When my son first saw a tab open for a website called Classic Nerd, he was intrigued — and then he immediately started making demands.
First and foremost, he demanded I write an article of his choosing. For some reason, a kid who knows literally nothing about horror movies or the ‘90s immediately told me I had to write an article on the cheesiest horror movies of the decade.
Well, I’m not a completely terrible parent—just pretty bad—so after 5 months of relentless pestering, I’m finally writing it.
One of the biggest challenges here isn’t so much finding cheesy horror movies that were released from 1990-99, it’s narrowing it the hell down. The ‘90s ushered in an era of direct-to-video and made-for-TV horror that saw channels like Syfy intentionally carry low budgets that encouraged cheese.
With that in mind, the movies on this list are for theatrical releases only. Otherwise, we’d be here for a while and I’d have a lot of crappy movies to catch up on.
So what counts as cheese? A few criteria that each movie will have some, but not necessarily all, of:
- Predictability: It follows tried and true formulas.
- Bad effects: Who doesn’t want to see a poorly sculpted monster head explode?
- Terrible dialogue: A must.
- It’s unintentional: The best cheesy movies are those which aren’t self-aware of the cheese.
- Bad acting.
Now that we all agree on what gets a movie on the list (and if you disagree I will ban you for life), let’s look at the 10 cheesiest horror movies from the 1990s.
The Net — 1995
I’ll grant you off the top there’s some debate here as to whether or not this film lies within the horror genre, or if it belongs squarely in suspense. But if we’re counting Misery as horror, then we’re sure as hell counting this.
Back in 1995 we were so adept at this internet thing that we didn’t even call it the internet. Hell no, we shortened that down to just the ‘net.
AltaVista? Ask Jeeves? Lycos? All of it: the ‘net. We did. Not. Give. An. Eff.
But with that flood of information came a fear of the unknown — and shockingly, Hollywood figured it’d make a movie exploiting our fear of technology (hard to believe, I know).
That’s where The Net came in. Sandra Bullock plays your run of the mill extremely attractive computer nerd who accidentally stumbles upon a conspiracy theory so vast and dangerous, it requires a dude with a British accent to call people on his car phone.
If all this isn’t enough to put this movie on the list, consider the sheer suspense of sending an email with an attachment, as represented in this climactic scene:
The good news is that we now have a complete handle on all the dangers of the ‘net. Phew!
The Blair Witch Project — 1999
Considering the number of spoofs and pop-culture references this film spawned, it’s hard to remember there ever actually was a movie.
Well, using the term “movie” here is a bit of a stretch.
The Blair Witch Project was essentially three people who didn’t know how to hold a camera wandering around in the woods for 80 minutes, with 1 minute of actually feeling creeped out.
Plus, of course, an extreme close-up of someone’s snot.
Yet somehow it made … **checks notes** … almost $250 million??? What the?
I actually met one of the producers of Blair Witch in college, and commended him for not selling out. To which his response was, “I’m ready to sell out.” I think he’s maybe still trying?
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later — 1998
When you make a sequel where “20 Years Later” is literally part of the title, what are you really trying to do here?
And yet, not unlike many a horror film before it, this movie is somehow packed with talent like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michelle Williams. There’s also Josh Hartnett … which kind of actually moved this right into cheese territory.
What’s cool about this movie is how it takes the entire franchise in a totally new and unpredictable direction … is what I’d say if it wasn’t a poor rehash of the original but with short-hair Jamie Lee Curtis.
Still, even with all that cheese, this is actually probably the best of all the Halloween sequels—which still puts it way, way behind the original.
Bride of Chucky — 1998
The good news for John Ritter fans is that his legacy will forever be enshrined in this absolutely bonkers movie.
I mean, I really can’t imagine writing the script for this—essentially, crazy lady wants to put her serial killer boyfriend’s soul into Chucky, fails, wants to marry Chucky instead, so Chucky kills her, and her soul ends up in a doll of its own.
And that’s really just scratching the surface—all culminating in the birth, yes the birth, of a murderous baby doll.
I’ll admit that Bride of Chucky does get self-referential, becoming aware of itself in a way that’s a sort of self-parody, but that does little to take away from the cheese factor.
This is quintessential ‘90s horror viewing.
