Horror films in 1974 brought us killer ants, one of the few good horror musicals ever made, and a family that would love to have you for dinner… quite literally. 1975 brings us the directorial debut of David Cronenberg, hot female androids, and an even more iconic horror musical!
As we truck along with our year-by-year breakdown, we present to you the 15 Best Horror Films Of 1975.
15. Race With The Devil
Director: Jack Starrett
Stars: Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Swit, Lara Parker
Frank and Roger, along with their wives, head off on a vacation in Frank’s new RV. Spending the night at a secluded location, both Roger and Frank witness the death of a young girl, a sacrifice in a satanic ceremony. The four manage to escape after being attacked by a group of the satanists and go to the police. When the cops prove useless, the group decide to investigate a bit for themselves. After ignoring a warning, their lives are put in danger once more. They try to leave, but the devil worshippers aren’t about to let them escape alive.
Race With The Devil is a nice little occult road-movie gem. Decently paced and engaging. Of course you have to wait for more than an hour before the racing starts, but the climactic last 20 minutes more than makes up for it.
14. Satanico Pandemonium: La Sexorcista
Director: Gilberto Martínez Solares
Stars: Enrique Rocha, Cecilia Pezet, Delia Magaña, Clemencia Colin
Satanico Pandemonium is a Mexican-made “nunsploitation” flick that follows the career of one Sister Maria, a model of purity in her isolated community deep in the mountains of Mexico. But, one day, as she enjoys a stroll through God’s Green Earth she is intercepted by – horror – a naked man, who greets her by name. Shocked, she makes for a wayside shrine and hopes that a quick prayer will put things right, but unfortunately for Maria it looks as though this encounter is just the beginning of a lot of sordid goings-on. The same man soon approaches her again, albeit clothed this time, and offers her an apple (see what they’ve done there?) And so, her battle with sin begins. This includes seducing young shepherd boys, engaging in lesbianism and even murder!
While it’s certainly an obscure film, it has grown a substantial cult following over the years. It even served as inspiration for Salma Hayek’s character Satanico Pandemonium in the vampire classic From Dusk Till Dawn. It’s well shot, has good atmosphere, an effectively unsettling musical score and a strong female lead performance. Also, it is quite artistically done sleaze, so you can feel all highbrow while wallowing in filth.
13. Night Train Murders
Director: Aldo Lado
Stars: Flavio Bucci, Macha Méril, Gianfranco De Grassi, Marina Berti
Friends Margaret and Lisa are taking a train from Germany to Italy to visit Lisa’s parents for Christmas. A delay and a run-in with two thugs makes them change trains in the middle of their trip. The second train is far less crowded – but the thugs are still there and they’ve brought with them an equally sadistic woman who talks the boys into humiliating the girls. But the situation doesn’t turn out like any of them imagined.
Wes Craven’s debut shocker Last House On The Left was a horror zeitgeist in more ways than one. Not only did it usher in an age of grim, nihilistic horror, but it also spawned scores of imitators. Many of these imitators crafted their own “Last Houses”. Other films, however, were created then re-branded by distributors as direct sequels to Craven’s film (with Mario Bava’s Bay Of Blood being one famous example). L’Ultimo Treno Della Notte, similarly sports nearly a dozen titles, such as New House On The Left, Second House On The Left, and even Last House Part II. It’s most famously known as Night Train Murders, and is even more infamously known as one of the many Video Nasties that were banned from the UK.
12. The Killer Must Kill Again
Director: Aldo Lado
Stars: Flavio Bucci, Macha Méril, Gianfranco De Grassi, Marina Berti
Giorgio is a greedy adulterer who makes a deal with a serial killer to dispose of his wealthy wife, Nora. Unfortunately, a thrill-seeking young couple steal the killer’s car with Nora’s corpse in the trunk, ending up at a run-down seaside villa.
The Killer Must Kill Again is an untraditional murder mystery, as we are in on the plot and we know whom the killer is from the start. The source of suspense and interest here isn’t in who done it, but will they get away with it? Much in the way that Hitchcock makes the audience sympathize with Norman Bates’ plight in Psycho, the same trick is used here, but for the length of the entire film. Indeed, while most films of this time kept their killers off-screen until the denouement, here we have our murderer front and center from the get-go.
11. Lips Of Blood
Director: Jean Rollin
Stars: Jean-Loup Philippe, Annie Belle, Natalie Perrey, Martine Grimaud
Frédéric is haunted by a persistent dream in which he spends the night with a beautiful women in a white gown who lives in an ancient mansion, though she invariably awakes with no memory of him. Frédéric is convinced that his dream has some basis in his past, but his mother scoffs at the notion. One day, Frédéric sees a photograph in a perfume advertisement that looks just like the mansion he’s seen in his dreams, and he arranges to meet the woman who took the pictures at a movie theater. While he waits for her, he encounters the mysterious woman in white, and as he follows her, he discovers a strange coven of the living dead – a band of beautiful women who need to drink human blood to survive.
