My video store career started at the end of the 80s, and I spent most of the 90s working both there and at a bookstore part time to pay my way through college to eventually get my master’s degree (I was on the 10-year plan…). I can now say in hindsight that while our store’s horror section was about as thorough as it gets from the 80s backwards, my boss barely scratched the surface of getting in the more obscure titles released throughout the 90s, because there are still many that I’ve never even heard of let alone seen. That includes these six I’ve finally discovered.
I BOUGHT A VAMPIRE MOTORCYCLE (1990)
This film is everything you could hope for from a movie with this title.
An occult ritual in the woods goes horribly wrong when a biker gang interrupts and blood ends up in the gas tank of a motorcycle.
The motorcycle lands in the hands of a regular everyday guy, but immediately causes trouble for him. His friend who helps him work on it turns up dead. The motorcycle steers him right into a game of chicken with the biker gang. He begins to have horrific nightmares. And his motorcycle begins killing people.
With the biker gang an imminent threat and constantly on his tail, he has to figure out how to avoid them while getting his motorcycle exorcised…by C-fricking Anthony Daniels-3PO.
There’s gore, goofy comedy, and wacky demonic motorcycle scenes leading up to the final exorcism segment.
My favorite part is totally when the vampire motorcycle busts into a hospital to wreak havoc.
THE BORROWER (1991)
You would never guess that this film comes from the director of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. That film is so not my kind of horror so I don’t remember a thing about it, having seen it only once when it first came out on video back in the day.
The Borrower, on the other hand, is totally my type of trash, especially since it was released in 1991…but filmed in 1988! Wahoo! Everything about it, from the clothes to the music, makes it so clear that it was.
A big alien bug informs another alien, already in the form of a man, that it is being sent down to earth for punishment for being a bad bad bug.
Two rednecks are unfortunate enough to witness its arrival on earth. The alien’s human body totally deforms and his head explodes. So, he does what he needs to do to attach a new head to his body.
And that’s the plot. This alien hangs out in the sleaziest part of a city swapping heads whenever one is about to expire, and the gore is just splatastic.
Rae Dawn Chong is the tough, street smart detective on the case, a lot of this movie takes place in alleys and a hospital, and there are some precious mess-ups. For instance, the alien swaps out a Black guy’s head one time…yet when he’s done putting it on the white body he’s had the whole time, the body is now black too. And then there’s the big question of how the surviving redneck from the beginning is suddenly locked up in a prison in the urban jungle.
Highlights include a horny nurse walking in on what she thinks is the man she’s hot for, as well as a heavy metal band rockin’ out in a house when the alien, now merged with a dog, busts through the gate and attacks. Awesome.
AUNTIE LEE’S MEAT PIES (1992)
The director of this film mostly did adult films, however, he managed to get Karen Black as the crazy aunt, Pat Morita of Happy Days and Karate Kid fame as the sheriff, and horror icon Michael Berryman to star in Aunt Lee’s Meat Pies.
The exploitation kicks right in, with a crazy dude killing a priest and raping a young girl…before she takes care of him and brings him home to auntie to bake into her pies.
Eventually, this film gets crazy backwoods weird fun, but the 100-minute length really kills the pace early on after a few enticing exploitation scenes. I guess if you’re into sexy girls there’s something to look at, but the typical cannibal family plot doesn’t offer anything interesting or new before we finally get to the, um, meat of the movie.
Auntie and the girls have a dinner party for a bunch of rocker dudes who have no idea what they’re in for. You’d think when the ladies roll out a high chair with a full grown young woman in it acting like a baby the boys would get the hint that they’re in backwoods trouble, but they’re too hot for the girls to be concerned.
And then the boys split off with each girl and enter trippy themed rooms drenched in neon, like a baby’s room and a big snake room. And naturally, the girls seduce them into total vulnerability for the kill.
It’s interesting to have Karen Black playing the matriarch role, because I’d almost guess this movie was Rob Zombie’s inspiration for having her play a similar role in House of 1000 Corpses. This sort of feels like a campy, sexy version of that kind of film.
