1970s horror was a trip. So I’m going to bang out a bunch of trash from my formative years (explains a lot).
I am shocked that Gargoyles hasn’t been remade—and even more impressed that it’s still so fricking creepy to watch over 40 years later.
This simple little film has a father and his adult daughter (Jennifer Salt, who appeared in De Palma’s Sisters but is best known as bitchy Eunice on TV sitcom Soap), coming into possession of an unidentifiable skull in the Arizona desert. Turns out it’s the remains of a fricking gargoyle and a clan of gargoyles wants it back.
This is the stuff of childhood nightmares. The human-sized gargoyles are classic costumed critters and the leader of their pack looks like a demon straight out of hell. What’s most effective about the film is everything: the music, the darkness and isolated atmosphere, the unrelenting attacks by the gargoyles, the amazing gargoyle flight scene…but especially the use of slow motion footage. Creepy.
The scene that destroyed me as a kid was a very brief glimpse of a victim hanging upside down from a telephone pole…which causes her mouth muscles to curl into an upside down grin. The night I watched this on TV, there was a mysterious ring around the moon. My oldest brother managed to lock me and my other brother out of the house and started saying shit out the window about the gargoyles coming down to get us.
I was so terrified and cried so bad after that my mom let me sleep in bed with my brother. No, not the one who locked us out of the house.
Forget centipedes. This is the Human SSSSSSS!
And it’s another one that messed me up as a kid. First time I saw it was at my aunt’s house upstate New York, in the days when the only channels she got were 2 and 4…and they both played NBC. So the whole family gathered round the TV with the crappy country antenna reception.
In Sssssss, gorgeous Dirk “Face” Benedict of The A-Team plays a college student who gladly becomes the assistant of a snake scientist. He also goes along willingly when the scientist starts giving him “booster shots” as protection against snake bites.
The fucker is actually turning him into a snake. And it’s not the first assistant he’s tried it on. The other half-man/half-snake is on display at the local carnival. Fucking childhood trauma HELL.
To add a little fun to the mix, cops are sniffing around, looking for the last assistant gone missing. There’s extra trouble in the beautiful shape of the college jock bully, played by beefy Reb Brown, who shows off his naked bod in the film.
Interestingly, the doctor’s evil plot has him babbling about religion and the snake in the Garden of Eden…yet also saying that his plan is to further develop the evolutionary process! Um…conflict of interests much?
While the man/snake creature is tragic and scary all at once, the ending of the film is even more tragic. Things get very Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.
BAD RONALD (1974)
Before he became a musician, Michael Zbornak killed a little girl and was hidden away in a secret room in his house by his mother. That’s right. Dorothy’s son from The Golden Girls is bad Ronald. But the murder was an accident!
In this made-for-TV classic, Ronald starts drawing creepy pictures on the hidden room’s walls…and soon discovers that his mother has died and the house has been sold to sexy Dabney Coleman, his wife, and their three teen daughters. So Ronald is stuck behind the walls, spying through little peepholes and sneaking out for food whenever the family is out.
But pretty soon, the family begins to suspect something strange is going on in the house, a nosy neighbor starts poking around the house…and Ronald loses his shit for real.
Bad Ronald has you feeling bad for Ronald when the film begins but then makes him someone to fear as he begins to unravel. There’s even a damn good chase scene and a big dramatic finale. While the film has never been remade, there have been plenty of clones with the same general plot.
Lead actor Scott Jacoby would go on to appear in the eerily similar film The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane with Jodie Foster.
THE DEVIL’S RAIN (1975)
William Shatner, Tom Skerritt, Eddie Albert, Ernest Borgnine, John Travolta, and the actual founder of the Church of Satan (no, not L. Ron Hubbard. Anton LaVey) in one movie together. Need any other reason to watch?
In The Devil’s Rain, William Shatner goes to save his family from a satanic cult. When he fails, his brother Tom Skerritt steps in. Who cares about the awful pacing and sloppy plot? There are black robes and chanting. John Travolta as a Satanist. William Shatner shirtless. Ernest Borgnine turning into a horned ram.
And at the end, everyone’s faces melting for about 10 minutes straight. Totally worth the wait.
THE HAZING (1977)
(aka: The Curious Case of the Campus Corpse)
70s and 80s “know the face but not the name” actor Jeff East (Stranger in Our House, Deadly Blessing, Pumpkinhead) goes to college and is hazed by a fraternity. In the process, another pledge is killed and the frat boys decide to hide the body for a week, make it seem like the dead student is attending classes, and then make it appear that he had a skiing accident the next weekend.
This isn’t Weekend at Bernie’s. The body is well hidden. The plot revolves around Jeff East trying the best he can to show up at all his dead buddy’s classes for attendance. Naturally, people begin to catch on, Jeff begins to crack, and his “friends” from the frat have to bully him into sticking to the plan.
It’s entertaining enough and pretty much worth it only for the big twist at the end…and for the hazing scene in which Jeff runs around in a jockstrap.
THE ANTICHRIST (1974)
The Exorcist in a wheelchair! I’ve saved the most hardcore for last.
In The Antichrist, this paralyzed chick comes to live with her dad and brother and begins some sort of hypnotism therapy so she’ll be able to walk again. Crazy shit happens during those sessions. She kills a Leif Garrett look-alike in some catacombs. And she has a better goat sex dream than Mia Farrow.
And eventually she can walk again! It gives her a wild appetite, which leads to a family demon dinner! And this bitch talks dirty so much better than Regan MacNeal ever did.
This exorcism has it all. There’s wheelchair levitation. Hand teleportation. Bad flying furniture effects. An overabundance of flying 45 RPM records. Fire. Snakes. Rain. This demon with daddy issues even makes a poor guy fricking eat her pea soup! And the moral of the story is…fuck your brother and you’ll give birth to the antichrist. Awesome.
I must say, the actress playing the poor possessed chick in this bad Italian possession film makes fantastic facial expressions that pretty much make the movie worth the watch. But my favorite element of the film has to be the hall of watching statues….