While Lips OF Blood’s steady pace doesn’t allow much room for dialogue, it thankfully makes time for an abundance of nudity. From the moment Frédéric lets the quartet of female vampires loose, the picture abounds with naked women, frolicking through the night in sheer tinted robes. While it adds very little to the plot, the gang of nubile night dwellers does support the film’s overall surreal, dreamlike tone. A boyish fantasy come to life as young, naked women are to be found at every turn, assisting him on his journey to find the one female of his intense adulation. Beautifully shot, the filmmakers skillfully walks the thin line between art house and exploitation, at times using it as a jump rope, bounding from one to the other with ease.
10. The Ghoul
Director: Freddie Francis
Stars: Peter Cushing, John Hurt, Alexandra Bastedo, Veronica Carlson
A former priest harbors a dark and horrible secret in his attic. The locked room serves as a prison cell for his crazed, cannibalistic adult son, who acquired his savage tastes in India during his father’s missionary work there. It’s feared that the son will escape to prey upon the effete guests at his rural English estate during a cross-country auto race.
There are so many questions that you will have, both while watching and after viewing The Ghoul – just what happened to the son to make him this way? Why does the son as he is now come nothing close to resembling the family photo we see in the movie? Why, instead of trying to help his son, does the father instead elect to lock him in a room, nearly naked and fueling his need for human flesh? Whatever, who cares, just watch the movie and don’t worry about such frivolous things.
9. Criminally Insane
Director: Nick Millard
Stars: Priscilla Alden, Michael Flood, Jane Lambert, Robert Copple
Ethel is crazy, fat, and locked away in an insane asylum. However, it’s now time for her to be released. Her doctor tells her mother that it’s best for her to try to lose weight, as it’ll be better for her heart, and therefore better for her mental well being. However, she does not adhere to this advice. At all. Her idea of a pre-sleep snack is a box of Nilla Wafers, a bag of candy, and a glass of milk. For lunch, she fries an entire pound of bacon at a time.
Her grandmother attempts to help her curb her appetite, but after finding all the food locked away in a cupboard, Ethel brutally murders her grandmother with a butcher’s knife. Even a grocery delivery boy becomes the object of Ethel’s rage as he threatens to take back her weekly food order because she can’t pay. Soon, her sister comes to stay, bringing boyfriend after boyfriend to the house. They keep wondering what that horrible rotting smell is up in Ethel’s grandmother’s locked bedroom. Will they get too curious and break down the door? How much fatter will Ethel get? How many more people will die to ensure her girth?
8. Darker Than Night
Director: Carlos Enrique Taboada
Stars: Claudia Islas, Susana Dosamantes, Helena Rojo, Lucía Méndez
When four women move into an old house left by one woman’s aunt, strange things begin to happen. What looks to be the best summer of their lives turns into a fight for their lives after Bécquer, the aunt’s prized cat, is mysteriously found dead. Bizarre voices, visions of ghosts, and mysterious noises lead them to discover the darkest powers of evil and a horror and agony beyond terror.
Darker Than Night (aka Más negro que la noche) is great because it gets directly to the point. It tells you the events in such a manner that truly grabs your attention and makes you wonder in fear what will happen next. The plot is simple but it gets more interesting when it’s explained that the cat was actually “murdered” by three of the girls. When that is explained, you are in front of a ghost revenge flick that will send shivers throughout your whole body.
7. Night Of The Seagulls
Director: Amando de Ossorio
Stars: Víctor Petit, María Kosty, Sandra Mozarowsky, José Antonio Calvo
Henry is a new doctor in a small, coastal village. The problem is that the secretive townspeople are having none of him. It turns out the doc turned up at the wrong place at the wrong time as once every seven years, for seven straight days, seven different sacrifices must be made to the Knights Templar in order to keep them from razing their village. The doctor’s wife employs a young villager to aide in but it turns out that she is the next victim on the cult’s hit list. In a panic, Henry and his wife try to protect the young woman and a disfigured outcast from the hands of the murderers who will do anything to keep their little deal with the devil secret.
Night Of The Seagulls is the fourth and final entry in Amando de Ossorio’s Blind Dead saga. Though not revolutionary, these films definitely stand out from the pack of ordinary undead movies due to their production quality and creative take on the genre. The Blind Dead themselves are arguably more ghouls than zombies, and these four movies by Ossorio all star the titular undead shufflers. Each film pretty much stands alone, as they all share no common thread of plot other than that there are these Templar dudes who died a long time ago, and now they’re back, blind, and want to kill people.
6. Trilogy Of Terror
Director: Dan Curtis
Stars: Karen Black, Robert Burton, John Karlen, George Gaynes
Three stories interwoven together. The first, about a college student infatuated with his teacher. The second, a paranoid tale of two sisters – one good, the other evil, and the third about an African tribal doll that comes to life and terrorizes a woman in her apartment.
The climaxing tale with the fetish doll is the one everyone seems to remember the most, and with good reason. It’s certainly the strangest and most direct of the three, as it’s basically just about our protagonist being assaulted by this weird little doll for no good reason. Indeed, anyone who has seen Trilogy Of Terror remembers the film for one reason and one reason only. It has nothing to do with the music (standard mid-’70s wah-wah), it has nothing to do with the innovative camera work (it’s flatly lit and composed almost entirely of medium shots), and it sure doesn’t have anything to do with those first two segments. No, it’s that damned doll!