I Know What You Did Last Summer — 1997
Scream is probably the best mainstream horror movie of the ‘90s, which explains why it spawned this much-less fun and cheeseball of a film.
Following the success of Scream, the same screenwriter was tapped for this loose adaptation of a 1973 novel of the same name, a few of the biggest teen actors of the day were tranquilized and flown in (at least I assume so), and the movie was rushed into production.
Where Scream featured smart, witty writing, self-reference, true suspense, and fun twists, I Know What You Did Last Summer didn’t have any of those things. But, in a way, that’s what makes it great—it’s just good ol’ fashion slasher cheesiness.
I’m particularly fond of the scene where Sarah Michelle Geller, aka Helen Shivers, is trying to stop her friend from getting hooked to death in the middle of a beauty pageant. And while she’s screaming for help the audience just sort of blankly stares at her and actually stops her from helping.
Magnifiqué. **chef’s hand emoji**
Spawn — 1997
I sort of debated whether Spawn really belongs on a list of horror movies, and then I remembered that the entire premise has to do with a dude literally going to hell.
I guess some producers got in a room and just said to themselves, “What would happen if we made a movie from that weird comic from that weird toymaker dude?” And well, this is what you get.
Spawn feels like they gave a bunch of students millions of dollars to create whatever CGI felt right to them, and then extended that long enough to call it a feature-length film. And the CGI totally does not stand up to the standards of today, making it all the more fun to watch today.
If you’re up for an ultraviolent action movie that also features John Leguizamo as a demonic clown, well, this is your movie.
The Faculty — 1998
Oh hey, another movie starring Josh Hartnett … and written by Kevin Willamson … and from the late ‘90s … this means something—specifically that Scream really set off a litany of studios just greenlighting whatever the hell they could that vaguely resembled it in any way.
But, The Faculty actually had something none of the other Scream-wannabes had: director Robert Rodriguez. Yep, the same dude that wrote and directed Spy Kids (and I guess a few other things) brought this whacky story about alien parasites infecting a school to life.
Rodriguez always brings a certain sense of campiness and humor to his films, and this one’s no different. So while the movie is fraught with plenty of corniness, there’s also a sense that the director really doesn’t give a crap whether it’s cheesy. And that actually makes this one worth a rewatch.
The Craft — 1996
This movie finally answers the age-old question: What happens when a group of teenage girls finds out witchcraft is real in the most ‘90s ways possible?
The answer, my friends, is one of the most awesomely of its time cheeseball horror movies ever made.
Seriously, just try to tell me you didn’t play “light as a feather, stiff as a board” after watching this movie. Of course you did.
The surprise success of this film (albeit moderate) foretold what would come with Scream and the entire horror genre for the rest of the ‘90s—Neve Campbell and Skeet Ulrich even star. So, in other words, you sort of have The Craft to thank for most of the movies on this list.
In my opinion, that’s not a bad thing.
Lake Placid — 1999
Let’s play another round of “James imagines how this movie was pitched”, shall we?
My best guess is that one night a bunch of Hollywood types were all out to dinner, a few drinks deep, and then suddenly someone blurts out: “What if we make Jaws, but, like, not good?”
And thus, Lake Placid was born.
Like Jaws, this movie is based around a creature that’s acquired a taste for humans but is rarely actually seen. Which is good, because when you do see it? Well …
Knowing where film technology was in 1999 doesn’t help.
So the next time you’re in the mood for Jaws but don’t want to actually feel anything, pull this bad boy up. And sure, go ahead and throw Anaconda in there, which I refuse to take the time to write about.
Vampires — 1999
If I had left John Carpenter off this list, I’d probably be hunted down by some sort of creature—and rightfully so. And no, Halloween H2O doesn’t count—they tried to get him for it, but get this: he was too expensive.
When a movie’s protagonist is not only a vampire hunter, but his name is Jack Crow, you know you’re in for something special. According to Rotten Tomatoes, this movie is simply “Nothing but one showdown after another.” To which I reply: Yeah, exactly.
This movie is badass and cheesy as hell at the same time. That’s actually hard to do—but easy to watch.
These movies were either too good, too intentionally campy, or just not good enough to make the list, but still worthy of a shoutout. What else should I add?
- Tales from the Hood
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Army of Darkness