In its continuing effort to distance itself from the masked psycho killers of the 80s, the 1990s kept trying to explore futuristic fear by blending elements of horror with big sci-fi themes for a new millennium. The results usually just left me feeling disconnected from the situations and characters (especially when that shit took place on a spaceship). Anyway, here are four examples of the 1990s messing with the horror genre.
NAKED LUNCH (1991)
Cronenberg goes gay! It’s a psycho (homo)sexual literary sci-fi horror bug movie based on the life and fiction of author William S. Burroughs!
Peter Weller plays an exterminator who dreamed of being a writer. When his wife starts getting high with his insecticide, shit gets insane. Peter himself begins hallucinating that he’s some sort of agent and scores a typewriter…that happens to be a big bug with a mouth that looks like a speaking anus.
There are plenty of bugs in various shapes and sizes as Peter goes on a trippy journey. While the bugs may make you squirm, this movie is just a speculative mind fuck and not a horror movie.
It’s also really gay in a self-loathing way. Here are the big gay facts. Peter goes to a gay bar and some guy asks him if he’s a faggot because he has a friend who specializes in sexual ambivalence. That friend is a human-sized bug. Peter’s bug typewriter tells him homosexuality is the best cover an agent ever had, makes Peter type those words, and then pretty much has a mouth anus orgasm as it says they are words to live by.
When Peter encounters Julian Sands after a blackout, Julian calls him queer and informs him he was with three boys during that time. Peter admits he’s gay, calling it a family curse and saying they’re all perverts. He recounts feeling subhuman and says he wanted to “destroy himself,” until a wise old queen convinced him to proudly let the world see what he was. Peter eventually wakes up in bed with a young hottie and kisses him on the head. Soon after, that hottie gets butt fucked in the most heinous scene in the film. Julian Sands has turned into a giant centipede, and the two of them are together in a big cage as Julian pretty much tears into the guy’s face and body. WTF?
Meanwhile, Peter has a wife, who, through the trippy plot, he gets the opportunity to kill twice. When he begins to have sexual relations with the second version of her, a half-human/half bug thing crawls on top of her and she begins fingering its butt.
And to top it all off (so to speak), a butch, dominant woman at the end of the film tears her body in half—to reveal Roy Scheider inside, acting all prissy and femme.
It’s really the ultimate subject matter for a David Cronenberg film….
GHOST IN THE MACHINE (1993)
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before—a killer is traveling through the electric wires. It would be a shocker if you couldn’t think of at least one film with that plot.
There’s this serial killer who works in a computer store. He decides to target Karen Allen and her son but on the way to their house, he gets into a car accident. During testing at the hospital, lighting strikes, and the dude’s mind gets sucked into the electric lines. Pretty soon, people are being offed left and right by household appliances.
Along with really bad 90s hip hop and house music, Ghost in the Machine has Chris Mulkey (Grimm’s dad) as a detective, a babysitter flashing her tits to the pre-pubescent boys she’s watching, a dog getting horny from watching another dog on TV, an uber gruesome microwave kill, a virtual reality game attack at an arcade (virtual reality was so expected to be the wave of the near future back then), and a final battle in which the killer becomes a cheesy computer graphic hologram.
This might be a forgettable piece of 90s crap, but the style of the suspended tension leading up to the kills seems to have been completely ripped off for the Final Destination movies.
PROJECT: METALBEAST (1995)
The cool, modern werewolves of The Howling, Bad Moon, and Dog Soldiers go Terminator.
In this odd little sci-fi horror flick, the government infiltrates a castle to extract blood from a werewolf that lives within. This is good news, because we get an immediate, awesome werewolf attack! A CIA agent injects himself with the blood, turns werewolf, and rips apart a few people…and then Barry Bostwick, who’s calling the shots, has him cryogenically frozen for 20 years.
The freezing part adds little to the point of this movie, but whatever. The specimen is defrosted, and Barry, hoping to create a military killing machine, has his scientists create artificial skin armor for the dude. After loads of experimenting and dialogue, the dude finally turns into a metal-plated werewolf and gives us the lycanthropic thrills we were waiting for as he chases people around the lab building and kills them. Adding to the fun, we get two final girls battling the beast at the end.
It’s both easy to see why this film has been forgotten…and why those who’ve seen it probably remember it. Monster man Kane Hodder plays the werewolf.
ALIEN SPECIES (1996)
The cheesy fun creature feature aspects of Alien Species are watered down by an attempt to make the movie much more epic than it can afford to be. Two wannabe astrologists monitoring outer space notice something approaching the planet. A big spaceship beams up a cow and a few random people then blows up a farm. Now, these are special effects from a time when computers were just starting to be forced to handle the brunt work of movie magic, so the spaceship sequences kind of look only a step up from the 1980s mini-series V.
Then we get to the better part of the movie. A prisoner transport truck stops to help some citizens stranded on the side of the road. Soon after picking them up, the transport truck gets into an accident! With no help in sight, the group takes shelter in a cave…that happens to house the aliens and their glowing eggs. This part serves as watchable direct-to-video b-movie crap with an 80s vibe: the rubber alien suits are awesome; the set is dark and menacing; the characters are the perfect blend of annoying and likeable; and the alien attacks are vicious. The only thing ruining the suspense is the hokey action movie soundtrack that accompanies many of the alien monster scenes and spoils any possibility of suspense and scares—they should’ve gone for a horror score. Not to mention, the side story, which concerns big cities under attack by spaceships, needed to go. But, this was the year of Independence Day, so they were trying to cash-in, I guess.