Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Horror Films From 1976
I have seen a fair amount of films from 1976 but frankly a lot of them were terribly mediocre or downright shitty. I’m not particularly thrilled with this list to be honest. I found the year as a whole a bit of a drag. A significant amount of American films made the 1976 list with six entries. Only two for the UK this time around, and one each for Italy and Spain. 1976 has been my least favourite year of the decade thus far. Maybe there are a couple of gems in my “to see” list. Sigh. Still to see: Paolo Cavara’s Plot Of Fear, Charles B. Pierce’s The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Yûji Makiguchi’s Shogun’s Sadism, Jonas Middleton’s Through The Looking Glass, Carlos Aured’s House Of Psychotic Women, Noboru Tanaka’s Watcher In The Attic, Yasuharu Hasebe’s Assault! Jack The Ripper, Kon Ichikawa’s The Clan Of Dog-God Household.
Here’s what made the shortlist: Schizo, Barb Wired Dolls, The Food Of The Gods, Blood-Sucking Freaks, Grizzly, Embryo, Jack The Ripper, Dracula and Son, Death Weekend, Land Of The Minotaur, Deadly Strangers, Mansion Of The Doomed, The Clown Murders, Revenge Of The Dead, Squirm, The Keeper.
#10 TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER
Directed By: Peter Sykes
To The Devil A Daughter is the most contemporary of the Hammer Studio films. The studio was struggling and looking for a way to re-invigorate its popularity. Unfortunately To The Devil A Daughter would not save the studio. It has flaws I can’t ignore but despite this I find the film very watchable. Most of the film is a relatively serious affair about a father trying to save his daughter’s soul from the devil. The performances are top notch, particularly Christopher Lee and Denholm Elliott, and there are some extremely effective and memorable scenes that don’t resort to cheap parlor tricks. And then there is the church scene. A scene so cheesy and unnecessary I don’t know how anyone could watch it and not laugh. I actually enjoy cheesiness in certain films but here it just messes up the mood something awful. It is a small part of the film but it is a hard one to ignore. Nonetheless I rather enjoy To The Devil A Daughter.
#9 BURNT OFFERINGS
Directed By: Dan Curtis
If you watched Burnt Offerings as a kid like I did, you probably recall the films creepy chauffeur. This dude chilled my shit back then and in fact was no less effective on a recent re-watch. Unfortunately, despite the chauffeur and a handful of other effective scenes, I didn’t find Burnt Offerings as haunting or suspenseful as I recalled. The thrills are a bit too sporadic and for a haunted house flick it’s slim on the scares. Burnt Offerings fantastic location is its best asset. The incredible home is the perfect place for a horror film. Karen Black isn’t bad in her role but I thought Oliver Reed was definitely the highlight here. He has one particularly meaty scene with his son that is one of the films best. Notably along for the ride are Bette Davis, Burgess Meredith and Eileen Heckart. Burnt Offerings was not quite the awesome film I recalled but I cannot deny it some outstanding moments that make for entertaining viewing.
#8 THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE
Directed By: Nicolas Gessner
Both of my previous viewing of The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane were years ago on television which is probably the main reason I always thought the film was a made-for-TV movie. I watched the film for the first time on DVD about a month ago and I must admit it was better than I recalled. The films tagline Thank heaven for little girls. Thank HELL for the little girl who lives down the lane! seems rather over the top. The films horror is subtle and takes a back seat to the unfolding drama and mystery. The film has an intriguing set-up although it does lack plausibility at times; I was nonetheless intrigued to see how it would all turn out. The antagonist is a thirteen year old girl named Rynn played with an eerily calm confidence by Jodie Foster. The story is told from Rynn’s point of view and we can empathize with her plight despite the fact that she has the ability to be ruthless and deadly. Most of the horror comes from the despicable adults around her making it hard not to root for Rynn. Alexis Smith is notable as landlady Mrs. Hallet, who really tears up the screen with her brief appearances as well as Martin Sheen who plays her creepy pervert son Frank. The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane is a good film that leans heavier towards mystery than horror with some respectable ambience and strong performances.
#7 THE OMEN
Directed By: Richard Donner
The Omen is certainly one of the better known horror films of the 1970’s. No surprise really, it is a big-budget, glossy and visually appealing film. The performances are excellent particularly the casting of Gregory Peck as the adoptive father of the devil child Damien. The film has its share of outstanding and effective moments too. In two of the best, a trip to the zoo becomes an unholy nightmare and Damien’s nanny pledges her allegiance at his birthday party. The death sequences are each unique, but are completely bloodless and rather solemn affairs. There is plenty to appreciate about The Omen, although it’s never been a personal favourite, it is definitely one of the better films from this particular year. The Omen is a very watchable and well-made film.
