulling behind him is really something else! The film’s effects are definitely creative! 964 Pinocchio is not always an easy film to follow with its lack of dialog, tweaked-out visuals, abrasive sound effects and the screaming. Flashback scenes are shot at you like a machine gun and you would miss something if you blinked. Obviously the film relies heavily on its visuals. The ending mystified me, but it was nonetheless a trip. 964 Pinocchio was a fascinating, bizarre and creative bit of insanity! To read the full review click here.

964 pinocchio

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#3 THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM
Directed By: Stuart Gordon

The Pit and the Pendulum is not a remake of Roger Corman’s 1961 film and it also has very little to do with Edgar Allan Poe’s story with the exception of its titular device. Set in 1400s Spain the Grand Inquisitor Torquemada reigns with bloody supremacy enacting torture on the populace in the name of religion. A woman named Maria airs her grievances during a public torture and is herself accused of being a witch. The evil Torquemada is perplexed and disoriented by his desire for the beautiful Maria and throws her in the prison where she befriends Esmerelda a confessed witch. Meanwhile Maria’s husband Antonio makes a failed attempt to free his innocent wife and is sent to the torture chambers. Lance Henrikson is absolutely top notch evil as Torquemada. He enacts his torture in the name of god with such utterly nasty conviction! He tortures and kills a shitload of people without blinking an eye. Rona De Ricci is a lovely and likable choice as the innocent Maria who challenges Torquemada’s vows. Jeffrey Combs is fun as Francisco and is really the only character that doesn’t seem to get a thrill from the unsavory duties he enacts. He is pretty kooky looking with that hair and those giant horn-rimmed glasses though. And Oliver Reed has a brief but memorable cameo as the Cardinal. There is a little humour throughout the film which seemed a bit unnecessary but is occasionally effective. There is not a moment of downtime from The Pit and the Pendulum’s brutal opening to its action packed and crazy finale! It is bad fecking news to be accused of witchcraft; confess or don’t confess either way you are tortured. There is more violence than you can shake a stick at! The visuals are solid and the sets and costumes are fantastic. Stuart Gordon’s The Pit and the Pendulum is a thrilling and unsavory bit of nasty wonderfulness not to be missed!

the pit and the pendulum

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#2 THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
Directed By: Jonathan Demme

I don’t really consider The Silence of the Lambs a horror film. It also did not come up on the IMDB horror search for 1991. I felt somewhat obligated to include it since I included Misery which also did not come up on the IMDB horror search. It does in fact feature not one, but two serial killers even if it is more interested in the hunt to track down a serial killer than the serial killer’s dirty deeds. Frankly, it was a weak year and The Silence of the Lambs is a solid film, so here it is nonetheless. FBI agent in-training Clarice Starling is tasked with enlisting the aid of imprisoned psycho psychiatrist Hannibal “the cannibal” Lecter. The FBI believe Lecter may have information that could lead them to a serial killer coined Buffalo Bill who has abducted a prominent Senator’s daughter. Starling wins Lecter’s confidence but the cannibal psychiatrist makes the fledgling FBI agent work for her answers while the life of the Senator’s daughter hangs in the balance. The Silence of the Lambs heavily focuses on the relationship between Starling and Lecter which is good because it is the film’s best asset. Outside of Starling and Lecter’s back and forth and the outstanding performances from Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins The Silence of the Lambs is a fairly standard thriller. It is definitely the performances that elevate this film to a higher tier. Lecter is one of celluloid’s most intriguing killers; intelligent, charismatic and well-spoken as well as a master manipulator and mind fucker who hungers for human flesh. Hopkins is truly chilling and fascinating as the brilliant albeit psychotic cannibal psychiatrist. Starling when forced into a quid pro quo lays her soul bare and it is not impossible to understand how Lecter might find her honesty and frankness alluring. I would certainly question the wisdom of sending a student FBI agent to deal with such a foe but Foster is a great actress who brings strength to the Starling character that makes it work beautifully. The Silence of the Lambs is an outstanding character-driven crime thriller to be enjoyed with some liver, fava beans and a nice Chianti.

