• ERIC BUTLER

1979 - Heavy at the top

As I continue this look into the horror movies released during my lifetime and the impact they had on cinema and fans, I was surprised to see 2 horror movies sneak into the top 10 highest-grossing films of the year. Since I started this list only 2 movies had made it into the top 10 over 4 years('75-'78). Both were PG-rated and both had extreme animals as the centerpiece - Jaws & King Kong. But here we have 2 R-rated films finishing #2 & #6.


Of course, this was before PG-13, and I have a feeling some of the R-rated movies coming up would have slid back and some of the PG movies of the past would get a bump up to PG-13 but we aren't there yet. It's going to be interesting to see how horror fares over the next few years.

Alien is a haunted house story in space. The ship is the house, and the Alien is the spirit. The main difference is this "spirit" bleeds acid, has 2 mouths and kills without thought.


This movie finished #6 in the Box Office and helped transform/fortify the Final Girl trope. Ripley stands heads and shoulders above the traditional and typical "final girl" - which is reenforced and expanded in the sequel. Add to that, a top-rate crew, and cast and Scott put his stamp on the genre.


While many will try and say this is a science fiction film, it is 100% a horror film with science fiction elements. Scott took Spielberg's use of the ocean as a new and scary location and turned it to 11. He showed us not only the vastness of space but how limited our knowledge really is of what might be out there.


You can stream on fubo and amc+.


Blurb - After a space merchant vessel receives an unknown transmission as a distress call, one of the crew is attacked by a mysterious life form and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun.



Next up for me is Phantasm. I saw this in the mid-80s and it got lost in the over-powering vibe of the 70s. 2 things did stand out, the Tall Man and the sphere. Those stuck with me and even though I ignored the sequels after the 2nd one, they always fascinated me as a horror fan.


I recently revisited the movie with a collector's edition Blu-ray so I could get some behind-the-scenes looks and while the hair, clothes, and settings still scream the late-70s, it didn't take away from the film. In fact, in its own way, it enhanced the movie. I've recently got Part 2 on Blu and plan on trying to complete all the movies before they pop up on the list. I think this underrated series will move up my board as I consume more.


Find it on Prime, tubi, Pluto, peacock to stream for free.


Blurb - A teenage boy and his friends face off against a mysterious grave robber, known only as the Tall Man, who employs a lethal arsenal of unearthly weapons.



The Amityville Horror is based on a true story - or so they say. I could easily do a whole blog post on that discussion, but instead, let's just focus on the movie itself. It was #2 in the top box office performances. It had a big director and cast, and a bestselling novel behind it to drive curious viewers to the theater. This film continued the success of previous supernatural horror movies - Exorcist, Omen, Rosemary's Baby - and reinforced to the studios, they were moneymakers.


This one can be streamed on HBOMax.


Blurb - Newlyweds and their three children move into a large house where a mass murder was committed. They start to experience strange, inexplicable manifestations which have strong effects on everyone living in or visiting the house.



David Cronenberg continues to add to his legacy with The Brood. Oliver Reed stars during the height of his bad boy phase and gives a stellar performance.


You could see this on HBOMax.


Blurb - A man tries to uncover an unconventional psychologist's therapy techniques on his institutionalized wife, amidst a series of brutal murders.



Nosferatu the Vampyre is art-house horror at its finest. This German/French-backed film embraces the European setting and attitude to give us this moody yet colorful interpretation of the 1922 classic Nosferatu. This is one of my favorite interpretations of Dracula and one you should see if you enjoy the cinema.


You can stream it on peacock and tubi.


Blurb - Count Dracula moves from Transylvania to Wismar, spreading the Black Plague across the land. Only a woman pure of heart can bring an end to his reign of horror.




Not to be outdone, Universal also put out a reboot of their Dracula franchise. They tagged the Saturday Night Fever director and gave the title role to Frank Langella. I'm going to be honest, I don't think I've seen this one ... I can't get past his hair. Plus when I think of Dracula I always default to Christopher Lee.


That said, it was well-received by the critics, and the director went on to have an impressive lineup of movies. If you can look past the hair, you can stream it on tubi.


Blurb - In 1913, the charming, seductive and sinister vampire Count Dracula travels to England in search of an immortal bride.



When a Stranger Calls is always good for the first watch, but is best known for the big reveal - a twist everyone has heard even if they don't know the movie. It was strong enough to get a few sequels and a remake so it makes the list, even though honestly I don't remember much about it.


You can stream on Prime and VUDUfree.


Blurb - A psychopathic killer terrorizes a babysitter, then returns seven years later to menace her again.



Zombie or Zombi 2 is an Italian gore-filled zombie masterpiece. If you like the old fashion zombie films Romero put out, then you most likely will love this movie. You might also find it named Zombie Flesh Eaters. This movie was rated X originally for the excessive violence throughout the picture. I'm guessing mostly as a marketing gag, just like the line at the end of the ad which promises movie theaters will provide barf bags for those that need it.


Watch it on amc+ or shudder.


Blurb - Strangers searching for a young woman's missing father arrive at a tropical island where a doctor desperately seeks the cause and cure of a recent epidemic of the undead.



6 more movies from 1979 that helped shape my taste in movies, comics, and books.


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