Happy Fortieth Anniversary to 10 Great Horror Films
The year 1977 was a good one for yours truly when it came to horror films, and in this article, I will give you 10 good examples as to why. I wasn’t quite old enough to flash a legitimate ID to get into R-rated movies that year but thankfully most of the older cinemas in my northern California town weren’t too strict about checking the age of paying clientele back then.
Here, in blood-curdling alphabetical order, are 10 films worth celebrating and revisiting this year.
The Car — “Is it a phantom, a demon, or the Devil himself?” asks the tagline for this shocker. Why settle for one cinematic trend when you can combine two? This Universal Studios effort mashed up the red-hot seventies trends of road movies and post-Exorcist possession films in a tale of an evil black car that terrorizes small-town Utah residents. The vehicle is pretty amazing: a 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III, customized by George Barris, who had previously designed the Batmobile for the Batman television series and the Munster Koach and the Drag-U-La for The Munsters, among many others. James Brolin and Ronny Cox star in this movie, a divisive flick that is both revered as a cult classic and widely panned.
Demon Seed — The trailer proclaims that artificially intelligent computer Proteus IV is “something more than human . . . More than a computer . . . It is a murderously intelligent, sensually self-programmed non-being!” This groovy, outré outing sees Julie Christie impregnated by Proteus, which just happened to be designed by husband Fritz Weaver. Dated but intriguing visuals add to the charm of this stylish, intelligent science fiction/horror outing.
Eraserhead — David Lynch’s feature film debut is still as enigmatic and challenging as it was when first released. Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) is an everyman placed in a decidedly nontraditional industrial setting, having to deal with his screaming, newborn mutated baby, a singing lady in a radiator, and a moving cooked chicken, among other bizarre occurrences.
The Hills Have Eyes — I saw Wes Craven’s shocker about a family attacked by murderous savages in the middle of nowhere exactly the way it was meant to be seen back in the day: at a drive-in theater on a Friday night. This truly frightening effort is one of the best horror films of its decade and it still holds up well today.
House (Hausu) — Nobuhiko Obayashi’s bizarre mind-blower is one of the most outrageous cinematic experiences ever committed to celluloid. Seven Japanese schoolgirls go to the house of one of the girl’s aunts, only to be attacked by the house itself, which is haunted. This movie needs to be seen with as little as possible known before going in, but I’ll give a teaser that a piano is only one of the ways of dying in this visually remarkable slice of zaniness.
The Incredible Melting Man — An astronaut returns to Earth, begins melting, and starts eating people. What more did I need to know as a creature-feature–loving teenager? Absolutely nothing. This film had me at its trailer and poster. It’s B-movie goodness — or badness, depending on your politics — that offers schlock with its shock.
Kingdom of the Spiders — Another perennial drive-in classic, this movie features William Shatner as a vet with the great name of Rack Hansen fighting off an invasion of migrating tarantulas. This was a part of the nature-run-amok films that were popular in the seventies. Other such titles from 1977 include Empire of the Ants, Day of the Animals, and . . .
The Pack — A tale of abandoned dogs that go from pets to predators. They form the titular group and their tastes for meat escalate from farm animals to humans. Some chilling attack scenes are reason enough to seek out this exciting effort, but solid direction, a thrilling story, and crackerjack performances from the likes of Joe Don Baker and R.G. Armstrong only sweeten the deal.
Suspiria — Legendary Italian director Dario Argento’s highly stylized supernatural shocker about a ballet school filled with deadly secrets is as gorgeous to look at today as it was on its initial release. Atmospheric and eerie, this horror classic is deservedly beloved by fright-fare fans young and old. If you haven’t already seen it, learn nothing more about it and seek it out as soon as possible.
The Sentinel — What an oddity this story about horror straight from Hell is! A divisive film that its main stars either malign or refuse to talk about, it is loaded with bizarre imagery and jaw-dropping moments. Cristina Raines and Chris Sarandon headline, but just look at this cast of supporting players: Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, Burgess Meredith, Beverly D’Angelo, Ava Gardner, Sylvia Miles, Tom Berenger, and Eli Wallach. A Brooklyn brownstone is the setting for loads of scares, gore, outlandish behavior, creepy tones, and more. This is another one to go into without spoilers.
Besides contributing to When It Was Cool, Joseph Perry also writes for the retro pop culture website That’s Not Current (thatsnotcurrent.com), the Gruesome Magazine horror movie website (gruesomemagazine.com), and several other print and online film critique and pop culture magazines.
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