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Obscure Horror Movies from the 1970s You Should Know About

Updated July 13, 2020 14.6k votes 2.9k voters 134.8k views18 items

List RulesVote up the greatest or most intriguing overlooked titles.

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 (as evidenced by these '70s horror movies) 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 be on your regular spooktacular watch list.

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  • Deranged, also known as Deranged: The Confessions of a Necrophile, is based on the life of Ed Gein. Alan Ormsby and Jeff Gillen directed this cult classic that was released around the same time as Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which was also inspired by Gein. This may explain why the film was forgotten, given Chain Saw's reputation and popularity, but this little gem - which is far closer to an actual Gein biopic - is worth hunting down.


    The film follows Ezer Cobb, a mama’s boy raised to hate women who eventually develops an obsession with dead bodies. He refuses to accept his mother’s death and digs up her corpse, but he doesn’t stop there. He goes into full on home-makeover madness mode with the corpses of various women until upgrading to live material, taking the leap from necrophile to serial killer.

    • Actors: John Ratzenberger, Rory Calhoun, Roberts Blossom, Wolfman Jack, Leslie Carlson
    • Released: 1974
    • Directed by: Bob Clark, Alan Ormsby
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  • Jessica (Zohra Lampert) is released from an institution after suffering a mental breakdown. She is taken to a farm house on Brookfield Island, that her husband Duncan (Barton Heyman) recently purchased. They discover a drifter has been squatting in the house. The mysterious red-head played by Mariclare Costello, crawls out of the woodwork and secures herself an invite to stick around for awhile.

    Jessica begins seeing and hearing things but is worried her mental stability will be questioned if she confides in her husband or friend Woody (Kevin O’Conner). Jessica learns there’s a local legend of a vampire prowling the island and supernatural occurrences are happening at every turn. Jessica is left wondering if there are evil forces at work, or if her sanity is crumbling...again. 

    • Actors: Zohra Lampert, Barton Heyman, Alan Manson, Mariclare Costello, Gretchen Corbett
    • Released: 1971
    • Directed by: John D. Hancock
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    #67 of 111 The Best '70s Horror Movies#16 of 36 The Best Vampire Movies of the 1970s#40 of 61 The Scariest 1970s Horror Movies

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    Before The Craft, there was Stranger in Our House, aka Summer of Fear. Like it's '90s predecessor, this film mingles catty teens and witchcraft. But if that's not enough of a draw, consider that this is an early Wes Craven film starring proto-Scream Queen Linda Blair, only five years after her performance in The Exorcist

    Rachel (Blair) is excited to welcome her cousin Julia (Lee Purcell) into her home. She even offers to share her bedroom. But a series of sinister events including blotchy hives magically appearing all over Rachel’s face, lead her to believe Julia may be practicing black magic and out to take over her life.

    Much like 'Salem's Lot, the fact that Stranger in Our House was a made-for-TV film does not dwindle its power to terrify.

    • Actors: Fran Drescher, Linda Blair, Carol Lawrence, Macdonald Carey, Lee Purcell
    • Released: 1978
    • Directed by: Wes Craven
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  • 12

    Shivers

    Exploring deep-rooted fears of the human body and sexuality is a common theme in David Cronenberg’s work, and Shivers was the first of his signature “body horror” films. 
    After combining an aphrodisiac and venereal disease to create a parasitic creature, Dr. Emil Hobbes unleashes his bloodthirsty creation on society.

    Not nearly as widely seen as his breakout hit Scanners, nor even his second film Rabid, Shivers nonetheless deserves more attention than it gets, as it shows Cronenberg already primed for his Master of Horror status.

    • Actors: Barbara Steele, Joe Silver, Vlasta Vrána, Paul Hampton, Alan Migicovski
    • Released: 1975
    • Directed by: David Cronenberg
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    #277 of 552 The Best '70s Movies#532 of 715 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time#75 of 107 The Best Movies About Disease Outbreaks