Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Horror Films From 1968
IMDB listed 431 titles 91 of which were full-length feature films. This is by far the highest number of horror films made in a single year for the decade. I saw 65 of the 91 films from 1968. This year is massive! Epic! Mind shattering! I have covered every year of the 1970s, the 1980s and at this point most of the 1960s and I have never rated a year as highly as 1968! The top seven films on this list are rated 5/5 and the top five films are included on my top 100 favourite horror films of all time! The films in spots eight and nine were rated 4.5/5. I was particularly torn as to which one of the six films I rated 4/5 should make the list. These films couldn’t be more different from one another! Each one brings something completely different to the table. In the end I decided to put the six names in a hat and pick one out blind. Not terribly scientific I realize, but choosing was making me crazy coo-coo! 1968 was one hell of a year for horror movies! The five excellent titles I was unable to include were Witchfinder General, The War of the Gargantuas, The Sweet Body of Deborah, Help Wanted Female, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave and The Joy of Torture.
#10 TWISTED NERVE
Directed By: Roy Boulting
Twisted Nerve is basically about bad parenting and schizophrenia. I assume schizophrenia, although they don’t bother much with technical terms in Twisted Nerve. I don’t know what they were calling Down’s Syndrome in the late 60s but surely they were not calling it mongoloid. Or were they? It is not much of a surprise that Martin has mental issues. He is the son of an overbearing mother that treats him like a child, a stepfather that berates him and can’t stand the look of him and a brother with Downs Syndrome who has been living in an institution his whole life. Martin’s mother due to his brother’s affliction is constantly looking for signs of Martin’s “normality”. Needless to say, Martin is definitely not well-adjusted. Martin suffers from schizophrenia and has an alter-ego named Georgy. Martin befriends a peer named Susan Harper after a shoplifting incident. Susan’s mother Joan runs a boarding house where he goes to live briefly. Martin and Georgy don’t play well with others and it doesn’t take much to push either of them over the edge. Martin goes on a mini killing spree dispatching two of the film’s character before a climax involving Susan. All the performances are quite good with a particularly stand out job from Hywel Bennett who plays Martin/Georgy, Hayley Mills as Susan Harper and Billie Whitelaw who plays Joan Harper. I watched a trailer for Twisted Nerve that made it appear it was a psycho slasher kind of thing. Regardless of what the marketing might suggest Twisted Nerve is a slow boil psychological horror-thriller. Twisted Nerve has just two deaths and is more of a character study than anything. Despite the appearance of Hayley Mills as Susan, this ain’t Disney! Twisted Nerve has a few shocks, a bit of violence, strong sexual undertones and even some brief nudity. Catchy little score too! Twisted Nerve is an enthralling well-made horror thriller!
#9 A QUIET PLACE IN THE COUNTRY
Directed By: Elio Petri
A Quiet Place in the Country is a seriously beauty piece of Italian horror cinema that seems to be largely unknown. Painter Leonardo Ferri is plagued with bizarre and disturbing violent dreams and his agent/lover Flavia suggests he rent the titular quiet place in the country. Unfortunately the nightmares do not cease but increase in intensity with the added addition of a mysterious woman who has connections to the house he is renting. He becomes obsessed with the mystery woman and begins to plunge into an even darker abyss that threatens to break him. A Quiet Place in the Country stars Franco Nero and Vanessa Redgrave. A very young and handsome Franco Nero! I love 60s Nero! Nero owns this film! He is pretty manic from the onset, and really goes on quite the trip through this film. He looks thinner and gaunter than he did in Django which suits the role well. The chemistry between Nero and Redgrave is absolutely electric! Ahhh, the tortured artist! The artist has been the focus of more than a few horror films over the years. There is a second artist on this very list who also struggles with his sanity! A Quiet Place in the Country is sort of a psychological drama with horror elements. There is a supernatural aspect to the story that is questionable due to our Leonardo’s fragile mental state. The narrative is not straight forward as one would expect from a film focusing on mental breakdown. Do not expect any tidy resolutions. A Quiet Place in the Country is imaginatively filmed and features some truly striking imagery. The film is well-paced and always interesting. Ennio Morricone’s eclectic and wild soundtrack compliments the film and Leonardo’s breakdown perfectly. The use of sound in the film is amazing; even what would normally be calming sounds of nature are made to sound jarring! A Quiet Place in the Country is bizarre, beautiful, unique, creepy, disturbing and an absolute pleasure to behold!
