Horror film has always been at its best when representing in some form the genuine fears populating society at the time of release. Whether it be the cold-war fears of the 1950s or the feral youth of the 2000s, horror film has managed to tap into our base fears through the very real issues plaguing contemporary culture. Arguably, the genre has never been as powerful or influential as it was between the beginning of the American New Wave and the total commercialisation and high-concept era of the 1980s. In other words, the best horror films ever made appeared in the 12 years between 1967 and 1979.
30. The Amityville Horror (Stuart Rosenberg, USA, 1979)
Based on a true story, The Amityville Horror tells the tale of the Lutz family who move into their dream home only for it to turn into a supernatural nightmare.
29. The Last House on the Left (Wes Craven, USA, 1972)
Sadistic, violent and uncompromising, Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left was notoriously banned in the UK during the “video nasty” scare of the 1980s. It is a story of savage torture, rape and murder followed by a similarly violent revenge attack. The film is not a particularly good one but it is worth experiencing if only for its ability to torment the viewer. The film does indicate a period of American film when violence seeped into the mainstream. It isn’t a movie you’ll need to see twice.
28. Phantasm (Don Coscarelli, USA, 1979)
This cult classic from Don Coscarelli who wrote, directed, produced, and edited the film, introduced the world to the infamous Tall Man, a mad undertaker who turns his victims into dwarf zombies. Bravo ranked the film as one of the scariest ever made.
27. Shivers (David Cronenberg, Canada, 1975)
Shivers is one of many body-horror films from talented writer-director David Cronenberg. The film, which looks at a parasite that infects a number of people in a Montreal apartment block, is a reaction to changing attitudes towards sex during the 1970s. The parasite in question causes in its hosts an uncontrollable sexual appetite and is passed through sexual intercourse.
26. The Fury (Brian De Palma, USA, 1978)
Brian De Palma’s hugely entertaining horror film is a post-Carrie look at telekinesis and its damaging attributes. It boasts a stellar cast which includes Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, Amy Irving, Carrie Snodgress, and Charles Durning, with a score by John Williams. Renowned film critic Pauline Kael had high praise of Williams’ score.
25. When A Stranger Calls (Fred Walton, USA, 1979)
When A Stranger Calls suffers because its opening 20 minutes is arguably the best 20 minutes of any horror film ever made. Why this is a problem becomes apparent when you realise the rest of the film can’t live up to the quality of the fingernail-devouring first act. But director Fred Walton makes up for it somewhat with a suitably tension-filled finale. It isn’t surprising that the first part of the film was originally made as a short film. However, after the success of Halloween, the film was extended. It tells the story of babysitter who begins to receive strange calls from a man who asks her if she’s ‘checked the children’. What transpires is a heart-in-mouth thrill ride that culminates in a brilliant twist. And this is all in the first few minutes.
24. The House That Dripped Blood (Peter Duffell, UK, 1971)
An anthology of stories greets you in Peter Duffell’s The House That Dripped Blood. A detective investigates four mysterious cases that all concern a strange house.
23. Sisters (Brian De Palma, USA, 1973)
Actress friends Margot Kidder and Jennifer Salt star in Brian De Palma’s Sisters which looks at a pair of Siamese twins who are struggling to live together harmoniously after being surgically separated. Kidder plays the twins. Salt is an eager reporter who witnesses a murder and believes the twins have something to do with it.
22. Legend of Hell House (John Hough, UK, 1973)
Richard Matheson adapted his own novel for John Hough’s Legend of Hell House, a film which looks at a group of paranormal researchers who go to the infamous Hell House to prove or disprove its supernatural credentials. The film is influenced by 1959’s House on Haunted Hill and 1963’s The Haunting.
21. Martin (George A. Romero, USA, 1977) – See also Modern Vampire | Top 10 George A. Romero Films
George A. Romero’s Martin strips the gothic horror credentials of the vampire genre to create a unique, modern take on the monster.
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