#6 HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN
Directed By: Pete Walker
Pete Walker collaborated with David McGillivray on my two personal favourite efforts, Frightmare and House of Whipcord. The duo work together again sharing writing credits on the delightfully sacrilegious House Of Mortal Sin. You’ve gotta love a priest who records confessions to use as blackmail and isn’t afraid to resort to murder! The excellent death scenes by rosary beads and the like are an awesome touch! Anthony Sharp is fantastic as the gleefully demented Father Xavier Meldrum. It also features one of my all-time favourite women of horror Sheila Keith. She is simply terrific and memorable in every role I’ve seen her in. All the players are perfect here. The film has grittiness, intensity, thrills and some awesome kills that make for a thoroughly entertaining and satisfying viewing experience. Pete Walker is one of my favourite UK directors from the decade and House Of Mortal Sin in my opinion is one of his best.
#5 GOD TOLD ME TO
Directed By: Larry Cohen
Gold Told Me To is an interesting film. Its title is the motivation for a rash of murders in New York. There’s a particularly effective scene where a cop opens fire on the crowd at a St. Patrick’s Day parade that is not to be missed! The story is quite outrageous and features a Jesus-esque character named Bernard Phillips who was allegedly born of a virgin, a cabal of rich powerful men who claim to be disciples and Cohen even throws a little extraterrestrial abduction in the mix. Investigating the case is devoutly Catholic police detective Peter Nicholas. Tony Lo Bianco really stands out as Nicholas but all the performances are quite good. The production value is top notch, and personally, I think this is Larry Cohen’s slickest looking film. God Told Me To’s wacky, commentary-laden story is pure Cohen, and is one my favourites from the director.
#4 ALICE SWEET ALICE
Directed By: Alfred Sole
The only thing I recalled about Alice Sweet Alice was the killer wore a plastic mask and a yellow raincoat. On a recent re-watch I was surprised I couldn’t recall details, because Alice Sweet Alice is actually a damn fine film! Don’t let Brooke Shields name scare you off. Shields plays Karen Spages and is found early in the film brutally murdered inside a church on her first communion. The film instead focuses on Karen’s sister Alice Spages. Alice took great joy in terrorizing her little sister and when she turns up for church wearing her sister’s communion veil she becomes the number one suspect. Paula Sheppard is outstanding as the disturbed Alice. Her performance really is a highlight! Alice Sweet Alice is a great mystery with excellent suspense and well-executed murder sequences. Well-filmed, great sets and an amazing score combine to make one memorable and satisfying experience. Alice is sweet indeed!
#3 THE HOUSE WITH LAUGHING WINDOWS
Directed By: Pupi Avati
The House With Laughing Windows isn’t the first horror film to feature a psychotic artist but the twist is a unique and chilling one. It has a great violent opening sequence featuring a bound man being stabbed to death while a voice speaks of colours and death. A steadily building sense of dread, awesome sets and the great remote location help to create the perfect mood and atmosphere. Its dark, depraved and psycho-sexual vibe seals the deal! Although the graphic violence is slim, it uses its horror elements to great effect and rewards with a solid memorable ending. A top notch entry from Italian director Pupi Avati.
#2 WHO CAN KILL A CHILD?
Directed By: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
While vacationing in Spain expecting parents Tom and Evelyn decide to travel to a resort town Tom had visited ten years previous called Almanzora. The couple rent a boat and head to the remote location. As they drift towards the shore they see a group of children playing. Once on the island they discover businesses abandoned and not an adult in sight. The reality of the situation soon becomes clear. By the time the credit role you get the answer to the titular question of Who Can Kill A Child? Who Can Kill A Child? is a well-filmed, fascinating, atmospheric and intense mystery that warns us to heed the little voices or one day they might just combine resources and finish us all! An excellent lesser known horror film!
Directed By: Brian De Palma
I don’t think I need to go into a detailed discussion on Carrie. Even casual horror fans have probably seen this one, or at very least are familiar with its story. One of the things I love about this film is the horror is subtle for most of its runtime. Its iconic prom massacre is simply the result of one young woman’s nightmarish existence we have watched unfold. While its finale is certainly memorable, I’ve always wished for more scenes of Carrie’s home life. The moments that feature Carrie’s mother, played beautifully by Piper Laurie are the films most chilling in my opinion. The films best asset is Sissy Spacek’s stellar performance in the titular role. Spacek has the picture perfect waifish look but more importantly she has the talent to bring depth to this broken woman that is very believable. Carrie’s life is a living hell. Abused at home by a fanatically religious mother and terrorized at school and branded a freak. I have a ton of empathy for this character and that is what makes this film effective for me. There is never really even a glimmer of hope for Carrie, she is doomed. The brief moment of happiness she is allowed is completely shattered by a particularly nasty prank. Can you really blame the woman for going nuclear? What can I say? I’m a big fan of Carrie and there was no debate as to its number one placing for the year.