Human beings are indeed a particularly peculiar bunch. No other species derives pleasure from fear quite like we do. And the horror movie genre is solid proof of this fact. And with that being said, we’ve decided to take a look back at the greatest horror movies ever made, year by year – starting from 1970 to [insert current year here]. Why start at 1970? Well, because… that’s just what was decided upon, okay?
Horror movies of the ‘70s reflected the grim mood of the decade. After the optimism of the ‘60s, with its sexual and cultural revolutions, and the moon landings, the seventies were something of a disappointment. By 1970, the party was over; the Beatles split, Janis and Jimi died, and in many senses it was downhill all the way from there: Nixon, Nam, oil strikes, glam rock, medallions and feather haircuts. However, when society goes bad, horror films get good, and the ‘70s marked a return to the big budget, respectable horror film, dealing with contemporary societal issues, addressing genuine psychological fears.
We’ll eventually make our way through the entire decade but, for now, this is the 15 Best Horror Movies Of 1970.
15. I Drink Your Blood (1970)
Director: David E. Durston
Stars: Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury, Jadin Wong, Rhonda Fultz, George Patterson
A gang of satanic hippies raise hell in a small town. After beating up an old man and terrorizing his granddaughter, the young grandson gets revenge by injecting blood from a rabid dog into meat pies and passing them onto the traveling band of multi cultural devil worshippers. Consuming the contaminated pies causes the group to become rabid, raving maniacs who then run around killing and spreading the contagion to others.
Energetic, sloppy and extremely watchable (especially if you’re sitting down with a bong and/or beer), I Drink Your Blood is true-blue camp all the way. Plus it’s vicious, violent, and frequently fall-down funny. Clearly created with a grindhouse-style audience in mind, IDYB doesn’t worry too much about the quality of what’s onscreen, but the quantity of outrageous madness it can pull off before the end credits hit the screen. Frankly, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a gang of Satanist hippies massacre a house full of rats before chowing down on rabid dog meat and flying into a mega-murderous rage.
14. Equinox (1970)
Directors: Jack Woods, Mark Thomas McGee
Stars: Edward Connell, Barbara Hewitt, Frank Bonner, Robin Christopher
A group of young friends drive to a dilapidated cabin deep in the woods thinking they’re going to have a good time. The place is empty, but while there they do discover an ancient Book of the Dead, a work of demonology filled with rites and spells and bizarre symbols written in a strange language. A now-missing professor had been studying the book and his notes reveal that he’d accidentally summoned a couple demons he could not control. Well, it seems the demons are still around and one by one they torment, possess and destroy each of the youngsters. In the end only one of them gets away… almost.
Indeed, it has been stated that Equinox was a big influence on Sam Raimi’s first Evil Dead film. Both films were low budget pictures produced by young friends and feature demons, an ancient book, hand-crafted special effects, and a cast of young characters going out into the middle of nowhere for kicks. The main difference is, while Dead was a splatter flick, with more than a couple of legit scares, Equinox is more like a typical ‘50s fun monster movie, with lots of forced perspective shots of the monster rampaging around the forest and desert and such. It’s great.
13. The Wizard Of Gore (1970)
Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Stars: Ray Sager, Judy Cler, Wayne Ratay, Phil Laurenson
Montag the Magnificent is a great magician who is able to saw girls in half and shove swords down their throats and never harm them in the least. That is, until the volunteers leave the theater and suddenly drop dead in the same method as the trick they were involved in. A local television host and her boyfriend catch on to what is happening after Montag’s shows and try to put a stop to it all.
