Horror films became insanely popular in the 1970s and as such it has since become an incredible decade for the genre. Many classics were born: The Exorcist, John Carpenter’s Halloween, The Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Suspiria, Jaws, The Wicker Man, Dawn of the Dead… the list goes on. Much of the techniques and narratives used in these films inspired modern-day horror filmmakers, and producers are constantly mining the decade for remake material.
The 1970s was truly a golden era in horror cinema but sadly, it seems that each time a classic is born, another clever creation gets overlooked, slips through the cracks, and is eventually forgotten. This list covers some of those quirky diamonds in the rough that definitely deserve more attention. Whether you've seen them before or they're new to you, these strange and terrifying cinematic experiences should definitely be on your regular spooktacular watch list.
Author Ben Mears (David Soul) returns to his hometown Salem's Lot in New England to write a book centered around an old house with a dark past. He finds out the old spook house is now occupied for the first time in years, by a creepy antiques dealer (James Mason) with a mysterious partner no one has ever seen, named Mr. Barlow. The townsfolk begin suffering from nightmares, fatigue, anemia, and strange marks on their necks before finally dropping dead - only to rise from the grave with an insatiable appetite.
Tobe Hooper directs this Stephen King adaptation and it’s simply a must-see. No exceptions Never mind the fact it was actually a two-part TV miniseries, as it is far scarier than some modern-day, theatrically-released horror films.
Actors: David Soul, Bonnie Bedelia, Lew Ayres, Ed Flanders, Elisha Cook, + more
Initial Release: 1979
Directed by: Tobe Hooper
Marian (Karen Black) and David Rolf (Oliver Reed) take their kids and elderly aunt (Bette Davis) on a summer vacation in an enormous but rundown Victorian mansion in California. Oddly enough the owners have a single requirement for anyone staying in the house: They intend to leave their reclusive mother in her upstairs bedroom while the Rolfs are staying there, and ask that they leave meals outside her door but otherwise have no interactions with her whatsoever.
Strange things start happening around the house: accidents occur in the pool, Marian becomes obsessed with the house, and long dead plants start coming back to life.
Fans of The House of the Devil will certainly recognize the inspiration for that film in Burnt Offerings.
Actors: Bette Davis, Burgess Meredith, Oliver Reed, Karen Black, Dub Taylor, + more
Initial Release: 1976
Directed by: Dan Curtis
Magic is a psychological horror starring Anthony Hopkins as a magician and ventriloquist.
After flopping onstage, Corky (Hopkins) makes a comeback with a foul-mouthed dummy named Fats, who has his own agenda. Corky’s sanity begins to deteriorate as he loses control of Fats and the bodies start piling up. Fats begins to feel threatened when Corky’s reunion with his high school sweetheart threatens their dynamic duo.
Magic is exactly what it claims to be, a terrifying love story. It has so many great psychological elements and was originally well received at its release. It’s a shame it isn’t more widely known among fans of the genre today.
Actors: Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith, David Ogden Stiers, Ed Lauter, + more
Initial Release: 1978
Directed by: Richard Attenborough
#22 on The Best Movies About Magic
The Shout is definitely worth the watch for its intriguing premise alone. Alan Bates plays Charles Crossley, a mysterious traveling man who shows up on the doorstep of a happy couple and fully, inexplicably insinuates himself into their lives.
Crossley claims to have spent 18-years acquiring the magical powers of Australian aboriginals. Through black magic, Crossley is able to entrance anyone as long as he has one of their personal possessions. He also has the ability to produce a shout powerful enough to kill. The dark magic of the outback weaves itself into the fabric of reality for these ordinary residents of this once peaceful English village.
This film is based upon a short story by the equally overlooked weird author Robert Graves.
Actors: Tim Curry, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, Susannah York, Alan Bates, + more
Initial Release: 1978
Directed by: Jerzy Skolimowski