The ’90s was a Golden Age for children driven horror. Where the ’70s and ’80s had gory slashers galore, cutting down helpless teens one by one, the ’90s seemed to bring horror to a broader, younger, audience.
Think about it. What were some of the most memorable shows or literary works from the 90s that you can recall?
Zane Whitener shared a video on his YouTube channel analyzing the horror trend that swept the big and small screens of the ’90s. Prior to the video, I never gave much thought to where my love for horror began. It now seems that it can be traced back to the enormous load of children driven horror goodies of the ’90s.
Late ’80s to Mid-90s
The ’80s had Scooby Doo in the forefront of childhood favorites. Besides the crime solving gang, not much else seemed to incorporate horror into the story line. While Scooby Doo gave us some memorable moments in television history, it was very tamed.
As a ’90s baby, I also remember being excited for the Scholastic Book Fair at school. Like a kid in a candy store, endless aisles of books bombarded our eyes. My love for reading definitely began in those rooms. Distinctly, I remember always being drawn to the covers of R.L Stine’s Goosebumps.
The covers always stood out from the rest with saturated hues and vibrant details that fit the era perfectly. Most of the subject matter in the books, however, was far from bubbly and colorful. Eventually, R.L Stine created the Fear Street series as well.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, the three-book series, brought macabre imagery to whimsically haunting children’s stories. Each short was paired with an equally frightening illustration, and while most of the stories were never truly frightening, The “Scary Stories” books were actually the number one most frequently challenged books from 1990-1999, according to the American Library Association.
This can be attributed largely to the beautiful images created by Alvin Schwartz. Scary Stories is also being turned into a film with Guillermo del Toro tied to the producer chair, which begins shooting in Canada in a few days.
The television recreation of the Goosebumps series brought a completely new meaning to children’s horror. While some of the episodes were upsetting or too frightening for viewers, this deemed horror viable to big TV networks.
Nickelodeon’s anthology series Are You Afraid of the Dark? was unlike anything on TV at the time. With the show following a group of kids called “The Midnight Society,” each episode played out as a storytelling. This formula kept loyal viewers coming back for more while enticing curious eyes.
A special shout-out should also be given to the forgotten Eerie, Indiana, which featured the future Max Dennison actor from Hocus Pocus. Consider it the kids version of Twink Peaks.
1993 brought the creation of Hocus Pocus, Disney’s bubbly, pre-teen, alternative to the nightmare inducing 1990 film The Witches. While both of the films did poorly in the box office, they gained momentum once released on home video and have cultivated huge fan bases.
Cartoon shows like Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, BeetleJuice, and Tales from the Crypt, showed how horror was not only fun for adults. By the mid-90s, horror made its way to Saturday morning cartoons officially injecting Halloween into the masses.
While the end of the 90s brought us the new millennium, it also brought us closer to the end of the golden era.
Late ’90s into the early 2000s
1999 was the age of Courage. Cartoon Network’s beloved doggo, Courage the Cowardly Dog, brought us some truly horrifying characters. Like the infamous floating head or the psychotic barber, the show always emphasized moral values and courage above all.
2002 marked the end for our favorite schizophrenic dog and the reign of horror targeted to young adults and children. Whitener marked this the official end of the sub-genre’s prominence. While there is no exact reason for this sudden change, the tragedies of 9/11 could be to blame.
What are your thoughts of the ’90s seen as the golden age of children’s horror? Would you agree? Disagree? Did you have any favorite show, movie or children’s horror book from the ’90s? Sound off in the comments down below.