There’s plenty to love with this flick: It is terrific fun to watch Montag ham it up on the stage and listen to his bizarre rantings on reality and the nature of make believe. There are sufficient animal innards sloshing about the screen to satisfy gorehounds and the tricks on stage are quite well executed (the woman who cops an ice pick through the head looks like a very rubbery dummy but Montag makes up for it by pulling out her brains with great glee). Directed by the “Godfather of Gore,” Herschell Gordon Lewis, The Wizard Of Gore has everything you’d come to expect from the filmmaker. Please disregard the recent remake…
12. Scream And Scream Again (1970)
Director: Gordon Hessler
Stars: Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Judy Huxtable
A runner collapses mid-run and wakes to find his legs have been amputated, a killer is on the loose in London and women keep showing up dead and drained of their blood, while in Eastern Europe, a leader in an unidentified totalitarian state continually kills his superiors in order to rise in ranks and keep his secret operation in action. While these events all seem unconnected, it is not long before their worlds begin to collide. When British detectives find themselves hot on the trail of the mysterious killer ravishing London, he leads them to a Dr. Browning and the mystery slowly begins to unravel.
Scream And Scream Again is a bit of an oddity but highly watchable nevertheless – we get dismembered body parts, gallows humour, nudity (well, that dodgy “naked young woman on a mortuary slab” nudity) and an essential cast. If you want a slightly mad, fast-paced, seventies mystery with outbursts of violent horror and a screeching car chase, here it is.
11. Hatchet For The Honeymoon (1970)
Director: Mario Bava
Stars: Stephen Forsyth, Dagmar Lassander, Laura Betti, Femi Benussi
Hatchet For The Honeymoon (aka Blood Brides) is about a series of murders committed by a good looking but impotent man who owns a bridal shop. Alienated from his wife because of his failure to consummate the marriage, he kills women dressed in his bridal gowns. He disposes of the bodies in an incinerator. The police suspect him, but have no evidence. After he eventually kills his shrewish but wealthy wife, in a twist, she becomes the ghost that wont leave.
In an exquisite inversion of the common ghost-story trope, his undead wife is visible to everyone but John, whose side she never leaves. Let’s see him try courting or picking up brides to butcher for his intracranial murder investigation now! It isn’t just that being cock-blocked (or cleaver-blocked, for that matter) from beyond the grave is really annoying, either. Given the importance with which Harrington has invested his crimes, it stands to reason that being unable to carry them out in his accustomed manner is going to make him sloppy. And sloppy is the one thing that a serial killer absolutely cannot afford to be.
10. Girly (1970)
Director: Freddie Francis
Stars: Michael Bryant, Ursula Howells, Pat Heywood, Howard Trevor, Vanessa Howard
Girly (aka Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly) is a bloodless, fully dressed, sober good time (quite the rarity in the genre). A group of adults play house like children, taking the roles of the mother, the nanny, the younger brother, and the kid sister. Sonny and Girly, the twenty-something children of the family, are sent out into the world by Mumsy and Nanny to find playmate friends to bring back home. This involves going out to public parks to find homeless and/or drunk men and inviting them home for dinner and play time. Once the men arrive at the home they are forced to play along with the family’s games and rules. They are treated as a new child in the house. Those that break the rules get cut… in pieces. [Insert evil laugh].
This whimsical black-comedy horror movie comes off like a live action version of a children’s book written by Marquis de Sade. None of the characters have real names. They’re all given random nicknames such as “Soldier”, “Friend in Number 5” and “New Friend”. The latter is responsible for introducing his own style of “games” that destroys this tight knit clan of playful murderers.
9. Mark Of The Devil (1970)
Directors: Michael Armstrong, Adrian Hoven
Stars: Herbert Lom, Udo Kier, Olivera Katarina, Reggie Nalder
In 18th century Austria, a mean-ass witch-hunter rules his local jurisdiction with a hateful, iron fist. Anyone he deems a witch is tried as one and then executed, and any local girl that catches his eye is likely to be imprisoned, tortured, and raped beforehand. And the most horrifying for this town is that he isn’t even the grand inquisitor; that would be Lord Cumberland, a witch-hunter with the approval of the crown who’s coming to take over. Cumberland proves to be every bit as ruthless as his predecessor, and his behavior is so alarming that his apprentice, a local gentleman, eventually rebels against his master after falling in love with a girl who is wrongly sentenced to the stake.
