Twenty years on, E.J. Moreno looks at the five most iconic horror films of 1999…
The horror genre twenty years ago is a much different beast than it is now. Not regarding quality, as there are good and bad films in any year, but the way the studios handle the genre and how viewers digest the movies. Two of the films featured in this article are in the top grossing films of 1999, where not a single horror film made it into the top ten highest grossing of 2018. Even with numbers like that, horror was in a rough spot with audiences; this is post-Scream where slashers are over, and the genre is barely pumping out original pieces. Now you have arthouse horrors like Suspiria or Hereditary, a new Blumhouse film or three, and the next James Wan ghost film. There’s something fresh for everyone, but sadly 1999 didn’t have a vast selection of offerings. But there are a few films that stick out and stood the test of time.
For this piece, I want to focus on five horror films from 1999 — five films that defined how horror looked and felt in the year, but also movies that impact the genre still to this day. While it pains me to not include a film like Deep Blue Sea on this list, that did nothing but prove a shark movie is nearly impossible to perfect.
In 1999, Sleepy Hollow was another Tim Burton/Johnny Depp film; a duo that seemingly couldn’t lose at this time. Looking back at the film now, it was the end of an era as the pair would never recapture the magic they made in the ’90s. Sleepy Hollow features Johnny Depp as a new take on Ichabod Crane, with Christina Ricci, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, and Christopher Lee filling out the supporting cast. Everything about the film feels far more grounded than the usual Tim Burton film, breathing new life to the original story and changing it up for the director.
This adaptation of the classic Washington Irving short story divides critics as some didn’t like the liberties Burton took with the source material and others enjoying another deep dive into the mind of the kooky director. I expect a very similar reaction to this when Burton’s Dumbo movie hits theaters in March. Many things have changed for Tim Burton, but there are some things the filmmaker can’t shake away.
Action and horror go hand-in-hand. Think of 2018’s Upgrade, a seamless blend of action and horror. But in 1999, the prime example of these two genres mixing was the dark adventure film The Mummy. Laugh all you want, but this reimaging of the classic 1932 film stormed box-offices while winning over some critics. Equal parts hilarious and horrifying, the film brilliantly works with the campiness instead of fighting it. If anything, The Mummy made Brendan Fraser’s career and turned Rachel Weisz into an international movie star so we can be happy with that.
What helps support the overall impact of ’99s The Mummy is the horrid misfire of the 2017 version. All of the campy magic from the Brendan Fraser was lost on Tom Cruise, making the remake feel more like a chore than the adventure. Sometimes you capture lightning in a bottle, and that’s impossible to recreate. Let’s hope Universal’s next attempt at this franchise feels more like a 90’s romp than a soulless blockbuster.
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