Needless to say, I watch a lot of different horror films throughout the month of October. I always include a good number of the ghost story and vampire movies listed in my previous two blog posts. But I also watch psychological horror, possession and classic slasher films from the 1970s.
Here are my favorites:
THE EXORCIST (1973) – Directed by William Friedkin; based on the novel by William Peter Blatty; starring Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller and Mercedes Cambridge (the voice of the demon).
Some people argue that The Exorcist is the greatest horror movie ever made, and I’m not going to disagree with that assertion. The possessed twelve-year-old, Regan, scared and repulsed me more than any other character on the big screen. (Thank heavens I first saw it on a TV screen.) I can’t recall any other movie causing me to have such traumatic nightmares. It’s worth watching for the special effects alone.
When young Regan begins acting strangely and numerous doctors can’t find anything physically wrong with her, her worried mother reaches out to a priest for help. Father Damien soon becomes convinced that the only way to help Regan is by sanctioning an exorcism. Soon, Father Merrin arrives to do battle with the demon.
And, oh, what a battle it is…
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) – Directed by Tobe Hooper; starring Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen, Paul A. Partain
Sally and her paraplegic brother, Franklin, are worried when they hear a rumor that their grandfather’s grave has been desecrated. They head out on a road trip with three of their friends to investigate. But when they reach their family’s Texas homestead, they come to realize that Grandpa’s neighbors are insane cannibals – led by Leatherface, who wears a mask of human skin. The monsters are determined to include them all in their feast’s main course.
Yeah…I’m wondering if I can actually claim to have watched this movie, since throughout most of its runtime I had my hands covering my face. I have to admit that extreme gore isn’t my thing, but I liked the IDEA of watching a movie this disturbing. (Seriously doubt it was based on “true events” – but you never know…)
THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD (1975) – Directed by J. Lee Thompson; starring Michael Sarrazin, Jennifer O’Neill, Margot Kidder
When California college professor Peter Proud starts having dreams and flashbacks about people and places he’s never known, he begins to suspect he once lived before. He tracks down that other past from the 1940s and is led to a town in Massachusetts – and the lake where his previous self was murdered.
This movie haunted me for a while after I first saw it. I would say more, but I don’t want to give away the ending.
THE OMEN (1976) – Directed by Richard Donner; starring Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Harvey Spencer Stephens
Robert, an American diplomat, ends up “unofficially” adopting Damien when his wife gives birth to a stillborn infant. He keeps this secret to spare Katherine the pain. For the first few years everything is hunky-dory for the couple – they lead an idyllic life in England. But then strange, awful things begin to happen, and gradually Robert comes to realize that his son may be the Anti-Christ.
A stellar cast lured more people into cinemas to view it than were probably expected – you don’t often see lead actors like Peck doing a horror film. I love the story and the special effects are awesome.
(The creepiest kid ever… I wonder what Harvey Spencer Stephens is doing today.)
BURNT OFFERINGS (1976) – Directed by Dan Curtis; starring Oliver Reed, Karen Black, Bette Davis, Burgess Meredith
Ben and Marian Rolf decide to move into a grand Victorian summer home, where they hope to rekindle their marriage. They can’t help but wonder why the rent is so reasonable, and they soon find out that the house has a life of its own.
This is a strange movie in many ways, and I found the casting and acting to both be superb.
THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE (1976) – Directed by Nicolas Gessner (Initial Release in Sweden); starring Jodie Foster, Martin Sheen, Scott Jacoby
Thirteen-year-old Rynn Jacobs lives a quiet, reclusive life in a coastal New England town. Whenever the landlady comes calling, asking to see her father, Rynn tells the nosy woman that he’s away on business. But when the landlady’s creepy son begins to pry into her life, refusing to leave her alone, Rynn enlists the aid of her teenage neighbor, Mario, to help hide her dark secret.
Even when Jodie was a kid, she always gave an excellent performance. And Martin Sheen is fantastic in his role as the highly disturbed Frank.
AUDREY ROSE (1977) – Directed by Robert Wise; starring Anthony Hopkins, Marsha Mason, John Beck, Susan Swift
Bill and Janice Templeton lead a contented life in Manhattan with their young daughter, Ivy. But things get complicated for them when a man named Elliot Hoover shows up on their doorstep. He’s just returned from a trip to India, and he tries to convince them that Ivy is the reincarnation of his own daughter, Audrey Rose, who died several years before. Hoover’s arrival causes supernatural events to wreak havoc in their lives.
I was quite young when I first saw this movie on late-night TV, and it bothered me a great deal. I don’t think another horror movie has ever made me feel that sad.
HALLOWEEN (1978) – Directed by John Carpenter; starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, P.J. Soles, Nancy Kyes, Nick Castle, Tony Moran
On Halloween night in 1963, six-year-old Michael Myers stabs his teenage sister, Judith, to death. He is committed to an institution, and fifteen years later, on Halloween Eve, he escapes and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois to unleash some fresh hell. I love the soundtrack, composed by director John Carpenter.
This is the movie I always save until last – it’s a tradition for me to watch it every Halloween night and recite the dialogue (“Totally…”) while I hand out candy. And no, I haven’t seen the latest reboot. I’m sure I will before long, though.
I need to add that I quite often include “Friday the 13th” (1980), “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968), “Jaws” (1975), “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984) and “Halloween II” (1981) to my October movie marathon.
Hope everyone has a spooktacular Halloween!