Things definitely take a turn toward improvement in the 90s. The stinky cheese stench of commercial abuse lingers, but is fading. Midnight movie nerds like Tim Burton and Joss Whedon are on the rise, exorcising and exercising their demons, as it were, and changing flow of the mainstream.
Waxwork II: Lost in Time - 1992
Written & Directed by Anthony Hickox
Featuring: Frankenstein's Monster, Ghosts, Aliens-but-definitely-not-"Aliens"-aliens, Zombies, Mr Hyde, Jack the Ripper & more
The first Waxwork was a pleasant surprise for me, but Waxwork II was an outright delight. While relying on an even more contrived framing device, the segments that made up the body of the film were even better tributes to beloved films, and the laugh-out-loud moments made it a rollicking good time.
Picking up immediately after the first movie, albeit with a new actress in the role of Sarah, the sequel wastes no time killing off her stepfather, courtesy of a zombie hand which escaped from the waxwork. She's blamed for the death and stands trial for murder. Having sent the homicidal hand down the garbage disposal, she's hard pressed to back up her story. Before the trial is finished, she and Mark return to his uncle's home to find some kind of Hail Mary play to prove her story. This leads them to a portal through time, and they spend most of the movie looking for evidence and fighting evil in various film tributes (mostly horror based) and trying to find their way back home. The homages here are more overt, and more on the nose than those in Waxwork, touching on Frankenstein, The Haunting, Alien, Legend and other sword & sorcery films, with brief trips through even more. As in the first, the effects range from surprisingly good to definitely not but that's okay, particularly for the kind of movie it is. Once again, we're treated to some fabulous character actors in the supporting cast including Bruce Campbell, Jeffery Combs, Marina Sirtis, Patrick Macnee, Juliet Mills and David frickin' Carradine, among others. Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun making this movie, and I had a hell of a lot of fun watching it.
The Nightmare Before Christmas - 1993
see link to make sense of writing team credits
Directed by Henry Selick
Featuring: a town full of monsters
Though commonly attributed to Tim Burton, he neither directed nor wrote the screenplay for the much beloved film. Burton wrote the short story upon which it was based. I find this curious, since it's regarded by many as the high point of his career. In my more esoteric moments, I might even wonder if this mightn't explain his creative flailing and repeated attempts to recapture something that was never fully his to begin with.
But I digress. Jack Skellington is the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, a kind of anthropomorphism of the Halloween spirit. Amid an existential crisis of sorts, he discovers that there are other towns, each representing other holidays, and sets his sights on taking over Christmas. He enlists all the citizens of Halloween Town, which represent all sorts of fearful images associated with the holiday, or just fear and weirdness. Jack himself is a skeleton. His beloved Sally is a patchwork girl (a la Frankenstein's monster). There are witches, corpses, demons, vampires, mummies and so on; taking many of the classic tropes under the "Universal Monsters" umbrella and mixing them in with all manner of spooky night-bumpers. Now, more than 20 years on, I feel that it's safe to say that this is not only a classic, but it's quite possibly the truest classic of all the monster mash-ups. It just now occurs to me that stop-motion animation doesn't age the same way that CGI does, assuring that the Nightmare Before Christmas will continue to look as fresh as the day it... died. Mwahaha ha ha ha ha haaaaaa....
Dollman vs Demonic Toys - 1993
I am aware that this is a thing that exists. It combines two other things that, surprisingly, also exist.
That is all.
Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II - 1993
Written by Wataru Mimura
Directed by Takao Okiwara
Featuring: Godzilla, Godzilla Jr, Rodan, Mechagodzilla & Mecha King Ghidorah
Despite the Roman numeral two in the title, Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II is not a sequel to 1974's Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla. It does, however, function as a sequel to 1991's completely senseless yet smashingly successful Godzilla vs King Ghidorah, so go fig. That's how Godzilla's intermittent and resettable continuity works.
The original Mechagodzilla was created by aliens and posed as Godzilla to lead their invasion plans. The new one was created (using technology salvaged from the Mecha King Ghidorah from the future) by the UN-backed G-Force to end the global threat posed by Godzilla. Don't worry, the most convoluted part of this film is when they refer back to GvKG.
