The 1990s were responsible for bringing us some amazing things, like DVDs, Google and the World Wide Web, creations that would be used and built upon to this day. On the television front, the new “too cool for school” attitude brought upon within the 80s zeitgeist had matured, and those who grew up with it as children were becoming preteens and teenagers. With the rising popularity of MTV and a large part of media hoping to appeal to the budding market, studios started to fixate on what they deemed as a big seller to the hip young crowd — grossing them out.
There is something to be said for the art of well-crafted and creative gross-out scenes, ones that exist to service the story often with detailed practical effects. Scenes such as these can be viewed years after and still be appreciated, mostly choosing to place their stomach-churning focus on gore, rather than other traditional disgusting subjects. Needless grossness, moments or characters that seem to serve no outside purpose other than to make the audience wince, lay on the other end of the spectrum, fading into obscurity long after those who conceptualized them realize audiences don’t necessarily enjoy looking at something repulsive on a giant movie theater screen. Looking back on the 90s hit-or-miss collection of revolting comedies, let’s see which stand on their own as ones worth remembering, or ones better left in the trash.
7 Mars Attacks!
Being a box office bomb turned cult classic, Mars Attacks! never shies away from an opportunity to unsettle its viewer with creepy alien designs and effects. While the film never crosses the line too far into “gross” territory, there’s still enough violence and gore here to meet the mark. Watching the shockingly large star-studded cast be vaporized, melted, and experimented on by the uniquely designed Martians leads this comedy/thriller to find its home on this list quite well. Though Tim Burton’s alien invasion flick ends up ultimately confused in its direction and abysmal pacing, it’s nonetheless a fun and offbeat popcorn movie to sit down and gawk at with friends and Tom Jones fans alike.
Not very well-made or enjoyable to look at, what the punching bag of a comic book movie Spawn does have going for it is its array of poorly aged and disgusting visual effects, which can be categorized as some of the worst in movie history. It may not sound like a good feature, but having these scenes of unnervingly bad looking demon effects (and a weird floating John Leguizamo in a fat suit as a Satanic clown) helps land the movie into the more memorable category of forgotten failures. Though it isn’t meant to be a traditional “comedy,” the reception of the film following its release certainly would have one think its meant to incite laughter. To this day its creator continues making new attempts to bring a reboot into the light of day, despite its ongoing production struggles, and the franchise does have its fair share of fans who are looking forward to the potential return to the big-screen for their gritty, underworld antihero.
5 Critters 4
The fourth, and until 2019, final installment in the beloved comedy/horror franchise Critters, Critters 4 takes audiences to where most long-running horror film series go to die — space. While its predecessor Critters 3 was also released in the 90s, the unapologetically ridiculous and over-the-top plot and characters of the fourth installment place its enjoyment value quite a bit above the third’s. Featuring the destructive exploits of the murderous aliens known as “Critters” and how their final two eggs wreak havoc on a space exploration crew of the future, there’s plenty of violence and nauseatingly detailed alien effects to keep horror fans happy. The film also never tries to be something more than what everyone expects of it, a goofy, brutal, and fun cap on an often overlooked horror/comedy series.
4 Tammy and the T-Rex
Tammy and the T-Rex is a cult classic film of the 90s, following the story of a young Paul Walker and Denise Richard’s love. Walker’s character, after being left by bullies to be mauled by a lion at a wildlife park, gets his brain transplanted into the body of an animatronic T-Rex. The plot alone should be enough to catch the attention of most bad movie buffs, and with its main star spending most of the running time being a giant dinosaur, Tammy and the T-Rex makes sure it contains its fair share of gore. Originally meant to go even further into the realm of violence, the film had to trim out its more grotesque scenes to meet a PG-13 rating, however in years since has gotten a re-release containing the original R-rated scenes of blood-splattering grossness. Beloved by B-movie fans for its unorthodox and self-aware plot, there will always be a place for the graphic and violent pre-historic love story among the gross-out films of the 90s.
Yet another horror/comedy franchise that ultimately brings more laughs than scares, Leprechaun is a fantastically ridiculous and twisted romp that seems to only be upstaged in its off-the-wall kills by its sequels. While many entries of the franchise feature enjoyably obscene murders by the titular character, the original Leprechaun will always hold a special place for setting up the franchise on the right track. Warwick Davis hams it up as the lead, stealing the show with just enough of a wink to the audience that the whole thing is an absurd idea, with moments such as using a pogo stick to jump on and stab a man to death being a highlight (especially when claiming the victim will “bounce back” after mutilating his corpse). Horror fans owe it to themselves to take a look at this franchise, especially if they’re looking for their next gross, hilarious gore-fest.
2 Nothing But Trouble
Perhaps the most conceptually bizarre entry on this list, Nothing But Trouble exists as comedian/actor Dan Aykroyd’s one and only directorial outing, and it is the film which (at least nearly) destroyed his career. Making only $8.4 million of its initial $40 million budget back, the film was an absolute bomb in every way, which many chalked up to its nasty special effects and character designs. With a story very loosely based off of real-life experiences by Aykroyd, the film follows star Chevy Chase and crew as they find themselves held up in court within a small forgotten town for a traffic violation, only to find out that the judge along with many of the inhabitants are all deformed and malicious freaks. Constant gross-out scenes are showcased, seemingly hoping to make the audience laugh, though only serve in causing difficulties for viewers to hold back their lunch. Possibly one of the most disgusting escapades of the 90s, something about the film to this day feels otherworldly, and is such an implausible journey that it must be seen to be believed.
A movie that relishes in its own grossness, holding proudly above its head the steaming award for “Grossest Comedy of the 90s.” One couldn’t be blamed for not knowing of Freaked‘s existence; making less than $30,000 in the box office, it seemed as if practically nobody went to go see this movie. While other entries on this list may have deserved such a fate, the tragic truth for Alex Winter’s freakshow flick was that it actually managed to be a decently funny and enjoyable film. Characters are charming and likable, the jokes, while not all hitting home-runs, have a lot of punch and memorable laughs, and the plot is an easy-to-understand and fun set up for the antics that follow in Freaked.
Featuring an egotistical Hollywood star being turned into a disgustingly unrecognizable monstrosity by a disgruntled freakshow runner, he’s forced to make friends with the rest of the cavalcade of walking atrocities as they work together to plan their escape. Quick wit, good casting, self-aware jokes, and incredibly fun special effects make this hidden gem not only worth tuning in to for comedy fans, but for those who love to be just plain grossed out.
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