Six Lesser Known Horror Movies From The Seventies That Still Scare Me

Alright, Halloween is close, so I can really let these horror posts fly. Like this one about extreme French cinema. Or this one, about found footage. The ten days before Halloween is the one stretch of time where it seems to be okay to have horror tourette’s, like I do. I just walk into rooms and start yelling about horror films. Generally, people frown on this behavior, but not now. And I’m going to milk it.

Plus, with The Walking Dead having its strongest season yet (speaking of Season 3 of The Walking Dead, click here), horror is hitting its stride right now. And you know what decade I don’t talk about enough when it comes to horror? The seventies. The most defining decade for horror, and for some odd reason, I dance around it like some kind of woodland sprite. Well, not today, people. Put on your bell bottoms and get ready for some free love, because we are going back to the seventies. And no, this isn’t me having a flashback. Well, it might be actually, but go with it, or I might FREAK OUT, man!

Wake In Fright

They are so sweaty and drunk throughout the entirety of this film that, by the end, the viewer is puking in a bucket and needs a shower, too.

Wake In Fright is one of the weirdest films I have ever seen.  It is just getting some much-deserved hype now, as it was remastered this year. But if you have not seen (or heard of) this movie, you owe it to yourself to see it. It is slow at times, but well worth the ride. Here, have a sample, just to get the idea:

Since watching this film, I have become the two-up master. I can flip a coin like a true Aussie now. Not sure if this comment is racist. Genuinely hope not.

It is about a school teacher who ends up stranded in a rather brutal part of the outback, and the moral and mental degradation he experiences in his time there. It is a simple premise and shot on a shoestring budget, the thing that gets to me about the movie is you start feeling like you may be slipping too, by the end.  And let me tell you, you have experienced some WTF moments in movies before, no doubt, especially if you are fans of the stuff I like. But, understand, there is a moment that happens in this film that is so messed up, so unexpected, that I found myself saying “no way” out-loud. You need to understand the infrequency with which I talk to my TV to know just how exceptional that is.

Also, Donald Pleasance’s performance in this film sticks with you like bad meat. He is just so tapped. Yet he is the most evolved one our lead runs into, and it just sets in motion so many twisted events. Also a warning to animal lovers, there is a pretty long stretch in this film that features ‘roo hunting. This is from a time when animal treatment wasn’t as PETA’fied as it is today, so you may want to fast forward for that section. I had to. In hindsight, why this movie didn’t make it onto my list about “movies about madness” is beyond me, but I am actually glad it didn’t, because we all know how received that list was.

Let’s Scare Jessica To Death

Don’t let the font fool you. They used that font for every horror movie in the seventies intentionally to disarm people who were stoned.

I love this film. I love it. I know I have spoken of it before on here, and the outpouring of people who adored this movie rekindled my faith in humans.  Wait, this movie is about madness, too, huh? It is like I am secretly trying to make up for that other piece. Odd. But just like Wake In Fright, there is a claustrophobic air to this movie. Is Jessica going crazy (again, as is eluded by the movie), or is the phenomenon she is experiencing actually supernatural? It was the same question that is asked of the viewer of Lovely Molly, which I spoke about on Monday. But Jessica experienced it WAY before Molly, which is why she is on this list.

The thing I love about Let’s Scare Jessica To Death, and all seventies horror for that matter is, it all feels authentic to me. Like someone just turned a ratty, old camera on some weird goings-on. For me, all seventies horror movies play out like found footage horror from an age long past. And they always seem to ask more questions than they answer, which this movie does as well. A weird and  discomforting ending leaves you sitting there, as shaken and confused as Jessica. Madness makes strange bedfellows.

Play Misty For Me

This massage better come with a happy ending, you psycho.

Long before Clint Eastwood was talking to chairs (can we have a moment of silence for one of the great icons who is obviously past his prime), he was busting out, what I consider to be, the true precursor to all “Fatal Attraction” type of movies. Clint plays a badass radio DJ (back when being one of those would actually get you laid) with a fan who is just a little left-of-center. You know all those “manic pixie dream girls” you read so much about in film? Well, take away the words “dream” and “pixie”, and you have an idea what Clint was dealing with.

For any of us who have had someone who is a wee bit unstable fall for them, this movie is about as scary as it gets, because it is truly believable. Clint does nothing wrong, but Evelyn, played in unforgettable fashion by Jessica Walters, is just plain nuts. When you see a scene where a woman tries to kill herself in front of him for shock factor, and you RELATE to it, than you know your life has been far from normal. Regardless, this is a wonderfully creepy film. Also, talking to chairs or not, Eastwood is the f*cking man.

Um, another movie about madness, huh? People just ate a lot of LSD in the seventies and were scared of going crazy. I swear.

Don’t Look Now

Man, maybe if you didn’t hug that midget so hard, she wouldn’t kill you at the end of the movie.

And with one single picture caption, he spoiled the entire movie. He looked at the picture, deciding whether or not change it. Ultimately, he decided not to. Then the voice in his head reminded him that, just because it’s old, that doesn’t mean everyone has seen it. As he went to change it, he realized he was monologuing everything he was doing, out-loud. They hate concept pieces, reminded the voice inside his head. But this is not a concept piece, he reminded the voice that was trying to remind him. This is just me being f*cking crazy.