A team of scientists is investigating a radioactive island where they discover a giant egg when Rodan shows up (called "Radon" here, which is evidently the monster's actual name, before Americans goofed it up). Godzilla arrives not long after and he and Rodan get into a pretty brutal fight while the scientists escape with the egg. Back in Tokyo, the egg eventually hatches, revealing not a pteranodon like Rodan as they expected, but a baby godzillasaurus reminiscent of the baby Godzilla known as Minilla from late 60s installments. Godzilla comes to Tokyo, apparently looking for the baby, but is confronted by Mechagodzilla. With the giant robot, they're able to get a couple electrified harpoons into Godzilla and take him down... until the energy starts to feedback and fry its own systems. With the "Baby" in their care, the scientists are able to study its anatomy and glean some insight into what went wrong before, and how they can bestter go about killing Godzilla. This, however, raises some ethical questions, both about how they're using Baby and what it would mean to kill Godzilla. This all culminates in a massive brawl between Godzilla and Mechagodzilla, thank heavens.
The final battle takes place in the city, which is awesome. The miniatures include skyscrapers and a sports arena which really gives some nice scale to the giants, to say nothing of the mass destruction. Sure, there are still some nonsensical story beats, but nothing near as bad as the completely ridiculous story in Godzilla vs King Ghidorah. I'm finally coming to accept that that's just another part of what makes a Godzilla movie a Godzilla movie.
Monster Force - 1994
Universal proves that it can exploit and devalue their monster legacy as well as anyone with this 13 episode animated series. A group of teens (plus Frankenstein's monster) team up to combat poorly animated versions of classic Universal Monsters and to keep the copyright active.
Monster Mash: The Movie - 1995
Written & Directed by Joel Cohen & Alec Sokolow
A low-budget musical based on that song you hate, written by the guys who wrote the Garfield movies and featuring that girl from some show and Jimmie "J.J." "Kid Dynamite" Walker.
As my sweet Grandma Frances would have said, "You figure it out."
The Creeps - 1997
Written by Benjamin Carr
Directed by Charles Band
Featuring: Mini-Dracula, Mini-Frankenstein's Monster, Mini-Mummy & Mini-Wolf Man
A mad scientist gathers first editions books to bring their characters to life. I haven't seen the movie, so I'm not clear on how that's "science." Anyway, he succeeds, but only partially. The characters he brings to life are Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Mummy and the Wolf Man, but they all turn out to be "mini" versions of each. You might remember this movie from the fierce Oscar competition of which it was a part.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer - 1997-2003
Created by Joss Whedon
Featuring: everything (except leprechauns)
In a category oft defined by low-budget fan-serving schlock, Buffy slays 'em all. At first glance it might be a little unfair to include a seven season show that trotted out a new monster on an episode-by-episode basis, but for a group of misfit high schoolers who evolved into a hell-beasty death squad comprised of a demon-fuelled slayer, a witch, a werewolf, a former demon, a vampire with benefits, and... Xander, I'd say they more than achieved the many-monsters-one-box spirit. As for the other creatures of the night and sometimes late afternoon, BtVS included countless vampires (I'm actually pretty sure that someone has counted them -- oh internet) including such Universal Monster homages as a skeezy rendition of Dracula himself, a Frankensteinian footballer, a hot Gothy werewolf, a hot Incan mummy, a Creature from the high school swim team, an Invisible Girl as well as two different kinds of zombies, and so, so, SO much more. Buffy is a milestone in TV history. Anyone who loves monsters and/or series television should have seen it at least twice by now.
I'm not going to list Angel separately as that would be redundant. There was less tribute paid to classic monsters in the series, and less overall variety altogether. That's not a dig. Angel did a really strong job of developing its own mythology and maintaining characters over longer, sustained story lines.
Archie's Weird Mysteries - 1999-2002
Archie and the Riverdale gang get involved in all kinds of mysteries, often with a supernatural theme. Vampires come to town, Veronica turns into a 50 foot woman, there are ghosts, aliens, a "glob," ghosts, mummies, time travel and ghosts. It's a clean-cut good time for all, and actually sounds less embarrassing than most monster mashing cartoons we'd seen up until now. Actually, it sounds a little like a watered-down Buffy. It was produced by DiC, so make that very watered down. There was also a comic based on the cartoon based on the comic.
The thrills continue with The Monster Mash-Ups - Part 6: the Twenty-Aughts!
Or you can catch up with the series, from the top with The Monster Mash-Ups - Part 1: the 1940s & 50s!