We passed the ‘Summer of love’ but the long hair and flares were there with the prog rock and changes in filmmaking and what we could be scared by on the big screen. This period in time was during and through to the end of the Vietnam war and I believe this did have a strong effect on the films which came to us at this time. With indie film directors like Francis Ford Coppola and Dennis Hopper revolutionizing what could be a film and how it could be made, horror films soon followed in the same steps.
Over here in the UK we had the regularly successful Hammer studios still putting out their gothic flicks of macabre dread such as Countess Dracula but soon others would take things into our modern and urban homes.
Of course in 1968 George Romero gave us his first horror classic Night of the Living Dead which did seriously change horror films forever. Low budget, black and white, on the move. It seemed to feel like a live news television report almost. Even to watch it today that movie is very powerful in a number of ways.
So into the 1970’s we had Mario Bava and Jesus Franco overseas continuing with their arthouse styled horror and erotica suspense chillers but it would be Wes Craven with The Last House on the Left, The Exorcist and The Wicker Man in 1973, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974, David Cronenberg starting his run of body-horror movies with Shivers in 1975, Carrie, The Omen, To The Devil a Daughter from Hammer in 1976, in 77 Wes Craven and Cronenberg again along with Argento’s masterpiece Suspiria from Italy.
1978 was a big year when we had Romero return with the classic Dawn of the dead, but also Carpenter gave us the first Halloween. This was the one which I believe really got practically everything right on spot for a horror movie.
1979 gave us Ridley Scott’s ALIEN movie, science fiction melded into space horror. The Brood, Amityville Horror, Phantasm. There were many more in this decade but the films mentioned above each added something which made a focused change to what we were afraid of on screen and also said much about what we no longer feared.
It was this decade where the big studios were confused and afraid to take serious risks and indie filmmakers were getting serious with very creative physical special effects and props, shooting all kinds of almost radical and lurid scenes which none had dared do before. The fears of the president Nixon years and nuclear war were truly present and this was manifesting into cinema screens, even if at midnight showings. Film horror was no longer set centuries of decades in the past, in had reached the present and it was savage and on the loose.
James E Parsons is a SF/Horror author. His first horror novel is published later this year. His previous books Orbital Kin and Minerva Century are now available in all good bookstores, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, Amazon.