If you’ve been following the site as of late then you know that we’ve been counting down the greatest horror movies of all time, year by year (each year we rank the top 15). We started with the ’70s because, well, we just wanted to. And now that we’ve made our way from 1970 to 1979 we’ve decided to compile a list of some lesser-known gems of the decade. Movies other than the likes of Halloween, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and all the rest.
So, without further ado, this is 25 Underrated Horror Films Of The 1970s.
25. The Child (1977)
Director: Robert Voskanian
Stars: Laurel Barnett, Rosalie Cole, Frank Janson, Richard Hanners
Alicianne arrives to fulfill her new position as the governess of a little girl who has recently lost her mother. Young Rosalie Nordon lives with her father and older brother in a rambling country home situated next to a forest. A cemetery is also located nearby, the very one in which her mother has been buried, and Rosalie has been making strange nocturnal visits to the graveyard. It seems Rosalie hates everyone, and plots their deaths, usually at the hands of her “friends”: zombies that prowl the local woods, and that she has somehow befriended by bringing them kittens to eat. She apparently wants to kill everyone who was at her mother’s funeral, since she has a ‘hit list’ sketch she made of the service and places an X over everyone’s face when she kills them.
The Child (aka Zombie Child) is a peculiar combination of horror themes, a mash-up of many styles and ideas. What starts looking like a standard supernaturally possessed child film evolves into a non-traditional zombie film. Clichés are deposited from multiple angles; Halloween, a creepy child with telekinetic abilities, Jack O’Lanterns, lightning storms, maniacal laughter (at a hilarious story about the death of a troop of boy scouts), zombies and even murderous scarecrows. It shouldn’t work yet it does. Even Rosalie is not a naturally creepy looking kid but she still manages to achieve creepy quite well.
24. Don’t Look In The Basement (1973)
Director: S.F. Brownrigg
Stars: Rosie Holotik, Bill McGhee, Annabelle Weenick, Gene Ross, Camilla Carr
Nurse Charlotte arrives at the Stephens Sanitarium shortly after Dr. Stephens suffers an accident at the hands of an axe wielding patient. The assistant director of the facility briefs Charlotte on her duties, and the patients.
Said patients include a lobotomized and childish man named Sam who enjoys popsicles and his plastic toy boat, a nymphomaniac and schizophrenic named Allyson, an emotionally dependent woman named Jennifer, an octogenarian woman named Mrs. Callingham who spouts bizarre poetry and mistakes flowers in the garden to be her own children, a juvenile prankster named Danny, a shell-shocked Sergeant who lost his mind after accidentally killing his men in Vietnam, and the crazed judge who seems incapable of speaking in anything other than courtroom jargon. As you can imagine, Charlotte doesn’t exactly have a smooth go of it. Don’t Look In The Basement (aka The Forgotten) is a smirking, sweaty, “inmates have taken over the asylum” riff on unqualified lunacy.
23. Don’t Deliver Us from Evil (1971)
Director: Joël Séria
Stars: Jeanne Goupil, Catherine Wagener, Bernard Dhéran, Gérard Darrieu
Don’t Deliver Us from Evil centers around the lives of two girls, Anne and Lore, living at a convent boarding school. The two girls climb under their bed sheets and read erotic novels in secret by torchlight and long to rebel from the boring routine of boarding school life. They become increasingly rebellious as the term wears on, and their realization of the hypocrisy of the nuns and priests that serve as their teachers grows with every passing day. So, naturally, they each take a vow to sin and to serve Satan.
Both scathing and poetic, the intimately disturbing story and confident direction of this warped bit of celluloid psychosis manages in a delicate balance between excess and social critique to be both terrifying and tender. Thumbing its nose at convention and then-common dictates of good taste, this torrid coming of age story dares to be amoral while treating its characters and approach maturely. This movie sheds innocence as easily as skin as two believably depicted girls on the verge of womanhood trade school-girl innocence for the pursuit of decadence.
22. The House That Dripped Blood (1971)
Director: Peter Duffell
Stars: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Nyree Dawn Porter, Denholm Elliott
Paul Henderson is a film star who disappears after renting an eerie old house. Inspector Holloway is in charge of the mystery and inquiries at the town’s police station where, the local police sergeant begins to explain the house’s horrible history, and so begins the film’s four interwoven tales.
1) A hack novelist encounters a strangler who’s the villain of his books, leading his wife to question his sanity, 2) Two men are obsessed with a wax figure of a woman from their past, 3) A little girl with a stern, widowed father displays an interest in witchcraft, and 4) An arrogant horror film actor purchases a black cloak which gives him a vampire’s powers. Each tale brings something to the table, and the overall picture is vigorous fun.
21. 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.
