The 1970’s is often revered as something of a golden age for horror films. Many of the masters of horror first made their mark during the decade including, Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Dario Argento, David Cronenberg, and Don Coscarelli. Additionally, many iconic films came out during this decade including Halloween, Phantasm, The Omen, The Exorcist, Jaws, Suspiria, Dawn of the Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and many more. This era also spawned many hidden gems that sadly don’t get the credit they deserve. Here in no particular order are 10 of these hidden gems with several of them having influenced some of the greats we all know and love.
Who Could Kill A Child? (1976)
From Spain comes a film about a couple who gets trapped on an island. It doesn’t take long for them to notice the island is run by insane children who have murdered all the adults. This film is best known for inspiring the Stephen King story Children of the Corn.
Horror Express (1972)
Horror Express is a British/Spanish co-production which stars Hammer veterans Peter Cushing and Christoper Lee. The film is about a train carrying a terrifying cargo from China to England; a frozen prehistoric creature. Unsurprisingly, the creature eventually thaws out and attacks the passengers with gruesome results.
The Grapes of Death (1978)
French director Jean Rollin had a style like no other with his combination of gothic horror, surealism, and eroticism. Grapes of Death is no stranger to this style (though less erotic then his other works). A young woman finds out that a pesticide sprayed on a vinyard is turning people into zombies. If you like this film also check out Rollin’s other film The Living Dead Girl.
Messiah of Evil (1973)
A horror film found in many cheap horror packs, Messiah of Evil is one that’s worth taking a chance on.
A young woman goes searching for her father – a former artist. She ends up in a seaside town that is governed by a mysterious cult. Like The Grapes of Death, this film is heavy on atmosphere. The visuals are really well done. After making this film, husband and wife team Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck would go on to write screen plays for classic films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Last House on Dead End Street (1977)
This exploitation classic is a strange film with a strange past. When this story about a director who makes snuff films was first released there were no credits to who was involved in the film. In was not until 2000 when director/ actor Roger Watkins leaked this info on message boards that any info on this film’s cast and crew was known. The flick is very graphic and explict, but also legitimately creepy and surreal. Internet critic Brad Jones would later make a loose remake of the film titled Cheap, 2005.
Told by the sole survivor, this concerns a group of four friends who are attacked by a bunch of demons while on a picnic due to the possession of a mystical book. Sounds kinda like The Evil Dead doesn’t it? That is because this film was the biggest influence on Sam Raimi’s classic. If you want to see an even better version of this film check out the original 1967 cut of the film. Both these versions are included on the film’s Criterion release.
Tourist Trap (1979)
A very strange installment on the list. The film is about a group of kids who get stranded in a local wax museum. The owner lets them spend the night .The kids are then killed by a masked telekinetic man who smothers them with plastic. Oh, and the wax dummies all come to life and kill some of the kids too. Almost every shot in the film has at least one wax dummy giving the viewer a feeling of constantly being watched. Yeah, it needs to be seen to be believed… unless you’re afraid of dummies, then avoid!
Anthony Hopkins plays a ventiloquist who is at the mercy of his dummy. This is happening while he is trying to get back with his high school sweet heart!
George A. Romero is mostly know for his zombie films, but has several others well worth checking out – including the vampire classic Martin.
The film is about a young man who thinks he’s a vampire who goes to live with his insane elderly cousin who believes he’s a product of a family curse.
The film plays on the old-world hysteria that created vampires, but sets them in the modern day. It also showcases Romero’s love for social commentary.
Honorable mentions: The Legend of Hell House, God Told Me To.