Wait, what movie was I talking about again?


Oh wait, wrong Martin….

A brilliant film just begging to be remade for modern audiences. Wow, I just sounded like a film-douche again. Sorry.

Have you noticed the horror that really speaks to me from the seventies is often horror that asks ambiguous questions of the viewer throughout? George Romero’s Martin is one such  film. We are never really sure if Martin is actually a vampire, or just a serial killer who is insane and THINKS he’s a vampire. It seems like a concept that would flounder quickly, but the gore is visceral, and Martin is an oddly-wounded creature, which seems to be a trait I relate to in my sociopaths.

I also would love to shove this movie into the gaping mouths of the Twilight Mom’s who have forever redefined what a vampire is, for the worst. Here, you want a vampire? I have a vampire for you. Make sure you leave your window unlocked. He likes to sneak in and watch you sleep.


Still a better look than duckface.

Dario Argento had an eye for horror unlike any director before him (and the only director who comes close to having his vision now is the brilliant Panos Cosmatos, who I suggest you follow here). His use of color, and his incredibly stylized brand of storytelling was, and still very much is, without equal. Some of his films have holes (get it, because people get stabbed?!), but there is something so visually compelling about his movies. And for me, none moreso than Suspiria.

Suspiria is the classic ” we enrolled in a ballet school run by witches” story. You know, you’ve heard it a million times before. Oh wait, no you haven’t, which is just why I love the film. That is a pretty high-concept idea, and in horror (and apparently, articles about madness) high-concept doesn’t always translate to “well-received” and/or “loved”. Also, barbed-wire scene. Yup, this scene always makes me cringe. Screw you, Saw. Argento did it first, and did it better.

Sorry this video is a copy of a copy of a copy, but I cringe less when I can’t tell what’s going on. 

Also, not that this is important, but Dario has a daughter. Her name is Asia Argento (whom you may remember from Land of the Dead, but you should remember from much better films like Boarding Gate) and the woman is pure, unadulterated sex. Sorry, I needed to say that. We had a sloppy breakup. My therapist told me writing about it would help. You remember my doctor, don’t you? Dr. Caligari? *Cue dramatic music…

That tattoo is the only angel I actually believe in.

And The Classics I Shouldn’t Need To Mention:

The Exorcist: No one can say it better than Trashcanman did in the comment thread of my article from Monday. Seriously.

Jaws: Come on, guys. Ofcourse I am scared of giant sharks. And Dreyfus’ “seventies” ego.

Texas Chainsaw: This one should be so obvious, I am not even writing out the full name of the movie.

I Spit On Your Last House Because Your Grave On The Left Has One Eye: You know, that one about the rape? With all the rape. And revenge. And stuff.

Yeah, that one.

I will now stab you in the eye, so you can wear a cool patch on the movie poster.

Hey, if you guys like screwed up crap like this, you should check out my site. It is like an opium den built by asthmatic nerds. Also, follow me on Twitter. When I reach 500 followers, I am releasing my sex tape with Samus from Metroid.  I promise it to be far more disturbing than any movie on this list.


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  1. 70’s movies are the best movies. Raise no objections. Also, you are kind of a bastard for listing movies that aren’t even available on Netflix (and one not in America at all). No, I take that back, it’s Netflix who are bastards for not being up to the standard of awesomeness. They have like 50 women in prison flicks on Instant but still don’t even have Thriller: A Cruel Picture. I guess they know where their priorities are.

  2. 70’s movies also have the worse editing ever. Whether it’s low budget stuff like “Dawn of the Dead”, or high profile stuff like “Taxi Driver”, make no mistake, those movies are a NIGHTMARE to watch if you’re a stickler for continuity between shots.

    You know why Rocky won best picture over Taxi Driver in 1977? Sly’s hair stays consistent throughout the entire movie, unlike Deniro’s.

  3. What works about most 70’s horror and thrillers is the fact that Hollywood was still somewhat gritty. The 80’s really brought in an awful lot of pop, flash, and sizzle to flicks — special effects grew a bit more evolved for mainstream films — but the 70’s kept that edge, and I think the films were more ‘grounded’ as a result.

    It’s also why I end up enjoying more foreign films these days than I do American releases. Countries like Korean and Thailand and some of the stuff coming out of European production companies have to be far more creative to push the envelope in ways of telling stories (especially thrillers) since they don’t have the kind of budget most average American releases get thrown at ’em. As a consequence, I think the experience is more entertaining.

  4. Mmmmm… Asia Argento. I forget which movie I first saw her in but I fell in love (just looked it up, 1998’s New Rose Hotel) I can’t tell you what the movie was about but she was naked in it and it was awesome).

  5. You left out “Halloween” in the list of obvious ones there at the end. I think that alone is a good reason never to follow you on Twitter.

    Other than that horrible mistake, I think the list is generally ok. I do wish you had listed “Black Christmas” from 1974. It is a perfect example of a 70s horror film that has an unsatisfying and somewhat confusing ending. Yet it’s stylish and tense and deserves to be on the list. Besides that, the director of that film went on to make it’s polar holiday opposite, “A Christmas Story” in the 80’s.

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