Directed By: Peter Bogdanovich
Targets has a particularly interesting story behind it. Targets was produced by Roger Corman who had the use of Karloff’s acting talents for a few days. He asked director Peter Bogdanovich to come up with a script pronto and begin shooting immediately. Apparently Corman also insisted that Bogdanovich use archive footage from his film The Terror which starred Karloff. Targets is the story of Byron Orlok, an aging horror movie legend and Bobby Thompson a Vietnam veteran turned insurance agent who goes on a killing spree. Targets is relatively spare in its visual presentation. It lacks decoration but has a very natural and fluid feel about it, almost like a documentary, but not quite. The film has a well-executed feeling of unease throughout. I found it almost alarming when Byron Orlok is caught in Bobby’s scope! According to Wikipedia the character of Bobby Thompson is based on Charles Whitman who went on a shooting spree in Texas in 1966. Boris Karloff is basically playing himself. Karloff is absolutely brilliant! I found his story amusing, touching and charming. Targets is one of the last films the great actor would star in and I think this performance is a real high note in the latter part of his career. Also excellent is Tim O’Kelly who plays Bobby Thompson. He is a typical all-American boy who also happens to be a crack shot and is acquiring quite the arsenal for himself. Bobby’s mental breakdown is presented in a rather frank manner making it all that much more disturbing. Much credit should be given to Mr. Bogdanovich who managed to create an intense, compelling horror thriller under significant limitations. It is rather a shame he never made another genre contribution. Targets, is a powerful, moving, engaging thriller with two brilliant performances that lingered in my mind long after the film ended.
#7 DESTROY ALL MONSTERS
Directed By: Ishirô Honda
I have seen Destroy All Monsters several times over the years and it never fails to thoroughly entertain me! Like the original Godzilla it has a special place in my heart. The United Nations Science Committee has managed to contain all of the monsters on the Island of Ogasawara. Monsterland as it is coined is equipped with top-notch security to insure the monsters are unable to escape by air or water. Everything is controlled from a secured spot underneath the island. But something goes horribly wrong and security is compromised. The monsters are set free and all the scientists have seemingly disappeared. After central command loses contact with the Monsterland facility Yamabe; captain of the Moonlight SY-3 spaceship and his crew are called in to investigate. They discover Dr. Otani and the other scientists have fallen under the control of a mysterious alien race of females called Kilaaks. The Kilaak Queen appears before them revealing she is controlling the monsters and insists they surrender. Meanwhile, the monsters have laid waste in far off cities around the globe! What ensues is the mother of all finales with flaming UFO’s, alien chicks, a spaceship captain hero, ray guns, mucho destruction, chaos and eleven unique and incredible monsters! Eleven freaking monsters! There are so many reasons to love Destroy All Monsters! The bullet pace wastes no time getting into its story and we get a glimpse of the monsters right off the bat. There is a ton of action, an insane amount of destruction and a huge multi-monster battle! The fantastic score, the impressive practical effects, the charming campy quality of the spaceships and the Kilaak women themselves are all a treat! Destroy All Monsters is an action packed, shitload of fun that I really can’t recommend more highly!
#6 HOUR OF THE WOLF
Directed By: Ingmar Bergman
When you think horror, it is unlikely Ingmar Bergman’s name is the first to pop into your head. Hour of The Wolf however is definitely a horror film of the psychological variety. Artist Johan Borg has not been sleeping well and is troubled by disturbing images that are affecting his work. Along with his young dedicated and pregnant wife Alma the two travel by boat to a cottage they keep on a remote island. Johan hopes the serene setting will help clear his mind and re-spark his creativity. But the environment only acts as fuel to his fragile mental state and Johan begins to descend even deeper into his nightmarish world. Hour of the Wolf is a dark and fascinating journey into a troubled mind. Alma and Johan share some brief happy moments until day becomes night. Alma stays awake with Johan each night past “the hour of the wolf” which in Johan’s words, is the time when most people die and most babies are born. Johan frantically shows an exhausted Alma sketches of the people of his nightmares. The people who make him fear closing his eyes. Real or perceived, Johan’s nightmare people begin to materialize themselves. The nightmare people look normal enough but their actions are strange and disconcerting. There are some truly bizarre and creepy moments during their interactions. One particularly effective scene sees a chilling puppet show set to Mozart’s Magic Flute where the puppet character learns the meaninglessness of human life. Every last second is dedicated to mood and to an oppressive and frightening atmosphere that is nothing short of brilliant. Flawlessly filmed in gorgeous black and white it is a treat for the senses. The characterizations are richly developed and the performances are perfection. Max von Sydow is excellent as the artist descending into madness and Liv Ullman is an absolute amazement as his dedicated wife. Hour of the Wolf is a slow boil, surreal journey of the psychological that completely envelopes me in its hypnotic embrace.