In a movie filled with them, some of the toughest moments to watch involve a young blonde accused of having the devil’s baby, even though she contends the child was the result of a rape by a church official. She is subjected to horrifying and awful tortures, such as being whipped, being stretched on the rack, being beaten and cut; when she’s sentenced to death for not telling the truth (at one point she confesses but they think she’s lying), the defeated woman praises the Lord for his mercy, but he first has her tongue cut out as a final indignity before being burnt at the stake.
8. Count Yorga, Vampire (1970)
Director: Bob Kelljan
Stars: Robert Quarry, Roger Perry, Michael Murphy, Michael Macready
A modern-day vampire moves to Los Angeles and begins recruiting attractive females to join his coven. The vampire faces a problem when two of his apprentices are missed by their boyfriends.
What separated Count Yorga from Christopher Lee’s Hammer Dracula films released around the same time (films we’ll get to in a moment) were that all of the Hammer Dracula films up to 1970 had been period pieces and Count Yorga was set in modern times. What makes this so remarkable is that, in its aftermath, a veritable deluge of vampire flicks with contemporary settings were made, extending all the way up to the present day – even the comparatively staid Hammer Dracula series had jumped on the bandwagon by 1972. It’s enough to make you really wonder why the idea never really crossed anyone’s mind before. Maybe the industry just needed a good movie to copy…
7. Scars Of Dracula (1970)
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Stars: Christopher Lee, Dennis Waterman, Jenny Hanley, Christopher Matthews
Castle Dracula is burned after local villagers gather their courage to march on the shadowy bastion. Returning home, the villagers discover the women have been butchered by Dracula’s flock of giant bats. Meanwhile, a young man named Paul, chased by the Burgomaster for a sexual tryst with his daughter, finds himself a guest at Dracula’s home. Paul’s brother, Simon and his lady friend, Sarah, go looking for Paul and soon discover his fate. The couple then must combat the evil of Dracula and free the village forever.
Here, several notable moments are taken directly from Bram Stoker’s original novel – such as the sight of Dracula scaling his castle walls as well as his dominion over animals, preferably bats. The opening of the film shows just how distasteful it’s going to be when a huge bat revives Dracula by puking up blood on his ashes. Another scene shortly thereafter showcases a group of outsized vampire bats massacring a group of women hiding within a church whilst the menfolk lay waste to Dracula’s castle. This entry has its detractors, but is nonetheless a favorite among Hammer horror fans.
6. Taste The Blood Of Dracula (1970)
Director: Peter Sasdy
Stars: Christopher Lee, Geoffrey Keen, Gwen Watford, Linda Hayden
Three middle-aged distinguished gentlemen are searching for some excitement in their boring bourgeois lives and get in contact with one of Count Dracula’s servants, Lord Courtley. In a nightly ceremony, they restore the count to life. However, the three men killed Courtley and, in revenge, the count ensures that the gentlemen are killed one by one by their own children.
Taste The Blood Of Dracula is a dark and well made entry to Hammer’s Dracula series. Much more violent than its predecessors, the more graphic sanguinary spillage and skin definitely stands as a foreshadowing of things to come with Hammer, as this is the time period where the studio sought to catch up with other films of the era with increasingly explicit content. In this regard, it nails it.
5. Eugenie (1970)
Director: Jesús Franco
Stars: Maria Rohm, Marie Liljedahl, Jack Taylor, Christopher Lee
Eugenie is a young, innocent girl invited to stay the weekend on the island of Madame Marie-Anne de St. Ange. On arrival she discovers that Marie-Anne’s step-brother Mirvel is also there and he admits to having lusted after Eugenie over the past year.
