While solid films like The Exorcist, Jaws, and The Omen brought a polished, big box office look and feel to 1970s horror, there was some acid trip insanity created as well. Here are four fucked up alternatives to iconic 1970s horror films.
HORROR HOSPITAL (aka: Computer Killers) (1973)
The big problem with Horror Hospital is that it takes way too long to identify itself as a horror comedy. By the time it does, and you’re just getting into it, it ends!
The intro showing two hospital patients getting their heads hacked off by a big blade sticking out the side of a car is a joy to watch.
Next, we see a rock band performing, with a guy in drag lying down in front of the stage, and a Mick Jagger clone (1960s Mick Jagger) fuming that they stole his music and spouting some derogatory words the drag queen’s way.
Mick Jagger clone decides he needs to get away from it all. After a lecherous old gay real estate agent stares at his crotch, he’s booked on a train for his trip. He meets a chick and they check in to her aunt’s hotel. They immediately realize something is very wrong at the “hotel” after being joined at the dinner table by a bunch of zombified people with scars on their heads.
This leads to utter chaos. There’s sex, nudity, a mad scientist in a wheelchair, a little man bellboy/sidekick, a bunch of helmeted motorcycle rider minions, and a mysterious monster. And apparently, the doctor was doing some sort of sexual experiments, which get way too little focus. More sex and more monster could have saved Horror Hospital, which has one thing going for it – the little man, who totally steals the show with his comic performance.
TOWER OF EVIL (aka: Horror on Snape Island) (1972)
Another mess of a movie, Tower of Evil begins with plenty of atmosphere. A boat comes out of the fog and arrives on an island. The crew discovers a gory mess of naked, dead bodies. Suddenly, a weapon-wielding chick comes running out of the fog.
Taken in for questioning, she is hypnotized to see if she can remember what happened. The movie then splits into two interspersed stories. First, there’s a flashback story of the young dead people, who came to the island to get naked and have sex in a lighthouse. The other story involves archaeologists who come to the island to investigate the murders.
There is a gruesome, gory, naked segment in the middle of the film showing all the horny kids getting killed, but most of the movie is very talky. Finally, a big underground altar is discovered, and a chick is attacked by some sort of caveman creature.
She throws a lantern at it and the lighthouse goes on fire. At least the sex is great in this one (including meaty man butt), but the movie needs more monster.
SOMETIMES AUNT MARTHA DOES DREADFUL THINGS (1971)
Here’s a movie that almost lives up to its name. While it’s perfectly structured to be a fucked up campy slasher about a killer drag queen, Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things fails to present itself as an actual horror movie. It just comes across as a messy 1970s indie shocker attempting to ride the “subversive” coattails of Midnight Cowboy. It would be cool to see this one remade by a modern gay indie director. My vote would go to either Richard Griffin or Brian Dorton.
Two criminals are hiding out in a rental house because Stanley apparently killed a woman. Paul takes on the role of his protector…while dressed in drag as his “Aunt Martha!”
The film makes it blatantly clear that Paul has a gay thing for Stanley. He acts like both a wife and a mother, nagging Stanley constantly (not that that’s all I think women do). Not to mention…he kills any woman Stanley brings home. Meanwhile, Stanley freaks out any time a woman so much as gets near the zipper on his jeans.
Both guys are weird and share some really bizarre moments (for instance, Paul chases Stanley with a scissor to cut his hair) and both run around shirtless a lot, adding to the gay vibe. The big letdown comes with the kills. They could have been presented in true horror style, but instead, they are all dull and lifeless (not in the good way). Paul isn’t even dressed up as Aunt Martha most of the time! WTF?
The final act is when the movie starts to show what it could have been. Stanley and Paul acquire a baby in a gruesome way, then Paul turns on Stanley, leading to a chase scene! Paul catches Stanley, ties him up, and goes more eerily psycho than he did through the entire film. Best of all, things finally get physical between the two.
A remake could easily bring out and intensify the gay slasher/single white gay male opportunity that was sadly downplayed here.
DEATHDREAM (aka: Dead of Night) (1974)
Now this is a horror movie. Bob Clark, of A Christmas Story and Porky’s fame, really could have been a horror master. But after a trio of horror films in the 1970s—Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, Black Christmas, and this film—he jumped genres.
Deathdream essentially lets us see what would happen if author W.W. Jacobs hadn’t ended his short story The Monkey’s Paw with a cliffhanger. After her son Andy is killed in war, a mother wishes for him to be alive. A disturbance in the night proves to be Andy at the fricking front door! It’s just the first of many fantastically effective sequences in the film.
Right from the start, Andy is creepy as hell. His father is the first to notice it…along with the family dog. Mom is completely in denial, and sister doesn’t know what to think of Andy’s odd behavior. He becomes progressively more evil, finally showing us what he’s become near the end of the movie, and it ain’t pretty!
Along with the genuinely unsettling tone is a story of a perfect American family—husband, wife, son, daughter, and dog—that is as dysfunctional as the family in Amityville II: The Possession. They attempt to appear perfect on the outside, but within, there’s turmoil, resentment, alcohol, and fractured relationships.
There really haven’t been many horror films I can think of that feature a final scene that packs such a morbid and tragic punch. I’m shocked this film has not been remade. Danny Pintauro of Cujo and Who’s the Boss? would be a perfect choice for the freakish Andy, because he looks very much like actor Richard Backus from this film.