By AJ Taysom
The 1970s were a great time for horror movies. I’m sure there are a list of nine or so definitive 70s horror flicks that ought to make it on a “greatest hits” of the decade list: this is not that list. What I’ve tried to make here is a list of a few movies I think represent the horror scene in the 1970s; some are popular, some are obscure, but all are movies you should watch for one reason or another. They are in no particular order. Enjoy!
9. Deep Red
I easily could have just included all of the movies Dario Argento made in the 70s and called it good. Argento spent most of the decade making balls crazy movies like Suspiria and Deep Red. I chose Deep Red because it has an awesome plot (with a great twist), some of my favorite Argento kills, a great color scheme, and a spooky doll. All that paired with paired with the intense soundtrack by rock band Goblin, and you’re in for a good time.
8. Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires
Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires is one of Peter Cushing’s most unique movies. That says a lot, seeing how the guy made his career pretending to kill vampires. This time, Van Hellsing finds himself in China in search of a legendary tribe of vampires who are kidnapping members of a small town. Nobody believes him at first (boy, are they wrong) so he teams up with seven Kung-Fu warrior brothers (and their one sister) to battle the vampires. That’s right: it’s a Kung Fu horror movie. It feels a little more horror than Kung Fu since it was directed by a westerner, but it has some legitimately creepy sequences along with some impressive martial arts moments. How many times have you seen a Kung Fu horror movie? Probably not many times, which makes me sad. It’s a sub-genre I wish was bigger, because it turns out that Van Hellsing battling Kung-Fu vampires battling Chinese warriors is awesome. The movie as a whole is worth a watch even if it has some problems here and there, one of the largest being that out of all of the interesting characters onscreen they chose the least interesting one to be our protagonist: Van Hellsing’s son. He’s sort of like a young Indiana Jones except with a British accent and instead of a whip he kind of just…dodges things and rolls around on the ground a lot. Just pretend he’s not there and it’s a great movie.
You’ve probably seen this movie and you probably like it. If you haven’t, then totally check it out. Not much to say about Alien except that it really takes it’s time to get scary, and has some of the best payoffs in the history of the genre. Movies like Krampus and Mad Max: Fury Road have been excellent examples in the last few years of the returning trend of practical effects; there’s no doubt Alien served as a blueprint on how to implement these effects for great scares. Now go play Alien: Isolation.
6. The Abominable Dr. Phibes
The Abominable Dr. Phibes stars Vincent Price as an evil scientist seeking revenge on the doctors who failed to save his wife after a fatal crash. I think it’s the best work Price has ever done. He’s in his element here. The movie is theatrical and full of camp. Dr. Phibes ceremoniously takes down his foes one by one in extremely creative (and downright hilarious) ways that mimic the plagues in the bible. As an odd side note, it seems like the Saw movies borrowed pretty heavily from the different traps and murder weapons used by Dr. Phibes, they just took out all of the humor and added pig masks and a dark green and grey color pallet.
This movie is weird as hell. I don’t want to describe the plot, I don’t want to describe the characters, and I don’t want to try and tell you why it’s good. I just want you to watch it. Giving you too much more info than that will ruin your experience. Because that’s what this movie is: an experience. It hails from Japan and might be one of the strangest movies I’ve ever seen: it watches like a live action anime and follows absolutely no logic. It’s kind of like a Haunted House movie but…not. A haunted piano devours a teenage girl. That’s all I have to say. Just, yeah. Watch it.
As a whole Magic isn’t the best movie; it’s slow and some of the scares fall flat. It’s here because it has what I think is some of Anthony Hopkins’ best work. It’s also a creepy doll movie pre-Childs Play that elects to take more of a psychological route as opposed to a supernatural one. This choice pays off. Hopkins plays a Ventriloquist with some sort of personality disorder struggling to make it big. Of course, it’s his doll (or is it him?) that gets in the way. It prefers to take it’s time in places, but really ends up being worth your time just because of the work Hopkins does here.
Jaws is undoubtedly a blockbuster movie before it’s a horror movie. That being said I was also terrified of swimming after I saw it, so I’m counting it. This movie holds an important place in horror film history: its 1975 release all but put a stop to Roger Corman’s crazy successful B-Movie model It’s also one of the more grounded entries on the list: Jaws is about more than sharks; it’s a story about manhood and conquering your fears, and what both of those things actually mean as opposed to what they are supposed to mean. It’s another one of those popular entries you may have seen, but it’s worth a mention especially for its significant impact on horror history.
2. The Grandmother
David Lynch really came into his own in the 80s and 90s. Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet changed the game for the midnight movie and the psychological thriller. He made a lot of weird, awesome stuff. The Grandmother is his 1970 short film about a little boy who plants and grows a grandmother. It’s weird and (if you can believe it) is more Avant-Garde than a lot of his later works. Some impressive gothic cinematography only serves to highlight the non verbal performances of the cast of four. It’s definitely not his best, but it’s more than worth a watch if you are a fan of David Lynch or just need something weird and almost nonsensical playing in the background at your next Halloween party.
1. The Baby
This movie is about a grown man whose family treats him like a baby. He lays in a crib. He has his diaper changed. He is breastfed by his babysitter. It’s probably the weirdest movie on this list, and at times it seems like it was maybe supposed to be more of an inspirational story than a horror one. But it ends up being horror, through and through. The fact that this movie is rated PG is proof to me that the rating system is bullshit and shouldn’t exist because they have no idea what is actually appropriate for someone to sit through. Watch it, don’t watch it, either is fine. This is probably the only one on the list I can’t recommend with a straight face and an honest heart. I included it because you really won’t see anything else like it out there, and I think it represents pretty well the sleazy, strange, midnight movie side of 1970s horror.
Comment below with your thoughts on the list! Stay tuned for another list, in the same vein, about the 1960s.