This second of our five installments in this series focuses on the 1960s through the mid-seventies. This time period saw a rise in serial killer films and films about the occult. They focused far more on suspense than previous films did with directors like Alfred Hitchcock leading the way. These movies were influenced by the fears of the Cold War Era and the violence of Vietnam. The films in this time period are far gorier than the time period before, but we have yet to reach the golden age of blood splatter.
Did I miss one of your favorite movies? Be sure to comment below!
11. Psycho (1960)
Psycho is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s crowning achievements. Psycho is, in fact, one of the most important films in horror history. It went on to influence so many of the horror films that came after it. Alfred Hitchcock masterfully uses suspense and keeps the audience on edge through the whole movie. I would argue that Norman Bates is probably one of the earliest prototypes of the slasher killer. And of course the shower scene in Psycho is probably one of the scariest in film history – playing on both the fear of entrapment and the fear of vulnerability.
12. The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)
A lesser-known film but one I definitely recommend. It is an apolocalyptic/disaster film that fits well in the horror genre. This film is an environmental warning. You get this in the sense that they are trapped and doom is upon them. The use of countdown is pervasive in this film and creates an impending sense of disaster. This film is given new meaning in the contemporary context of climate change.
13. The Birds (1963)
Films depicting animal attacks were not necessarily a new concept. Atomic age science fiction frequently depicted mutated animals attacking. But Alfred Hitchcock took it to another level with The Birds. This is not a film rooted in science fiction. This is pure horror. And these birds are neither giant nor abnormal. In fact that is what makes them so terrifying. The birds are pervasive and show no mercy. Hitchcock doesn’t reward us with a happy ending leaving the fate of humanity up in the air.
14. The War Game (1965)
This film is firmly rooted in the Cold War. The movie was made only a few years after the Cuban Missile Crisis and has a stark and pessimistic feel. The film is done in the style of a documentary and is set in a post-nuclear attack Britain. It is also one of the most realistic films ever made about nuclear war and that, of course, adds to the horror, because this is not a completely unreal scenario.
15. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
This is the film that created our modern obsession with zombies. Before Night of the Living Dead zombie films tended to focus on the traditional definition of the mind-controlled zombie. This was a movie that introduced the idea of the walking dead. Because of its gore it quickly became a staple of the midnight movie scene and a cult hit. To this day The Night of the Living Dead is cited as one of the best horror movies of all time and I would venture a guess that it is considered the best zombie film ever made.
16. The Last House on the Left (1972)
This is not a film for the faint of heart. It is graphic, gory and incredibly disturbing. Clearly influenced by the Manson family; a group of people kidnap two teenage girls and torture them before murdering them. The remainder of the film followers the killers as they accidentally find themselves inside the house of one of the young women. The violence is often difficult to watch and is quite excessive. If you can stomach it, I would recommend it highly.
17. The Exorcist (1973)
Some people argue that The Exorcist is the best horror movie ever made. Its influence cannot be denied. Even in 2012 they are still making movies about exorcism. We are intrigued by the fight between ultimate good and ultimate evil. And we get to watch it play out in the body of a young girl.This film is one of the first in a long line of films made about the occult. This is right around the time Anton Lavey released The Satanic Bible and a general curiousity about witchcraft and Satanism arose. This is the timeframe The Exorcist and many other horror films fit in.
18. The Wickerman (1973)
Something about The Wickerman captivated me. It is one of my favorite films of all time. This film is strongly judgmental against religion and pits Paganism against Christianity; then revealing them both to be the opiate of the masses. Some people find the movie’s music to be cheesy (and some of it certainly is) but one of the best songs in this film is “Willow’s Song” which was subsequently remade by “Sneakerpimps” as the song “How Do.” The song appears again in the film Hostel (2006) creating a nice homage to The Wickerman.
19. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Supposedly based on a true story, this is a truly horrifying film. Leatherface is, handsd down, one of the scariest killers in horror history. And while many people focus on him and his human skin mask, let’s not forget the incredibly creepy family. There are so many times in this film where the victims get so close to escaping only to be snatched back (sometimes literally) and dragged back into their house of horrors. This movie clearly influenced later films such as Devil’s Rejects (2005) and spawned an incredible amount of sequels/remakes.
20. Jaws (1975)
This is the ultimate man vs. beast horror film. Jaws plays on our very primal fear of sharks. I have read the book and seen the film adaptation. It follows the most ordinary of heroes; a man who has to fight not only a giant shark but also the hysteria of the people and the economic interests of the town. Just when you thought you were safe to go back into the water…