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The Forgotten '90s "Residential" Horror Movies

Written by R.J. MacReady

I'm not sure anyone has coined the phrase "Residential" horror before now, but it feels right to me. These are movies that the '90s specialized in. Films that are basically made-for-TV movies, but they're elevated by the actors involved. All of them are worth checking out if you get a chance to see them.

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Pacific Heights (1990)

This was the first time I'd ever seen Michael Keaton play a villain.(I'd consider Beetlejuice more of an anti-hero.) But in this flick, he's all bad. When Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffith buy an apartment building to rent out, they get one tenant who's worse than anything they could imagine. A fun little flick featuring a small role for the legendary Mako, with an extended cameo by Beverly D'Angelo. It was directed by Midnight Cowboy and Marathon Man's John Schlesinger, with a script by Daniel Pyne (Doc Hollywood, Any Given Sunday, The Sum of All Fears).

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Sleeping With the Enemy (1991)

There's talk of remaking this low-key thriller from Joseph Ruben, the director of Dreamscape and The Stepfather. Without Julia Roberts, this would definitely have fallen through the cracks, but with her it took in over $100 million at the box office back in '91. Based on a novel by Nancy Price and adapted by Ronald Bass, whose previous effort won him an Academy Award for the Rain Man screenplay, the movie is about an abused woman (Roberts) who fakes her own death to escape her nutcase husband. The husband is played by Patrick Bergen, who would disappear from major movies a few years after this, but he milks this role for all its worth.

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Deceived (1991)

While not a bomb at the box office (it made $29 million on a meager $4.3 million budget), this one slipped past most people on its release. Starring Goldie Hawn as a wife whose husband – played with a vermin-like menace by veteran actor John Heard – dies, and she begins to discover he was not the man she believed he was. Besides the solid performances by the main actors, this features a score by the excellent Thomas Newman, who you might be surprised to learn scored ALL of the following movies: Revenge of the Nerds, Desperately Seeking Susan, Real Genius, Gung Ho, The Lost Boys, Scent of a Woman, The Shawshank Redemption, Wall-E, Skyfall and about 100 other movies. Yeah, I know, right?

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The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992)

If Rebecca DeMornay wasn't on your radar after Risky Business – and I'm not sure how THAT'S possible – then this movie definitely put her there. She'd had a smaller role in Ron Howard's hit movie Backdraft the year before this, but it was Cradle that rejuvenated her career and showed she had range as a villain. Populated with some other great actors like Annabella Sciora, Matt McCoy, Ernie Hudson, Julianne Moore and John DeLancie, this movie would feel like a made-for-TV flick if it weren't for the star power wielded by Oscar-winning director Curtis Hanson (LA Confidential, 8 Mile).

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Whispers In the Dark (1992)

This one is probably my favorite from this list. A twisty, twisted little tale of sex and murder featuring a sexy Annabella Sciorra and an even sexier Deborah Kara Unger. Add in an interesting performance by Alan Alda and a standout role for John Leguziamo, and a script that never goes where you think it will, and you've got a winner. Leguziamo in particular really shows he's got some acting chops here in a very serious role as a disturbed patient of psychiatrist Sciorra. This one's the first to check out if you're thinking about searching for any of these.

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Single White Female (1992)

Bridget Fonda began her ascent into stardom with this film, and then continued to dominate with Singles and Point of No Return (as well as the cameo in Army of Darkness, but that movie didn't make bank at the box office). Jennifer Jason Leigh showed she could do more than be the cute nice girl next door, and she's an actress you have to commend for taking on roles in horror movies back when actresses didn't want to do them. From the phenomenal The Hitcher to Dolores Claiborne and Existenz, she's shown that she's willing to take on any role she's interested in. Fonda plays a girl who takes on a roommate to make ends meet, and it turns out her new roomie is insane and tries to take over her life. I'm kind of surprised it doesn't start with a "Based on a True Story" credit. And you probably don't even remember that Steven Weber and Stephen Tobolowsky are in it.

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Unlawful Entry (1992)

Perrenial star Kurt Russell plays a man who moves into a new house with his wife (played by a hot Madeleine Stowe). When their house is broken into and their next-door neighbor cop intervenes, they befriend the man who then basically goes off the rails into obsession. And nobody goes off the rails quite like Ray Liotta does. A fun little minimalist thriller that belongs on television, except Kurt Russel stopped doing TV movies ten years prior.

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The Crush (1993)

The flick where we all said, "Who is that cute girl hitting on the dude from The Princess Bride"? And soon we'd all find out as she turned into a major star with follow-ups Hideaway and Clueless. Cary Elwes plays a writer who befriends a fourteen-year-old girl, not realizing that she's obsessed with him. When he finally rejects her advances, the script goes into slightly-unbelievable territory as she begins to sabotage his life. Writer/director Alan Shapiro, having done nothing but television movies before this, directs it competently if a little safe.

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How about it? You remember any of these? Have any others you'd add to the list?

About The Author
Rj Macready Staff
Staff Writer
RJ MacReady digs horror movies, even though his first memory of horror films is watching the first Friday the 13th movie while a bear mauled his family in the other room. He admits that most of his bio is as fake as his moniker, but witness protection won't let him use his real name.
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