Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Horror Films From 1978
1978 features some of the best known and most beloved films of the horror genre. 1978 is a strong contender for best year overall but has some serious competition with 1973 and 1977. The year is heavy with American films with a whopping six making the top ten. Getting one vote each was Mexico, France, Australia, and UK. Just one more year of the 1970’s to go which I must admit, makes me kinda sad. It’s been a fun trip and I’ve watched a ton of films and discovered a few awesome new gems along the way. After I post 1979’s list I’ll be throwing up a summary for the decade. Still to see from 1978: Nagisa Ôshima’s Empire Of Passion, Carlos Puerto’s Satan’s Blood, Antonio Bido’s The Blood-Stained Shadow and Chûsei Sone’s Angel Guts: Highschool Coed.
Here’s what made the shortlist: Piranha, The Fury, Patrick, It Lives Again, Eyes Of Laura Mars, The Legacy, The Toolbox Murders, Virgin Killer, The Mafu Cage and Damned in Venice.
#10 BLUE SUNSHINE
Directed By: Jeff Lieberman
There were a few films that could have gone in this slot that I rated identically but I thought Blue Sunshine was the most interesting and unique of the group. The film starts with a meaty opening scene where the host of a small party ends up killing several of his guests. In regards to its violence, it never quite lives up to this opening scene but considering the bizarre and memorable scenes that follow, it’s a fair trade-off. The film is definitely a product of the late 70’s, and not just in a visual sense. There is a political-social vibe here you can’t ignore. The film also confirms that disco does indeed suck. The film has multiple killers whom all lose their hair as part of the symptoms of the boogie-woogie fever. Male pattern baldness has never been so frightening! Except it’s not just the men that lose their hair and go mad, it also happens to a female character. Her “scene” is definitely one of my favourite moments in the film! Blue Sunshine had me fully engaged from beginning to end. To read the full review click here.
Directed By: Richard Attenborough
The ventriloquist dummy is a prop that can be creepy or hokey. In the case of Magic, the dummy is used to great effect as a representation of the main characters dual personality. Some may be disappointed to learn that the dummy never starts moving about on its own or wielding kitchen knives. The story focuses on awkward unsuccessful magician Corky Withers whose act gets considerable propping after the introduction of a ventriloquist dummy he calls Fats. Anthony Hopkins is excellent and is very believable in the role. The voice he gives to his dummy Fats is chilling and very effective. The rest of the cast are also good but Hopkins definitely owns this film. Magic is quite bloodless and more of a psychological drama than a horror film but it is definitely entertaining and worth checking out for Hopkins’ performance alone.
#8 THE GRAPES OF DEATH
Directed By: Jean Rollin
The Grapes Of Death is one of my favourite French horror films and Jean Rollin’s second entry on one of my 70’s lists. The film’s name is literal, as it is the pesticides used on the grapes from a local vineyard that infect and eventually rot the population. These aren’t your common zombies as they speak and maintain their humanity after becoming infected. The infection comes with a couple nasty side effects, specifically the urge to kill and some nasty, rotting skin. There is some very nice gore on display but there is surprisingly little nudity for a Rollin film. The Grapes Of Death is an original and suspenseful film with an intriguing premise and bloody violence. It also features good performances, beautiful location shots and a perfect mood and score. The Grapes Of Death is damn fine entertainment.
#7 LONG WEEKEND
Directed By: Colin Eggleston
Nature strikes back in the most incredible and fantastic manner possible in Long Weekend. A feuding couple whilst on a beachside camping trip unleashes their hatred on one another and their beautiful environment. I wasn’t rooting for the nasty couple but I was certainly fully invested in finding out what would happen to them. Colin Eggleston creates a steady-building tension that is electric and its gorgeous picturesque location turns into a nightmare full of force and fury. Long Weekend is a visceral experience that is suspenseful, thrilling and potent.
#6 THE SHOUT
Directed By: Jerzy Skolimowski
The Shout’s story is told by a man by the name of Crossley to a fellow cricket player in a series of flashbacks. Crossley is a traveler who forces his way into the lives of Anthony and Rachel Fielding. He regales them with tales of living with Australian aborigines where he met a magic man who taught him the black arts. Crossley tells them about “the shout” which when emitted can kill. To tell you anymore about this story would just be a crime. The story is fascinating, but pretty outrageous so its validity is always in question. It’s a beautifully filmed, well executed sophisticated mystery. Alan Bates is chilling as Crossley and gets superb support from the likes of Tim Curry, John Hurt and Susannah York who gives one of her best performances ever here. Jerzy Skolimowski’s The Shout is a brilliant and extremely satisfying little yarn.