20. 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…
19. Bloodsucking Freaks (1976)
Director: Joel M. Reed
Stars: Seamus O’Brien, Viju Krem, Niles McMaster, Dan Fauci
A mysterious stage performer, known only as Sardu, brings female “actors” to the stage and performs acts of vile mutilation and dismemberment before a somewhat disbelieving, horrified crowd. One member of the audience is a critic, and makes his disgust with what Sardu is doing well known to the showman. Soon, the critic is kidnapped and discovers the secret to Sardu’s stage show: Everything is real and the actors are murdered and tortured live on stage each night. He also finds out that Sardu and his deranged dwarf assistant Ralphus keep a number of brainwashed slave women captive underneath the theater. Soon, a man’s ballerina girlfriend is kidnapped by Ralphus for use in Sardu’s show. Will she fall under Sardu’s spell? Will her boyfriend and the detective he has at his side be able to stop Sardu and end his reign of gore once and for all?
A horror movie that is named on just as many “all-time worst” lists as Citizen Kane is on “all-time best” lists is either A) Doing something right seriously wrong, or B) Doing something wrong seriously right. The latter seems more appropriate. This film aims to disgust, revolt, and offend… and it probably does so better than just about any other movie you’re likely to see.
18. 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.
17. 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.
16. The Grapes Of Death (1978)
Director: Jean Rollin
Stars: Marie-Georges Pascal, Félix Marten, Serge Marquand, Mirella Rancelot
Everybody loves to pretend they know what wine is supposed to taste like. “Woody” and “nutty” are not things you should like to hear when describing a beverage, but who are we to judge? Wine has always been a big thing in Europe, however, and specifically France. They love the stuff; drink it like it’s water. It’d sure be a shame if something infected the wine and made people sick, wouldn’t it? Maybe even turn them into pus-spewing, murderous zombies? Sound far-fetched? Well, this is exactly what happens in Jean Rollin’s 1978 slow-paced gorefest: Les Raisins de la Mort, or to us ‘mericans, The Grapes Of Death.
The Grapes Of Death is definitely the most straightforward of Rollin’s films, in a narrative sense. It follows the standard zombie apocalypse storyline of “hero/heroine is separated from loved ones by zombies, then goes through hell to get back to them,” and never strays too far from that plot. It’s also certainly the goriest Rollin flick you’re likely to see: the body horror of the zombified/Crazies-ed townspeople is gross and effective, as is the emotional turmoil they display while fighting their murderous urges. The aftermath of the zombies’ attacks are also very good – the Grand Guignol is evoked a couple of times, with one corpse showing a popped-out eyeball dangling by its optic nerve, and the fate of a particular blind character both pre- and post-decapitation is a little hard to take, even for a seasoned viewer.
15. Frightmare (1974)
Director: Pete Walker
Stars: Rupert Davies, Sheila Keith, Deborah Fairfax, Paul Greenwood
Frightmare (aka Cover Up) focuses on Jackie, a young woman left to care for her wayward teenage sister Debbie, and who struggles to cope. On top of her problems with Debbie’s nightly escapades and foul mouth, Jackie is also bound by a burden of family duty she can tell no one about. Her parents Dorothy and Edmund had once spent 15 years in a mental institution after it was discovered that mother Dorothy was using tarot readings as a lure for unsuspecting victims to be brutally murdered. When she ate their flesh, her poor, misguided husband Edmund helped her cover up her crimes out of blind love, seeing her as not responsible for her actions. And even though the two have since been declared sane and fit to return to the community, Jackie is not convinced Dorothy has changed her ways.
Frightmare is a very effective British chiller and may stand the test of time as director Pete Walker’s crowning glory. Props must also go to writer David McGillivray – a man who wrote so many Britsploitation classics with style and panache. And let’s also take time to appreciate the character of Dorthy, who is simply magnificent, especially when she is armed with a power drill!
14. Criminally Insane (1975)
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?
13. Deranged: Confessions Of A Necrophile (1974)
Directors: Jeff Gillen, Alan Ormsby
Stars: Roberts Blossom, Cosette Lee, Leslie Carlson, Robert Warner
If not for serial killer Ed Gein, the horror genre would be missing some of its most important films. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and Silence Of The Lambs, just to name a few, are partially based and/or have characters based on the legacy of Plainfield, Wisconsin’s own “Mad Butcher.” But one movie that’s often left out of the group is Alan Ormsby and Jeff Gillen’s Deranged. This movie is a direct reflection of the life of Ed Gein, from his mother’s death to his arrest. And as they say at the beginning of the film, only names and locations have been changed.
In the film, Ezra Cobb, is a mama’s boy in all the wrong ways. After losing his Bible-thumping mother, Ezra decides the only way to soothe his fractured soul is to dig up dear old mom. Disappointed in her deteriorating appearance, Ezra becomes obsessed with taxidermy in hopes of repairing the rotting corpse. He eventually turns to darker methods of “preservation.”