#5 SPIDER BABY; OR THE MADDEST STORY EVER TOLD
Directed By: Jack Hill
Spider Baby, or The Maddest Story Ever Told may not be the maddest story ever told, but it is certainly wonderfully warped! The Merrye family, due to decades of inbreeding share a peculiar malady that rots the brain and causes them to regress to some not quite explained pre-human existence. Bruno the family chauffeur has been left with the care of the three children; Elizabeth, Virginia and Ralph. The film opens with a messenger arriving at the Merrye home to deliver a letter. Unfortunately he meets Virginia who wants to play a game of “spider”. This does not end well for our messenger. The letter announces the impending arrival of some greedy relatives who aim to get their mitts on the Merrye estate. Worst still, they are arriving that very day! Jack Hill’s tale of the eccentric Merrye family manages to be quirky, eerie, disturbing, amusing and even a bit touching. Although the violence is not graphic it is not ineffective. All of the characters are wonderfully over the top. Virginia (Jill Banner) loves spiders. She likes to play a game where she throws a web over your head and than stings you with two large kitchen knives! She is a wild flower who keeps spiders as pets, and occasionally eats one. Poor Ralph (Sig Haig) is the most brain rotted of the children and it won’t be long before he must join his relatives in the basement. I won’t tell you about the relatives in the basement; I’ll leave that for you to discover. Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn) is the youngest of the trio and is often left in charge of Virginia whom she has no control over whatsoever. Elizabeth loves to hate, even though she is not supposed to. Elizabeth scorns Virginia for her naughtiness, but secretly enjoys it. And than we have Bruno (Lon Chaney Jr). Poor Bruno! He made a promise to the children’s father that he would always look after them. He has been a loyal guardian and loves the children dearly. All four actors play their characters brilliantly! Particularly Chaney, who is absolutely charming and unforgettable as Bruno; one of his best roles since the 40s! I should not leave out Carol Ohmart who plays the bitchy Emily Howe. Emily has a rigid exterior, but in the privacy of her bedroom dawns lingerie and dances in front of a mirror! The friendly and overly accommodating Peter Howe played by Quinn Redeker is also some fun and I loved how they included a conversation between him and his love interest Ann Morris (Mary Mitchel) about classic horror films (including The Wolf Man of course!). Spider Baby, or The Maddest Story Ever Told is wacky, weird, wonderful, nutty, nasty, spooky fun!
#4 THE DEVIL RIDES OUT
Directed By: Terence Fisher
I am a huge fan of Hammer Films and The Devil Rides Out, in my opinion, is the studio’s greatest masterpiece! The film is based on the novel by Dennis Wheatley, and stars the awesome Christopher Lee, who actually gets to play the good guy. When Simon fails to show up for his yearly reunion with Duc de Richleau and Rex Van Ryn, his deceased father’s friends, the two men decide to drop by uninvited. Simon is hosting thirteen guests of the “Astrological Society” which they soon learn is actually a satanic cult led by the powerful Mocata. Mocata has a powerful grip on Simon who will not be easily swayed from the pursuit of his final initiation. Duc de Richleau will need to use all his knowledge of the white arts and battle the unimaginable to save Simon. The Devil Rides Out has a rock solid story, great performances, and some of the most amazing set pieces I’ve ever laid eyes on. Terence Fisher directs The Devil Rides Out with plenty of style and thrills and its perfect pace kept the action moving along beautifully. Fisher wastes no time getting in to the story. Within the first ten minutes of the film we know that Simon is practicing the black arts. Clearly there are satanic shenanigans afoot! There is a particularly delightful black mass where Mocata summons the Goat of Mendes! But my favourite sequence in the film takes place inside Duc de Richleau’s pentagram of protection. Mocata throws every black magic trick in his book at Lee and it is truly something else. It is absolute magic! It’s Christopher Lee and Charles Gray’s inspired performances that add the final ingredient that makes The Devil Rides Out an enduring classic. The Devil Rides Out is my earliest memory of Satan-themed theatrics and remains a favourite I never get tired of re-watching to this day!
#3 ROSEMARY’S BABY
Directed By: Roman Polanski
This is Roman Polanski’s third showing on a top ten list for the decade. I think most of you are familiar with the adventures of Rosemary Woodhouse and her baby. Rosemary and hubby Guy move into an apartment with an unsavoury past and are befriended by an elderly couple. Rosemary becomes pregnant and is plagued with peculiar and disturbing dreams while Guy becomes preoccupied and distant. Rosemary begins to believe that her neighbours may have ominous plans for junior. Rosemary’s Baby has a well-written script based on Ira Levin’s novel. William Castle bought the rights for the film adaptation and is listed as producer, but of course it was Polanski who was given the director’s chair. Hard to imagine what a William Castle directed Rosemary’s Baby might have looked like. Rosemary’s Baby has a perfectly plotted build up that picks up speed as the film moves along right up to its fantastic finale. The visuals are superb throughout and Polanski creates a perfect menacing vibe with some potent and trippy imagery. Rosemary is the perfect protagonist who is both sympathetic and strong. She is not quite powerless but has little control over her strange situation and refuses to be passive. Mia Farrow does a hell of a job as Rosemary and she really rocks that adorable pixie haircut. Sidney Blackmer and Ruth Gordon play Roman and Minnie Castevet and are both perfect. I am a big fan of Ruth Gordon who stars in one of my all time favourite comedies Harold and Maude; she is just fantastic! Ms. Gordon won a well-deserved supporting actress Oscar for her efforts! Every single performance is this film is solid. I really do love me some Satan-inspired shenanigans and Rosemary’s Baby is one of the best of the best! Rosemary’s Baby is a smart, well paced, brilliantly acted, perfectly-executed bit of awesomeness!