silence of the lambs

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#1 NAKED LUNCH
Directed By: David Cronenberg

Like The Silence of the Lambs, I have never really considered Naked Lunch a horror film, but it actually did show up on the IMBD horror search, so it instantly qualifies. Also, I fucking love this film! Naked Lunch is only loosely based on William S. Burroughs’ novel Naked Lunch. Cronenberg turns the story into more of a semi-autobiographical account of Burroughs life. Characters are based on real life acquaintances Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Joan Vollmer and Paul and Jane Bowles. Bill Lee is an exterminator whose wife Joan is addicted to the insecticide he uses to kill bugs. Bill too is affected by the substance which causes him to have severe hallucinations. So severe are his hallucinations that he believes he is a secret agent for an organization called Interzone and is assigned tasks by a giant insect! Naked Lunch is an epic film that can not and should not be summed up in a short paragraph. I intend on doing a detailed review later in the month so I shall not dwell on its wonderfully bizarre story. I can’t think of a single director who could capture Burroughs vibe better than David Cronenberg! This film is such a trip! The visuals are mind-bendingly phenomenal and the perfect casting of Peter Weller as Bill Lee and Judy Davis in her dual roles as Joan Lee and her doppelganger Joan Frost are spot on. Weller and Davis get perfect support from the likes of Roy Scheider, Ian Holm, Julian Sands and Canadian mainstay Nicholas Campbell (who also made appearances in Cronenberg’s Fast Company, The Brood and The Dead Zone). Naked Lunch is a film that has withstood countless viewings and always leaves me awestruck; it is a brilliant mind twist with unforgettable images and fantastic performances that is truly a one of a kind experience.

naked lunch1

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27 Responses to “Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Horror Films From 1991”

  1. What about “Ernest Scared Stupid”?

    Just kidding. Great list!

    • Well…someone must have liked Ernest…he made enough films! I myself am no fan of Ernest…but I watched this anyway just to be a completist (also it was on YouTube for free).

  2. The Boneyard is a fun movie, glad to see it here on the list.

  3. i love NAKED LUNCH !!!
    on the surface it seems weird but the truth is… it is very mainstream
    small town america after the METH epidemic.

  4. That was a fun read. I have great memories of Naked Lunch, Silence of the Lambs, People Under the Stairs, and especially my favorite by Stuart Gordon (Pit & the Pendulum). I’ve had Poison in my Netflix queue for a while now, and may get around to it in the next few months (after some of those Japanese titles you’ve previously reviewed).

    • Thanks David! Poison is….well…different; but unique and I do appreciate unique. Haynes is an interesting director, not sure I would put him on a list of favourites or anything but I quite enjoyed his film Safe.

  5. You have me intrigued about Naked Lunch…:)…thanks GG

    • William S. Burroughs is an interesting man who had quite the life. No one could truly interpret Naked Lunch…it is like Lovecraft that way…you would need all the money in the entire world to do it right. But Cronenberg does a nice slight of hand mixing Burroughs writing with real life events of the man’s life and of course includes some trippy Cronenberg-esque images.

  6. Great list. Some I have seen others I have not. I actually liked the The Boneyard when I was a kid and recently re-watched it and found it fun enough especially with the giant poodle.

    Subspecies was on television recently but I didn’t get past the 20 minute mark. If this is one of the best horror films from 1991 then I guess it was a really bad year.

    The Silence of the Lambs would be a dull film if not for the two leading performances.

    Hiruko the Goblin and 964 Pinocchio sounds like the best. I haven’t seen them so they are on my to-watch list.

    • I remember having a conversation with you about The Boneyard and it still surprises me that you like it. It is hard to resist the lure of a 50 foot zombie poodle (and a zombie Diller for that matter!) My tolerance for cheese is much higher than yours I think… but Come on! Subspecies is flawed and all but Radu is a great vampire!