After bathing and sunning themselves in the garden the women return to the house for lunch where Eugenie is drugged and Mirvel proceeds to have his way with her and Marie-Anne. Later when Eugenie awakes, Marie-Anne puts the memories down to a dream-like desire. That evening she is drugged again and the red suited Dolmance along with various Sadean followers in period dress arrive, subjecting Eugenie to a sadistic whipping but she awakens with no wounds and again is told she was dreaming. However, Eugenie’s enrollment into the world of Sadism has just begun and when Dolmance returns, his punishment will be real…
4. The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970)
Director: Dario Argento
Stars: Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Enrico Maria Salerno, Eva Renzi
In his debut feature, Dario Argento explores traits, themes and concepts now commonly associated with his blood-soaked body of film work: fetishised depictions of violence and death, identity, gender, Freudian psychoanalysis, paranoia, voyeurism and spectatorship; all played out in the “stranger abroad” story of an American writer who witnesses an attempted murder in an art gallery in Rome. When he begins his own investigation he unwittingly draws the killer’s attention and must recall a vital clue distorted by memory before his own life is taken.
Visually, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is a marvelous intersection of the skills of director Argento and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. The attractive Cromoscope visuals make use of strong compositions emphasizing sinister shadows and menacing silhouettes, but the style is less German expressionism than it is Italian fetishism. The plot and characters arguably come second to the style and atmosphere, but the script, loosely adapted from Fredric Brown’s novel The Screaming Mimi, seductively uncoils as a truly engrossing murder mystery.
3. The Vampire Lovers (1970)
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Stars: Ingrid Pitt, Pippa Steel, Madeline Smith, Peter Cushing
Based on Sheridan Le Fanu’s pre-Dracula vampire story Carmilla, The Vampire Lovers became the first of a very loose trilogy surrounding the immortal and evil Karnstein clan and their young and voluptuous daughter, Mircalla, alternately known as Carmilla or Marcilla, depending on what guise she feels like going under that day. She uses her feminine and underworldly wiles to get what she truly wants: nubile young women that she preys upon slowly, having them fall deeper and deeper under her sapphic spell. She’s a lesbian, is what we’re trying to say, but she has no compunctions about wooing stupid men in order to get them out of the way of her prizes.
With this premise in place, The Vampire Lovers naturally has some very sexy and hot lesbian action. While it is never graphic nor exploitative in this department, it is certainly very tantalizing. Mircalla biting her victim on her breast instead of her neck is a very proactive twist on vampirism. Another cool twist is when we see Mircalla take the form of a cat. This gives it a nice feminine twist as opposed to the uglier bat usually associated with bloodsuckers in these films.
2. Multiple Maniacs (1970)
Director: John Waters
Stars: Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole
The traveling sideshow “Lady Divine’s Cavalcade of Perversions” is actually a front for a group of psychotic kidnappers, with Lady Divine herself the most vicious and depraved of all – but her life changes after she gets raped by a fifteen-foot lobster. Prepare for insanity.
When most people think of John Waters and his exercises in bad taste, the immediate reaction is to turn to Pink Flamingos as his shock masterpiece. Look a little harder, though, and you’ll find Multiple Maniacs. While Pink Flamingos is a little dated in its shock value (aside from it’s infamous ending), Multiple Maniacs never fails to get a reaction. Watching this flick in the age of PC cautiousness and shrill conservatism is both thrilling and disturbing. If the sacrilegious extremes don’t make you squirm, the campy rape humor might, not to mention the deeply uncomfortable note of watching a drag superstar salivate over murdering cops. But if you take the film’s badass lunacy seriously enough to be outraged then you’re at the wrong movie.
1. Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders (1970)
Director: Jaromil Jires
Stars: Jaroslava Schallerová, Helena Anýzová, Petr Kopriva, Jirí Prýmek
Young Valerie lives with her grandmother. She feels the first stirring of sexual awareness when a carnival parade comes to town and a man presents her with a pair of magic earrings. When her fantasy adventures begin, the line between dreams and reality is blurred.
A work of both visceral immediacy and lingering allure, Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders is a uniquely influential film, one of intoxicating sensation and unconscious immersion – and one, for that matter, often recognized and referenced more than actually seen. Based on a novel by the poet Vítezslav Nezval, the film paints its portrait of a young girl’s sexual awakening in highly allegorical strokes, through a mix of gothic imagery, folkloric cues, and mythic conceits. If you aren’t too anxious about decoding what it all means, you’re likely to be quite entranced.
Let us know your favorite horror film of the year in the comment section below.