Directed By: Kaneto Shindô
This is Kaneto Shindô’s second appearance on a top ten list for the decade! Yone and her daughter-in-law Shige is gang raped and murdered and their home is burned to the ground by a group of samurai. A black cat watches over the women’s corpses and cleans their wounds. The women become vengeful spirits whose sole purpose is to kill and drink the blood of every last samurai. Gintoki, a samurai whom has recently returned from battle is sent by the lord to rid the region of this samurai-killing menace. The daunting task is complicated by the fact that Gintoki is the son of Yone and husband of Shige. Kuroneko is filmed in beautiful black and white with a fantastic other-worldly atmosphere. Lighting is used to great effect; casting shadows and making inanimate objects appear as though they are moving. The eerie silence and the creative sound effects are also extremely well done. I loved the way the women were the focus of every shot. Their light ethereal appearance made everything around them appear darker. Kuroneko’s dream-like visuals are greatly enhanced by wonderful touches like Yone’s slow rhythmic death dances, Shige’s cat-like attacks and the way she floats over a puddle as she walks a samurai towards his doom. Even simple little things like a billowing curtain do not go unnoticed. Visually Kuroneko is flawless. Kiwako Taichi is bewitching as Shige. Bound by her pact, Shige is a seductive and vicious spirit. But the woman Shige once was lingers inside, making her incredibly empathetic. Nobuko Otowa is superb as Yone. Yone is a strong, serious spirit who methodically goes about her rituals. Her unusual eye makeup gave her an appropriately menacing appearance. Yone seems to have considerably less connection to who she was; although she is not unaffected by the appearance of her son. Handsome Kichiemon Nakamura is excellent as the conflicted Gintoki; son, husband and samurai. In short, intriguing characters and perfectly cast. Kuroneko is stunning, haunting and hypnotic and an absolute work of freaking art!!
#1 NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
Directed By: George A. Romero
What can one really say about George A. Romero’s perfect horror film Night of the Living Dead? The action starts immediately, as we watch a car pull into a deserted graveyard. Barbara and Johnny have come to visit their father’s grave and are assaulted by a man. When Johnny is knocked out, Barbara makes a run for it, and eventually comes to an isolated house where she seeks shelter. Barbara meets Ben who has stopped in hopes of finding fuel, but has found the pump locked. As a swarm of zombies gather, Ben decides the best course of action is to fortify their shelter. After several hours they discover there is a small group of five survivors holed up in the basement. The group are Harry and Helen Cooper, daughter Karen and young couple Tom and Judy. With plenty working against them they attempt to construct the best plan of action. An interesting group of characters dealing with an unthinkable circumstance. Duane Jones is outstanding as Ben and delivers an emotional but grounded performance. The acting by all the cast is quite decent. I loved the radio broadcasts and televised news footage segments. Early broadcasts warned people to “Get off the streets” and “We don’t know what kind of murder-happy characters we have here”. Later broadcasts confirm that people are coming back from the dead. At one point a commentator announces in horror that victims are being eaten. Every new piece of information learned makes the situation more harrowing. Zombies are shown gnawing away on organs and body parts, ripping and tearing away at the human flesh. In one scene there is an impromptu human barbecue where several zombies converge to grab themselves a chunk of the delicious meat. The action scenes really are outstanding. Night of the Living Dead was quite graphic for its time. There is an intense sense of dread that builds slowly through the entire film. It oozes atmosphere out of every pore. The cinematography is extremely effective. The numerous shots of the living dead ambling among the fields and trees on the surrounding land are a visceral treat. The number of zombies multiplies with every glance outside, and suddenly a shelter begins feeling like a coffin. The feeling of hopelessness is overwhelming and Romero does not reward with a happy ending. It is bleak, cynical and horrifying. Concentrating on the human reaction to the zombie outbreak instead of the creatures themselves allowed Romero to make some interesting and thought-provoking commentary. It is the manner in which he handles his subject that results is a truly eerie and memorable experience. A classic in every sense of the word. In this girls humble opinion, Night of The Living Dead is one of the best horror films ever made!