  7. I’ve been looking for the Boneyard (cheap) for a while and have been unable to find it at a good price. My fave is Pit and the Pendulum – when the old lady swallows the gunpowder, then she’s burned at the stake and explodes, awesome!!!

  8. Reading your top ten films of 1991 was a lot more fun than viewing MANY of the films that didn’t make your list. The two Japanese films I have not seen,but will seek them out. The remaining eight I have seen,and enjoy each of them,some of which you refreshed my memories of. I recall seeing The Pit and the Pendulum and was delighted it was not a remake and hugely entertaining. I just saw The Boneyard again recently. A goodie,and I love Phyllis Diller(I got to meet her,what a sweetheart) and Norman Fell .Those tacked on moments you mentioned to Soavi’s La Setta,almost ruined the movie for me. I mean what the hell? Still,everything before that,save for Donaggio’s letdown of a score,especially the always awesome Herbert Lom and those visuals,good stuff! I like Silence of the Lambs a lot,too. The performances are first rate,and the supporting cast is full of great,familiar faces. I particularly enjoyed the cameos of Roger Corman and George Romero. Naked Lunch is probably my favorite movie of 1991. Cronenberg is in top form here,perfectly capturing the strange life of William S. Burroughs! A classic not just from the 1990′s but for all-time! Impossible to forget.

    • I love Herbert Lom…not that I have seen him in tons of stuff but I have enjoyed the hell out of the performances I have seen!

      1992 is definitely a better year..a few heavy hitters and one of my favourites of all time EVER. Still lots and lots of duds of course but what year doesn’t have those? The difference between the 90s duds and those from other decades however is they have been considerably more painful.

      • I’ve yet to see a bad Herbert Lom performance,and I’ve seen him in lots of films because as you know,I’m old as dirt! ; ) He’s great in The Dead Zone. I think I might know what your top film of 1992 will be,but shhhh,I will not tell! It’s true,I can watch a dud from other decades save for the 1990′s and the past 12 years.

  9. i just watched THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS
    good lord, what a truckload of crap !!!
    roger corman could have made 9 full length features out of it
    what an insult to black people and ghetto life
    many of the scenes were repeated over and over
    how many times can you watch the dog scenes ?
    the dog in real life would have won in 7 seconds
    end of movie
    the odd peter pan boy with no tongue but a heart of gold
    the cute waif at the end of a belt ( don’t bruise her face )
    the cute waif in a bathtub of boiling water
    cannibals behind boards ( sort of day of the dead )
    endless gun shooting
    could you please shot another hole in the wall ?
    weird police humor
    weird S&M costume ( why ? )
    just plain weird everything
    hints of humor
    no intelligence

  10. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS!!! Love it, that’s the only film in this list I have seen :D

  11. [...] Lunch was my number one pick for favourite horror film from 1991! To read it click here. A full review for this one will be forthcoming before months [...]

  12. [...] Fukui’s 964 Pinocchio earned the number four slot for my favourites of 1991. Fukui’s Rubber’s Lover is a prequel of sorts to 964 Pinocchio and is an equally [...]

  13. Well, I’m ashamed that I’ve only seen three of these (I don’t know how I keep missing Hiruko The Goblin), but I agree that it was a bad year.
    I thought People Under The Stairs was awful, other than the Twin Peaks guys showing up, but maybe I came to it expecting it to be a straight-forward horror film rather than the family friendly comedy I see it as.
    Silence Of The Lambs is a good movie, but I’ve never held it in as high esteem as most people do, but I think the performances are very strong.
    Naked Lunch I love, it’s such a pity that Weller is so undervalued.

    • A lot of people share your sentiments on People Under the Stairs…it is on the PG side, but I thought it was a hoot. And I completely agree…Weller is an actor who is seriously under-appreciated…love Robocop too!

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