Horrorland is a column within Cinema Quarantino, the Hassle’s ongoing series of alternative streaming picks for the self-quarantined and the socially distanced, in which Hassle film staff writer Alexis den Boggende delves into the ins, outs, and deeper meanings within the horror genre.
THE FILMS: Don’t Look Now (1973) dir. Nicolas Roeg / Salem’s Lot (1979) dir. Tobe Hooper / The Last House on the Left (1972) dir. Wes Craven / The Wicker Man (1973) dir. Robin Hardy / The Amityville Horror (1979) dir. Stuart Rosenberg
THE STREAMER: Amazon Prime
The 1970s hold some of the greatest horror films of all time. From Jaws and The Exorcist to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Halloween, the 1970s unleashed a bloodthirsty legacy of terror that has greatly influenced the film industry. Without some of these heavy-hitters, we wouldn’t have half the movies in theaters today.
There are also some lesser-known gems that lurk behind the blood-slick chainsaws cutting through the Texas heat and the nefarious figure peeking out behind the hedges of Haddonfield. Let’s take a look at some of the films that made 1970s horror so influential, but didn’t receive as much hype as the aforementioned blockbusters.
DON’T LOOK NOW (1973)
DIR. NICOLAS ROEG
Following the death of their daughter in a freak accident, Christine and John Baxter move from their countryside home in England to Venice, Italy, where John is restoring an old church. There’s a serial killer on the loose, and the Baxters are warned of grave danger. Haunted by his daughter’s death, John keeps seeing premonitions, as well as a small figure in a red raincoat – the same raincoat his daughter died in – running through the streets of Venice.
A grisly, gritty tale of a grieving couple (à la Hereditary), this masterful flick gives new meaning to “curiosity killed the cat.”
SALEM’S LOT (1979)
DIR. TOBE HOOPER
A television adaptation of Stephen King’s hit creepy novel, Salem’s Lot follows Ben Mears, a writer who returns to his hometown of Salem’s Lot, Maine, where he notices that its citizens are slowly getting turned into vampiric beings. Along with the residents of a boarding house where he’s staying, Mears attempts to slay the creatures that have infected his hometown.
Salem’s Lot is one of those rare films that make your hair stand on end, from the costume and makeup to the paralyzing acting – some great nightmare fuel when you need it.
THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972)
DIR. WES CRAVEN
Horror icon Wes Craven’s directorial debut was a horror exploitation film that – even today – chills audiences to the bone. Based on the Max von Sydow and Ingmar Bergman ’60s Swedish flick The Virgin Spring, the film follows Mari Collingwood and her friend, Phyllis, who go out to a concert. En route, they clash with escaped criminals Krug, Sadie, Weasel, and Junior, who brutally murder both girls. The gang stops at the Collingwood house for the night feigning that they’re salesmen; they realize that they’re seeking shelter with Mari’s parents, who in turn find out that they’re sheltering their daughter’s murderers – all hell breaks loose.
Last House was remade in 2009 and has continued to influence numerous horror films to this day.
THE WICKER MAN (1973)
DIR. ROBIN HARDY
Before there was Midsommar, there was The Wicker Man.
Hardy’s folk horror film follows Neil Howie, a policeman beckoned to investigate the disappearance of a child, Rowan, on Scottish island Summerisle through a mysterious letter. There, he sees that the inhabitants of the island have a disturbing way of life. Everyone on the island claims that the child never existed – including Rowan’s mother. When Howie investigates further, he learns that with every failed harvest, the islanders must make a human sacrifice.
Is it going to be Rowan?
THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979)
DIR. STUART ROSENBERG
Rosenberg’s Amityville explores the lives of the Lutz family, who moved into the infamous horror house in Amityville, New York, only a year after all of its previous inhabitants were slaughtered with a shotgun by a family member. The family notice strange, puzzling, and downright eerie phenomena, from nuns and priests getting violently ill upon entry of the home to terrifying changes in the behavior of the father, George Lutz. The film is dreary and chilling, packed with odd, skin-crawling imagery, from a pig with glowing eyes in the window to blood oozing down the walls.
Amityville is a great Halloween flick, and since its release in 1979, it produced 24 spin-offs, sequels, and prequels.
The 1970s were a golden era for horror films that will continue to influence filmmakers for years to come.
Don’t Look Now
dir. Nicolas Roeg
dir. Tobe Hooper
The Last House on the Left
dir. Wes Craven
The Wicker Man
dir. Robin Hardy
The Amityville Horror
dir. Stuart Rosenberg
Streaming is no substitute for taking in a screening at a locally owned cinema, and right now Boston’s most beloved theaters need your help to survive. If you have the means, the Hassle strongly recommends making a donation, purchasing a gift card, or becoming a member at the Brattle Theatre, Coolidge Corner Theatre, and/or the Somerville Theatre. Keep film alive, y’all.