Picture this ... 1976 top horror movies
While 1975 had 1 big blockbuster of a movie, 1976 brings us 3 heavyweights. I had trouble picking which one would get the #1 spot and have its poster featured as the cover art for today's post, but in the end I gave it to The Omen.
While 1976 has a rise in "slasher" films, I feel like 2 themes dominated horror movies during this year: animal-horror & supernatural/religious-based horror.
Directed by rising star Richard Donner, this movie has a deep and experienced cast. There is a move away from all horror movies being seen as niche or b-rated endeavors as they become more mainstream and adult-focused. Find it on HULU and Paramount+.
Blurb - Mysterious deaths surround an American ambassador. Could the child that he is raising actually be the Antichrist? The Devil's own son?
The 1b to The Omen, Carrie is another one of the year's horror movies focused on capturing the attention of mainstream moviegoers. The first of a long line of Stephen King movies, this movie set the bar high. Find it on AMC+ or Shudder.
Blurb - Carrie White, a shy, friendless teenage girl who is sheltered by her domineering, religious mother, unleashes her telekinetic powers after being humiliated by her classmates at her senior prom.
Not to be left behind, Hammer Horror produced another picture with the Devil serving as the main plot device. By this time hammer had run out of steam, their franchise pictures were overdone and their stars were aging. This was the 2nd to the last film the studio would produce until reopening in 2008. This is available to stream on Hoopla.
Blurb - An American occult novelist battles to save the soul of a young girl from a group of Satanists, led by an excommunicated priest, who plan on using her as the representative of the Devil on Earth.
Staying within the Supernatural genre we have Burnt Offerings, a classic haunted house/possession story. Directed by The Trilogy of Terrors' director Dan Curtis and packed with big-name star power, Burnt Offerings won a number of awards. You can stream for free if you have AMC+ or rent/buy on Amazon streaming.
One of the few slashers worth mentioning, Alice, Sweet Alice was also known by Holy Terror and Communion. A modern-day slasher film with religious overtones, this movie uses religion as a backdrop for some good old fashion bloodletting. You can stream on tubi.
Blurb - In 1961, a divorced Catholic couple's life is turned upside down when one of their two adolescent daughters is suspected of her younger sister's brutal murder during her First Holy Communion, and a series of subsequent stabbings.
The other slasher classic from 1976 is The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Find it on Paramount+.
Blurb - The story of a hooded, berserk killer who terrorized the border town of Texarkana, Arkansas in 1946--leaving no fewer than five murder victims in his wake. He was never caught. Based on one of America's most baffling murder cases.
Now we enter the other sub-genre that dominated the theaters during this time thanks to the success of Jaws, animal-based horror. These movies dominated TNT, TBS, and USA during the 80s. First up is Squirm. You can stream it on tubi.
Blurb - A storm causes some power lines to break and touch the ground, drawing millions of man-eating worms out of the earth, and into town where they quickly start munching on the locals.
As you can see from the poster, Grizzly was to be the Jaws of the land. A fun little B-movie. You can find it on Hoopla, tubi, and IMDB(through Amazon).
Blurb - An eighteen-foot-tall grizzly bear terrorizes a state park, leaving it up to a Park Ranger to save the day.
Loosely based in the H.G. Wells' story by the same name, this movie was played on TBS on a loop in the mid-80s. The Food of the Gods is one of those movies I'm surprised hasn't been remade a bunch now that CGI is a thing. You can stream on PLEX or buy/rent on VUDU.
Blurb - A group of friends travel to a remote Canadian island to hunt, only to be attacked by giant killer animals which have populated the place.
Finally, the movie I almost put at the top, King Kong 1976. The only thing holding it back is the fact I don't think of any King Kong movie as a horror film. That said it did have the biggest opening weekend gross for any movie that year and dominated the Box Office.
The first time I saw this movie was in the Army base theater in Germany. It will always have a special place in my King Kong loving heart. You can watch it on HBOMax.
Blurb - A petroleum exploration expedition comes to an isolated island and encounters a colossal giant gorilla.
1976 had some other interesting films, including the first Freaky Friday, the 2nd movie by John Carpenter, a Neil Simon play, Sherlock Holmes meeting Sigmund Freud, the first film with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor together, and David Bowie's first film.