5. The Stepford Wives
Director: Bryan Forbes
Stars: Katharine Ross, Paula Prentiss, Peter Masterson, Tina Louise
In the William Goldman-scripted adaptation of Ira Levin’s savagely satiric novel The Stepford Wives, housewife Joanna moves with husband Walter and their children to the “ideal” suburban community of Stepford, CT. Slowly, Joanna deduces that something is amiss; most of the other housewives are vapid creatures who speak in trivialities and live only to please their husbands. Together with new friend Bobby, she investigates this curious status quo. When Bobby also succumbs to cloying sweetness, Joanna discovers that Stepford’s husbands have conspired with male chauvinist scientists to replace all the wives with computerized android duplicates.
Horror and social commentary seamlessly merge together here. Not only was The Stepford Wives an original concept with good suspense and scares, but it also provided commentary and parody about a period of significant social change in the United States. Mega-producer Scott Rudin and director Frank Oz teamed up for a remake in 2004. It wasn’t as good as this.
4. Deep Red
Director: Dario Argento
Stars: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Méril
A psychic who can read minds picks up the thoughts of a murderer in the audience and soon becomes a victim. An English pianist gets involved in solving the murders, but finds many of his avenues of inquiry cut off by new murders, and he begins to wonder how the murderer can track his movements so closely.
Deep Red was Dario Argento’s first full-fledged masterpiece, a riveting thriller whose secrets carefully unravel via a series of carefully calibrated compositions that become not unlike virtual gateways into Freudian pasts. Through occasional insert shots of marbles and toy dolls, we see a disturbing glimpse into the killer’s mind. The killings in the film are particularly eerie, due to the killer’s insistence on playing a tape of a bizarre children’s song before each crime. The killer’s appearance is stereotypical of the giallo sub-genre, coming complete with a rain slicker, black leather gloves, and a fedora. The film is also, one could argue, Argento’s most grounded in reality. There isn’t as much loopy logic to follow, as most of the clues, motivations, and suspects are somewhat plausible. Its power lies in both its ability to unsettle and the unpredictable course of events that take you to the edge of your seat in a truly gripping finale.
Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Paul Hampton, Joe Silver, Lynn Lowry, Barbara Steele
There’s a streak of slyly black humor running through David Cronenberg’s debut film, Shivers (aka The Parasite Murders, aka They Came From Within). Its premise, about slug-like parasites that turn the occupants of a luxury apartment block into sex-obsessed maniacs, appears to have been conceived specifically to provoke as many people as possible. But while its story elements are straight from schlock horror – there’s a mad scientist, rubbery monsters, lashings of gore and some suspect acting – there’s still that hint of intelligence and satire that would soon become synonymous with Cronenberg’s name.
Painstakingly thorough and ripe for dissection (see the amazing documentary The American Nightmare for proof of this), startlingly confronting and yet positively alluring, this is a film some still might say is ugly and pointless, but the rest of us can appreciate as an all-time classic shocker – featuring a bathtub scene that will leave you staring at your drain in trepidation for days. Oh, and did we mention the ending? One of the greatest of all time.
2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Director: Jim Sharman
Stars: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Patricia Quinn
The Midnight Movie to which all others are compared, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a musical dressed in cheap monster suit filmed on a sound stage with plenty of leftover b-movie props. It launched a thousand midnight screenings, created a cult of devoted followers that trail-blazed screening traditions like shouting at the screen, ritual jokes and dress – if you’ve been to a showing of The Room where people yell the dialogue back at the actors, it’s because The Rocky Horror Picture Show did it first.
The story itself revolves around two ordinary people, Janet Weiss and her fiancée Brad Majors who go to a castle to find a phone after their car gets a flat tire. They are met by a very strange fellow named Riff Raff and his sister Magenta. The castle is holding some sort of party where the partygoers are doing “The Time Warp”. The couple soon meet the true host of the castle, a crazy cross-dressing scientist named Dr. Frank N. Furter. Frank has been working on a creation and now has come the time for him to unleash it. The creation is a blond hair, blue eyed muscle man named Rocky Horror. Soon, chaos ensues as Frank has plans for everyone around him on a night that no one will ever forget.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary
In 1974, novelist Peter Benchley’s Jaws emerged as a best seller, an unlikely tale about a killer great white shark and the few men brave enough to battle it. As an enjoyable page-turner, Benchley’s book works just fine, but it wasn’t until Steven Spielberg endured a hellish shoot to complete his 1975 blockbuster adaptation that the homicidal fish officially earned its scary stripes.
Mostly kept off the screen, Spielberg’s underwater antagonist strikes fear in viewers’ bones through mere suggestion, be it a camera shot beneath swimmers’ dangling legs or composer John Williams’ iconic score. When Jaws does finally show his face and razor-sharp teeth, so to speak, the shocks are ferocious. What this movie is about, and where it succeeds best, is the primordial level of fear. This is a suspense classic that still leaves teeth-marks all these years later.
What was your favorite horror movie of the year? Let us know in the comment section below.