The ‘70s consistently ranks among the very best decades for horror.
The genuine horrors of the Vietnam war permeated pop culture, which, along with other socio-political anxieties, massively fueled the genre’s evolution. The decade introduced a generation of maverick filmmakers like Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven, and Brian de Palma, who embraced the era’s unrestrained and experimental spirit. It was such a bountiful time that there’s still a treasure trove of under-sung gems. For every Wicker Man, Black Christmas, or Dawn of the Dead, there’s an equally vital horror film that doesn’t receive nearly as much attention.
This week’s picks belong to those masterful horror films that tend to fly under the radar. These five ‘70s greats should be requisite viewing, and here’s where you can watch them this week.
Alice, Sweet Alice – Prime Video, Roku, Tubi
Set in 1961 New Jersey, a family’s world is turned upside-down when their precocious nine-year-old daughter gets murdered during her First Communion. Everyone suspects twelve-year-old sister Alice as the murderer. Suspicions continue to mount with each subsequent death in the neighborhood. Alfred Sole’s proto-slasher brings a chilling atmosphere and unease. It’s grimy, stylish, and strange, and it takes a few unexpected left-turns. Alice, Sweet Alice marks Brooke Shields’s debut, but more importantly, it’s an unsettling nightmare of a family’s dissolution.
The Blood on Satan’s Claw – Shudder
After strange bones are unearthed near a rural village in the 17th-century, the teens start developing odd patches of fur and falling under the sway of a mysterious force. Led by the seductive Angel Blake (Linda Hayden), the teens begin to turn on the town elders, and things take a turn for the deadly. The Blood on Satan’s Claw is a foundational folk horror film with strong Hammer vibes. It’s as gorgeous as it is spooky, and the Satanic shocker never shies away from pushing the envelope further. The viral nature of the devil-worshipping makes for a unique entry in folk horror, too.
Deathdream – Criterion Channel, Tubi, Vudu
1974 was a busy and stellar year for director Bob Clark. His most well-known and beloved feature of the year belonged to Black Christmas, but Deathdream is worthy of just as much attention. Young American soldier Andy Brooks (Richard Backus) is killed in combat during the Vietnam war. His mother refuses to accept the news, demanding that her son return. One night, Andy does indeed show up at his family’s home. They’re overjoyed, but something is very wrong with Andy. Deathdream presents a “Monkey’s Paw” scenario, set around a family torn apart by the war.
The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue – Prime Video, Vudu
Jorge Grau’s memorable zombie film centers around George (Ray Lovelock) and Edna (Christina Galbo), a couple of city hippies that meet when Edna backs into George’s motorcycle at a petrol station. She’s on her way to visit her troubled sister while he’s on his way to see friends. It so happens that the area is undergoing a new experimental pest control method in the form of ultrasonic radiation, and it intersects with our protagonists when it wakes the dead and causes a wave of grisly murders. The story plays out like a murder mystery of sorts with a target set on the counter-culture movement, building toward a gore-filled finale courtesy of special makeup effects artist Gianetto De Rossi (The Beyond, Zombie, High Tension).
Messiah of Evil – Pluto TV, Prime Video
Arletty has arrived in a Coastal Californian town to visit her father after receiving a series of worrying letters. She finds that he’s vanished, leaving behind a diary that hints towards insanity or something much more sinister. Teaming up with an aristocrat and his two friends to find her father, the group learns that perhaps the town has been overrun by an undead cult. Co-directed by Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, Messiah of Evil offers up a nightmarish atmosphere and memorably spooky set-pieces. If you’re a fan of films like Night of the Living Dead and Carnival of Souls, this is a must-watch. You’ll never get some of the imagery out of your head.