Monday, March 31, 2014

Best Horror Films of the 1970's

Many refer to the 70's as the "golden age of horror," which is very hard to argue. We had huge blockbusters like "Jaws" and "The Exorcist," as well as under-the-radar gems like "Surpiria." All in all, it is a decade which produced many memorable horror films, so let's take a look at the 10 best that the 70's had to offer.

1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Truly one of the greatest horror films ever made, the original "Chainsaw" has been horrifying and disgusting audiences for 40 years now. The poster for this movie would absolutely be on the "Mount Rushmore" of horror films. The documentary style, gritty film making only add to the aura of this macabre tale. In reality, we see very little gore in this film, but the movie is so well done that you look back on it and think you witnessed an absolute blood bath. The first time we meet Leatherface is one of the most iconic and jaw-dropping scenes in the history of the genre. While making the movie, the cast suffered through brutally hot and disgusting conditions which really comes to life on screen. "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" completely re-invented the wheel when it comes to horror and shocking audiences.

2. Halloween (1978). The quintessential slasher film! John Carpenter's little independent movie would wind up creating an entire horror sub-genre and created one of horror's greatest characters in the babysitter-stalking Michael Myers. This movie is perfectly paced and brilliantly atmospheric. The simple musical theme, created by Carpenter himself, serves as a chilling backdrop as Myers stalks his victims. "Halloween" may not have been the first "slasher flick" but it absolutely perfected the formula and dished it up on a platter for many pretenders that would try to emulate the success of this timeless piece of horror gold.

3. The Exorcist (1973). The Exorcist is one of those movies that genuinely shocked people upon its release in 1973. This was extremely original and groundbreaking for its time as the idea of demonic possession had rarely been used in the horror genre. This film has more of an epic feel to it and was generally recognized as a classic movie regardless of genre (it was up for Best Picture in 1973). Obviously, the possession of a 12 year old girl served as the catalyst for all the controversy that would follow the movie's release. In this regard, "The Exorcist" can be very hard to watch considering the nature of its content which is ripe with anti-religious rhetoric. There is no doubt that "The Exorcist" is widely known as one of the most influential horror movies ever made and its impact has been well documented over the years.

4. Jaws (1975). Just how good were horror movies in the 1970's? Well "Jaws" is fourth on this list, and we are obviously looking at one of the great summer blockbuster films of all time! "Jaws" made each and every one of us scared of the water in some form or another. Some wouldn't swim in a lake or ocean, others wouldn't even go in a swimming pool or bathtub after seeing the great white shark terrorize the small, ocean community in the film. The crew had a hard time getting the shark to work throughout filming which wound up adding to the dread and suspense of the movie. You rarely get to see the actual shark which make it absolutely terrifying during the scenes when you do see it. The opening scene where the girl goes swimming in the ocean by herself at night is one of the great scenes in the history of horror. You see nothing but black, endless ocean in the distance and the audience winds up feeling like anything could be out there.

5. Dawn of the Dead (1978). The sequel to 1968's "Night of the Living Dead" took the zombie genre to new heights with "Dawn." Widely heralded as the essential zombie film, director George A. Romero shows us a world that is starting to be overtaken by the walking dead. A group of survivors trapped in a mall try to fend off the creatures as the film subtly makes societal statements about commerce and our unbridled desire to shop. Romero paints a perfect picture of a post-apocalyptic America and hints that the real horror may exist within the human race itself.

6. Carrie (1976). One of Stephen King's best film adaptations, "Carrie" is an extremely original and entertaining movie that probably deserves even more praise than it gets. The religious fanaticism that is exhibited by Carrie's mother, brilliantly and creepily played by Piper Laurie, serves as a tremendous backdrop for the haunting tone of the film. Laurie and the group of teenage girls who constantly tease Carrie portray the true villains in this movie, as we find ourselves cheering for Carrie to exact revenge on those who have wronged her.

7. The Omen (1976). In the 70's, we saw religion as a re-accuring theme for popular horror films. In "the Omen," a family finds that they have adopted the son of Satan himself who was played brilliantly by Harvey Stephens. And by brilliantly, I mean that the kid was creepy as could be and was perfectly cast as a child-demon. The babysitter hanging scene is still etched in many people's minds today as one of the most disturbingly shot scenes you will ever see.

8. Tourist Trap (1979). This is more of a fun, drive-in type horror movie but is vastly underrated all the same. A group of friends wind up stranded at a road-side museum where mannequins are coming to life and killing people. There is something about the feel of this movie that is wildly entertaining and impossible to turn away from. "Tourist Trap" would influence many similar films over the years like "House of Wax," "Rest Stop," and many more. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and dig up an old VHS copy (for effect only) and enjoy a forgotten piece of horror history.

9. Suspiria (1977). It's horrible things happening to people, but done in a beautiful way. This might best describe Italian director Dario Argento's  hypnotic masterpiece. "Suspiria" is one of those films that is not for everyone, but many horror fans appreciate the entrancing style and feel of the movie. Visually it is as stunning as anything you will ever see in horror and the soundtrack (provided by Goblin) is wonderfully strange and macabre. There is one infamous death scene in "Suspiria" that will likely cling to you for life should you ever happen upon a copy of this classic.

10. Black Christmas (1974). Given credit as the original slasher film, "Black Christmas" certainly provided a formula that would be  emulated countless times over the next 40 years. In "Black Christmas" a deranged killer begins stalking members of a college sorority. He kills them off one by one in true horror movie fashion, but the real surprise to this movie is that **SPOILER ALERT** the killer remains nameless and faceless throughout the film. This was a very gutsy decision by the film makers. As the slasher genre really began taking off in the late 70's, it was unheard of not to introduce a killer that would serve as the face of the franchise.

Honorable Mentions: The Wicker Man, Alice Sweet Alice, The Hills Have Eyes, Phantasm, The Last House on the Left, The Town the Dreaded Sundown, Alien.

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