The set is also a very familiar house. I probably have at least four films in my movie collection that were shot at this location.
This is such a bizarre mixture of genres that it fails on all fronts I would imagine. I mean, I can’t exactly speak on the Western front, but as for the horror perspective, I’ll make this quick because it’s just not worth the time.
A group of people in the Old West—a priest, a prostitute, a couple, a member of the Donner party, etc.—is led by an old man to a mine with the promise of a fortune in gold.
We get tons of boring character development. They dig in the mine. They desecrate a burial ground in the process. They release angry Native American spirits. They hang a guy. They start turning on each other. There’s a shootout at the end.
The most interesting horror in this film comes from some nightmare sequences involving occult rituals. They look low budget, but they’re still effectively creepy.
FUNNY MAN (1994)
Funny Man only landed on my radar in recent months when I decided I had to finish what my late brother started—when I acquired his Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing horror films, it triggered the obsessive completist in me, and I had to fill in the blanks, getting any horror films either or both actors appeared in that weren’t in my own collection yet or the collection I inherited from my brother.
Turns out Christopher Lee is in this film for less than five minutes, but I am overjoyed to have discovered it and have it in my collection for the sheer 90s nostalgia. I’ve seen a whole lot of “worst movie ever” reviews online, which is dumbfounding to me. This is a film that should appeal to anyone who grew up not only on 80s Euro horror trash, but all the crappy, campy 90s slashers that came our way soon after, like Leprechaun, Rumpelstiltskin, The Dentist, Ice Cream Man, Dr. Giggles, etc.
Funny Man fits in perfectly with that bunch. This “horror comedy” is barely even stupid funny, is trippy as fuck, is gory, is not scary, and we barely care about any victims. You know…perfect 90s horror.
The story involves a music producer playing poker with Christopher Lee, a mysterious man who raises the stakes by betting his mansion. Big surprise, the music producer wins the game.
He goes to see the mansion with his family, and this film immediately gets points for having Funny Man kill the most unexpected first victim first. Oh, and the second victim? The most unexpected second victim.
Meanwhile, the music producer’s brother arrives with a bus load of people (no, I don’t understand it), including some sort of voodoo priestess who senses Funny Man’s existence, and a woman named Thelma who looks like a cosplay Velma from Scooby Doo.
The group immediately splits up and this becomes a fun house of what-the-fuckery. Funny Man gets so much joy out of killing off victims in bizarre, acid trip settings in a variety of gruesome ways. While his humor and the slapstick setups may seem really bad, they perfectly capture the spirit of the old Punch and Judy puppet shows, which are even mocked within the movie. The whole film exudes the old school vibe of this type of comedy, and for that reason alone, Christopher Lee, who spent most of his horror career doing period pieces, is the ideal iconic cameo for the movie.
Don’t expect any of it to make any sense, and if you can score a copy of the Blu-ray set from Wicked-Vision (region free), make sure to check out the original short film in the bonus features. It was the basis for the full-length movie and is much more a traditional horror film in which Funny Man is fucking creepy.
THE DAY OF THE BEAST (1995)
This is actually a Christmas horror movie of sorts…because a priest is trying to prevent the anti-Christ from being born on the 25th. Therefore, it’s landing on the holiday horror page.
To do so, he has to become a total sinner, so he begins doing bad stuff. He also teams up with a heavy metal dude to kidnap an occult reality TV celebrity and beat him until he gives them all the specifics on how to perform a necessary ritual to prevent the coming of the anti-Christ.
This movie is definitely zany and brought to mind other horror flicks of the 90s like Cemetery Man and Dead Alive, but despite all the campy violence, I just wasn’t as enamored by it as many seem to be. It seems to me that if something finds its way to Shudder as this one has, everyone just automatically decides it’s a great movie.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s fun. It’s humorous at times. But it also drags quite a bit.
However, it is totally worth a watch, especially for the moment when they eventually have to contend with a horned beast in front of old school 1990s green screen.