Directed By: Juan López Moctezuma
Alucarda is a deliciously sacrilegious and surreal bit of insanity. The sets are imaginative and quite impressive. The convent has the appearance of a cave and the multiple tiered Christs hanging from the ceiling is one of the most brilliant props I have ever seen! Instead of traditional habits, the nuns are clothed in what appears to be torn bloodied bandages. Tina Romero, who plays Alucarda gives a brooding and wonderfully wicked performance. When the action starts, it keeps a spirited pace right through to the end. There is more hysterical female screaming then I’ve ever witnessed in a single film! The dialogue is over dramatic at times and there are a few moments that are bordering on cheesy but Moctezuma’s strange, daunting and moody presentation keeps it from slipping into silliness. You will be treated to bizarre images, flagellating nuns, satanic rituals, copious nudity, lesbianism, and bloody violence. It is all complimented nicely by some trippy organ music. Alucarda is pure sacrelicious gold.
#4 I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE
Directed By: Meir Zarchi
Despite the genre in which it appears, I find rape in film can be an unsavory reality I find difficult to watch. I don’t avoid these films however as I seek to be challenged by my celluloid. I Spit On Your Grave’s gang rape is ugly brutal and violent. The director does nothing to gloss this section and it is messy, uncomfortable and horrific. Jennifer, the films central character is a writer and a woman who appears strong, independent and intelligent. I couldn’t help but feel Jennifer’s need for retribution. Right or wrong, I find the men’s deaths very satisfying. Camille Keaton is excellent as Jennifer and one of the big reasons I find I Spit On Your Grave effective. It’s easy enough to write off a film like I Spit On Your Grave as exploitative and nasty, but I think it is a well made film with surprising good production value that gets under my skin quite unlike any other. It is not a film I’ve cared to re-watch too often over the years but I’ve always cited as a favourite. I’ve seen hundreds of horror films since my first viewing of I Spit On Your Grave and this one still chills me like it did the first time, and that is really saying something.
Directed By: John Carpenter
John Carpenter hasn’t made a film I’ve enjoyed in years. That is pretty damn tragic, because the man has directed some of the most thoroughly entertaining films ever made! They Live made my number one spot for 1988 and The Thing made the number one spot for 1982, and that brings me to Halloween which I have awarded the number 3 spot for 1978. One of the strengths all three of the aforementioned films share is great casting. Halloween’s Jamie Lee Curtis is a decent actress and an all around likable broad. As Laurie Strode she is natural and doesn’t come off as a helpless victim. I thought P.J. Soles and Curtis were the epitome of cool back then! All the performances in the film are good. Michael Myers was scary business when I was a kid. He truly was the boogie man. His featureless white mask appearing and disappearing was as chilling for me as the actual killing. I wish movies scared me like they did back then. I’ve always admired the films opening scene where we see through the eyes of the mask being worn by the young Michael Myers. It is such a simple but cool looking shot. Its soundtrack like my film in the number one spot is one of the greatest ever created for a horror film. Halloween’s iconic music sets the perfect mood and compliments the visuals beautifully. Admittedly I’m holding on to fond memories with this one as it definitely doesn’t have the impact for me it once did. Nonetheless I find Halloween a thoroughly enjoyable watch and its boogeyman will always have a special place in my heart.
#2 INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS
Directed By: Philip Kaufman
I’ve commented often on this blog that I generally avoid re-makes. I am officially tired of getting burned by shitty re-imaginings of my favourite films. There are always exceptions to this rule of course, and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is a shining example. Director Philip Kaufman brings the story into the 70’s never losing the qualities that make it so damn effective. Humour, commentary and interesting likable characters are weaved into a story of dread and paranoia. Our quartet of characters played perfectly by Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Veronica Cartwright and Jeff Goldblum work their way through exhaustion trying to evade the unstoppable menace that threatens to clone and destroy them. You could argue that Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is not a remake but an interpretation of the same story the 1956 version was based written by Jack Finney. Either way I love both versions and would be hard-pressed to choose one over the other. Philip Kaufman’s 1978 version is a well-made, chilling sci-fi horror film with great performances, impressive suspense and a brilliant finale. Bravo!
#1 DAWN OF THE DEAD
Directed By: George A. Romero
My appreciation for Dawn of The Dead’s awesome score grows with every viewing. Goblin’s soundtrack is simply flawless accompaniment to one of the most magnificent zombie films ever made. Dawn Of The Dead is a character-driven, eerie, smart, humorous, intense and gory film. The effects are outstanding, the zombie makeup is top-notch and the mood and atmosphere is absolute perfection. I could probably write a ten page essay on Dawn Of The Dead I’ve seen it so bloody many times over the years. I’ll spare you the essay. Dawn Of The Dead is not only the best of the zombie genre but is one of the best horror films ever made and a long time favourite that I never grow tired of re-watching. When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth. INDEED!