Coat your hot chocolate in marshmallows, turn off the big light and cosy yourself down. We have entered the spooky season, and oh baby, what an era we’re here to celebrate.
Our top 10 list of '70s horror flicks:
10. The Exorcist (1973)
How can I not start with one of the most famous exploitation films of all time? The Exorcist was the first-ever horror film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Although, the cast would prefer to call the film ‘a mystery of faith’, which is fair since many churches supported its making.
Yet, that didn’t stop the director, William Friedkin, from instilling horror in every viewer. He used subliminal sounds and images to build fear. For example, Friedkin cleverly used the sound of buzzing bees to infuse the viewer with the fight or flight feeling as the buzz is synonymous with danger.
Similarly, the dream sequence containing a flighting image of a white demonic face was not supposed to be detected by the viewer. Unfortunately for Friedkin, home movie editions of The Exorcist meant viewers could pause the film on their VCR player to reveal the hidden face.
Even if you do not have the guts to watch the gruesomeness of The Exorcist, researching the film can be entertaining enough. Every time I read about this film, I find new facts – from the cursed movie set to the brutality of the exorcist scene, this film is full of exciting and spooky trivia.
9. The Clockwork Orange (1972)
Around ten years ago, I became obsessed with The Clockwork Orange, learning the Nadsat language to read the book and watching the total terror of the film. Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of scenes I wish I had never seen, and Alex brought me chills that no other antagonist lead could beat. But the storyline left me thinking.
Unlike other horror films that terrorise my mind at night (I’m pointing at you Hereditary), The Clockwork Orange plays on my mind for another reason. It is a story about ethics. Alex is the most detestable person on the planet, but torturing him into behaving doesn’t make him good. As scary as Alex’s behaviour is, there is something even more horrifying about the power of the state.
8. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
With a name like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it may surprise you that the film is not that gory. In fact, the director Tobe Hooper even hoped for a PG rating by trying to put in as little blood as possible (ha ha). Yet, that didn’t stop BBFC from banning the film in England for years, and the original VHS tape became one of the most valuable tapes due to its explicit content.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was one of the most torturous movies filmed. Marilyn Burns, who played Sally Hardesty, has said that the ending scene of her deliriously laughing was partly her reaction to the filming finally ending. Burns had to endure days of acting in the Texas summer heat, a 25 hour-long shoot tied to a chair for the dining scene, another actor accidentally slicing her finger, and damaging her ankle after jumping out the second-floor window.
Her endurance was worth it. Texas Chainsaw Massacre introduced us to the final girl, slasher genre and the monstrous Leatherface.
7. Jaws (1975)
Sometimes I forget Jaws is a horror film. Possibly because of the high-end production and the vast number of people who have seen the movie. But here it is on my list, and I thoroughly recommend this film even if horror is not your thing.
Jaws is Steven Spielberg’s second film and his first-ever blockbuster. An undeniably impressive record, Spielberg’s Jaws was not only a Hollywood blockbuster but also the first-ever movie released in cinemas during summer to gain high box office numbers successfully. But this did not come without its tribulations. The robotic shark built to be ‘Jaws’ constantly broke down in the water and cost a lot of time and money during filming. In the end, Spielberg had to adapt his scenes using the footage he could obtain. He took a ‘Hitchcockian’ approach to film the sea monster by hiding the shark from the audience to build suspense and fear.
6. Carrie (1976)
One would think Carrie is a horror story based on the suppression of the supernatural. But this film touches on something a tad bit too sinister – the idealisation of a ‘pure’ woman. The opening of Carrie lulls you into an idyllic, steamy, and an unsettling continuous shot of a girls’ locker room. The dreamy scene entices the voyeur, only to be disrupted by the vulgarity of Carrie’s period.
Throughout this film, the audience is constantly sympathetic to Carrie – her mother is an exaggerated and aggressive Christian. Whereas the girls in the school are utterly detestable, their behaviour towards Carrie is uncomfortable to watch. The famous prom scene leaves me cringing in my seat as I know what is to come. Thankfully, the climax of this film is unlike any other horror film, as Carrie’s murderous spree will leave you smiling.
5. Suspiria (1977)
If Carrie felt like a lucid dream, then Suspiria is a vivid nightmare. Suspiria, a fairy-tale inspired murder mystery, is the heralded star of the Giallo genre (an Italian horror and thriller subgenre). Dario Argento creates a unique horror style as thrumming electronic synth music scores the intense murder scenes.
Argento used technicolour film to produce the overbearing colour of red that heats each scene with a dizzying uneasiness. It was the last film to use the archaic and expensive film, and soon after, technicolour production stopped. You can thank Walt Disney’s terrifying Snow White for inspiring Argento to use technicolour film when filming Suspiria. The printed three-piece colours produce a bold and saturated pigment that many American and British horrors of the time avoided.
The result is a distorted and uncanny world that only adds to the uneasiness of what is hiding behind the dance school in Suspiria.
4. Halloween (1978)
Ah, the original Halloween. A tantalising slow-burner slasher film that introduces us to the silent, stalking and seemingly invincible Michael Myers. With Halloween Kills currently in the cinemas, it is difficult to ignore this film franchise.
Now, the timeline of Halloween is a convoluted mess with differing storylines. So before watching the 2021 prequel, it may be of use to watch the original again and remind yourself that Laurie (the female protagonist) was not always Myer’s sister in the story.
3. Alien (1979)
Ridley Scott’s science-fiction horror film shows us how B-rated monster movies can become cult classics. The fictional world explores space adventure as a blue-collared trip to gather alien eggs for a corporation.
Along with Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, Alien presents us with a story where the woman survives. However, at first, Dan O’Bannon wrote the script for an all-male cast. After criticism that the leading role seemed too plain, he adapted the part for a woman instead.
Thankfully, the casting of Sigourney Weaver meant every woman finally had a kick-ass lead to adorn.
2. The Omen (1976)
Three lightning strikes, a plane crash, a decapitation from a car crash, and a death by a tiger are all events that happened whilst making this movie.
Much like The Exorcist, I’m not sure what is more interesting about The Omen: the film or the making of the film. Some have suggested the devil itself cursed the making of The Omen, and others suggest wild coincidences. I’m not one to speculate – but my clothes airer did dramatically break whilst researching this film…
Initially, film studios did not want to make The Omen. That was until Richard Donner came upon the script and saw the potential inside. He saw the film as a supernatural thriller rather than a horror with “cheesy cloven hoofs and devils”. Rosemary’s Baby influenced Donner’s adaptation of the script and what followed was a story of untimely deaths and a nauseous feeling that a darker force is behind the tragedies.
1. The Wicker Man (1973)
Alright, this is possible one of the funniest openings to a horror film I have ever watched. The Wicker Man is a British folk horror that reminds us to stay in our lane - and away from cultish islands. The absurd characters and accompanying folk music is a bizarre watch. One that weirdly reminds me of watching Monty Python.
The film owes its success to Christopher Lee. He actively took it upon himself to promote the movie and personally called film critics to persuade them to come to the premier. As a result, what was supposed to be a flop is now one of the highest-rated British horrors in history.
However, The Wicker Man was not to everyone’s taste. Rod Stewart tried to have the film banned because his girlfriend, Britt Ekland, had a scene in the movie where she danced nude!