1978 - The birth of a legend
Something big happened 3 years into my existence, John Carpenter released Halloween. Now while Halloween isn't my favorite franchise of the big three, I do recognize its greatness. Carpenter laid down a very simple blueprint that went on to inspire some of my favorite movies in the horror genre.
However, Halloween wasn't the only movie in 1978 to change the landscape of not only horror but the way all movies were beginning to be made. Things are about to get interesting ...
I don't have much to say about this one. It's a classic and was the movie that started the Golden Age of the Slasher genre. You can watch with Hoopla, Shudder, and AMC+.
Blurb - Fifteen years after murdering his sister on Halloween night 1963, Michael Myers escapes from a mental hospital and returns to the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois to kill again.
There was a time when the only person doing zombie movies was George Romero. Except when he did them, he wasn't making a simple horror movie, he was making commentary on the state of civilization as he saw it. Many point to Night of the Living Dead as a statement on society during the 60s. While Dawn of the Dead seems to focus on the commercialism of the 70s and the ever-growing "buy, buy, buy" lifestyle many Americans were guilty of by the end of the decade. I'm not sure why but you can't stream it and the Blu-ray/DVD copies are high-priced collectibles. You can watch the Snyder cut as he remade the movie in 2004, but it loses Romero's voice.
Blurb - Following an ever-growing epidemic of zombies that have risen from the dead, two Philadelphia S.W.A.T. team members, a traffic reporter, and his television executive girlfriend seek refuge in a secluded shopping mall.
I wasn't sure which way to go for the 3rd movie. There are several of choices but I think Invasion of the Body Snatchers needed to be next. With a star-studded cast, and directed by Philip Kaufman - who would go on to direct The Right Stuff - this remake of the 1956 movie was a hit with movie goers. Stream it on Prime, Shudder, and Hoopla
Plus it gave us this amazing picture ...
Blurb - When strange seeds drift to earth from space, mysterious pods begin to grow and invade San Francisco, California, where they replicate the residents into emotionless automatons one body at a time.
I hesitate to include I Spit On Your Grave on any list but there is no denying that this movie is influential not only to the genre but to the loosening of what was allowed in traditional movies by the late 70s. With extremely graphic and drawn-out sexual violence to the main character, the movie pushes past the boundaries of taste to the point of Roger Ebert calling the film "a vile bag of garbage" in his review.
Yet, the movie has been revisited in the last 10-15 years and rebranded as a potential feminist picture. While nearly 30 minutes of the 102 minute run time is used to show the excessive and brutal rape, the rest of the movie is dedicated to showing a determined and empowered strong female lead character taking control and killing her attackers.
I'm not sure which way you want to take the film as a whole, I just know that I saw it at a pretty young age and it left a horrifying and lasting impression on me. The trailer does a great job of showing you all you need to know about the movie without having to wash your eyes out afterward. I'd tell you where to stream it if you so choose to, but it is not available anywhere to stream or buy. That said, there was a remake in 2010. I haven't seen it but I'm sure it's just as unsettling as the original.
Blurb - An aspiring writer is repeatedly gang-raped, humiliated, and left for dead by four men whom she systematically hunts down to seek revenge.
So after I Spit On Your Grave we have to pivot to prove just about anything could be made in the 70s. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes gives us the blueprint of what needs to be done if tomatoes ever develop a taste for human flesh. You'll need this if you decide to watch the previous title. Find it on VUDUfree and tubi.
Blurb - A group of scientists band together to save the world from mutated killer tomatoes.
Roger Corman, the king of the B-movie, grabs a slice of the Jaws pie with his take on killer fish with Piranha. This movie had way more to do with my fear of the water than Jaws ever did. This movie is just plain fun. Catch it on Prime, Shudder, and tubi.
Blurb - When flesh-eating piranhas are accidentally released into a summer resort's rivers, the guests become their next meal.
Also looking to cash in on that Jaws money is Jaws 2. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, you get not only piranhas but another great white. At this point Brody should just move ... find it on Netflix and Prime (this rarely happens).
Blurb - Police chief Brody must protect the citizens of Amity after a second monstrous shark begins terrorizing the waters.
It feels like the late 70s is when Hollywood and horror movies, in general, began to see what Universal knew all along. There's a benefit to simply making sequels. It's easier to live off a previous movie's success than starting from scratch. The Omen follows in Jaws' fin-prints and releases a sequel to the successful film about the anti-Christ. Damien: Omen II looks into Damien's life now that he is older and understands who he is. It is rent/buy only.
Blurb - Damien the Antichrist, now about to turn thirteen years old, finally learns of his destiny under the guidance of an unholy disciple of Satan. Meanwhile dark forces begin to eliminate all those who suspect the child's true identity.
If you like Supernatural horror then you need to check out The Legacy. Starring Sam Elliott before he was cool, this movie has all the things you need to make a good occult film hum along. Not sure where you can stream this or if you can, but you might find it on DVD for a reasonable price.
Blurb - An American couple in England stumble upon a rambling mansion where a number of powerful individuals have been summoned by its patriarch regarding the home's legacy.
Continuing with the supernatural, 1978 gave us the Brian DePalma movie The Fury. Written by horror novelist John Farris, The Fury shows us just how far the Government would go to get their hands on special individuals with superhuman powers. Starring Kirk Douglas, The Fury also was Daryl Hannah's first acting gig. You can stream it if you have Starz.
Blurb - A former CIA agent uses the talents of a young psychic to help retrieve his telekinetic son from terrorists, who want to use his mental powers for evil.
Throwing out this made for TV movie because it was directed by John Carpenter. Someone's Watching Me can be seen with rent/buy options from your favorite streaming service.
Blurb - A woman is being watched in her apartment by a stranger, who also calls and torments her. A cat-and-mouse game begins.
Like the previous years, I want to include some movies that were important to me and/or made an impact on me. Dot and the Kangaroo was shown like every morning on TMC when I was growing up. If something is animated - especially when I was younger - I will watch it. The biggest one for me on here is The Lord Of the Rings, another amazing Ralph Bakshi movie. I know it is filled with changes, and there are a number of issues when compared to the source material, but this is my LOTRs. I love the live-action, but this will always be my favorite. I just wish they would have let him finish it with a second film.
Author side note - When I lived in Germany the 2nd time, we lived in base housing with like 19 other families in a building. There was 1 house that had a VHS player and I would show up at their house and knock on the door in hopes they would let me in to watch their copy of LOTR. Many times, the wife would just let me in and start up the video. The late 70s and early 80s were weird.