It’s a trio of flicks from the 1970s that recently got the HD treatment for the physical market. But are these three titles worth the purchase?
HORROR HIGH (1973)
The sappy ballad that opens Horror High tells you immediately you’re in the early 1970s—as does the funky 70s score that ruins almost every damn horror scene by making you feel like Starsky & Hutch are going to pull up in their red and white car at any minute to save the day. Someone with a load of motivation should seriously start re-cutting old horror films that have shitty, dated, non-horror scores with new scores that complement the horror happening on screen so we could appreciate how effective the scenes could have been.
Anyway, back to Horror High. It all begins with some blatant foreshadowing—kids are watching Jekyll and Hyde in English class.
Then we meet the lead geek, who is working on a science experiment to genetically change life forms. Everyone torments this kid, including teachers, the janitor, and the students.
The geek ends up drinking his own potion. He immediately starts getting revenge on everyone who has wronged him. In other words, he gets revenge on everyone.
The kills are super gruesome and gory, and for some reason each victim conveniently ends up at school alone at night to be killed off. Great atmosphere…except that awful funk muzak.
However, there are two standout scenes. The first is the death of the gym teacher, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it inspired the coach scene in Elm Street 2.
And second, the main girl gets a chase scene, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it inspired Wendy’s chase scene in Prom Night. You know one thing these two scenes have in common that makes them so much better than every other kill scene? NO MUSIC.
SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED (1974)
The infamy of this title made it a no hesitation buy for me. I just love a movie with a reputation from name alone.
As I began watching, I was suspecting the reputation was undeserved, predominantly because the “Yeti” was just a guy in a ridiculous costume. But there is so much more going on here that elevates this to classic 1970s stoner horror.
For starters, college kids have a party and the song playing is the classic synth pop hit “Popcorn” by Hot Butter. Then, in a scene you’d never see coming, a drunk dude and his woman go home and kill each other in one of the most bizarre, way out there scenes ever.
As if that never even happened, the film just goes on. The college kids are invited by their teacher to hunt a Yeti at a cabin in the woods. This is when we’re subjected to the horrible Yeti costume, shrill screams from the girls, hunting and exploration scenes in the woods set to horrible 70s music, and an “Indian” house keeper dude lurking around the house making weird faces (the white dude who owns the place literally says “that’s my Indian”).
Yet despite the horrendous acting and one of the most disappointing slaps ever administered to an annoying hysterical chick, Shriek of the Mutilated is also packed with oodles of bright red bloody bodies popping up all over the place…but not for reasons you’d expect. It takes such a 1970s drug trip visual and narrative approach that when a bizarre turn comes in the final act, I realized this crazy shit is actually a precursor to a whole lot of “nothing is as it seems” hybrid subgenre horror to come after it. I’m almost convinced this movie may very well have been the inspiration for Monstrous, one of my favorite more recent Bigfoot films.
The macabre and freaky conclusion even makes me wonder if all the terrible reviews on IMDb whining about the shitty Yeti costume come from people that didn’t bother watching the movie to the end.
Not to be overshadowed by the killer bees craze of the 70s, killer ants demanded their own feature film, and they got it in this made-for-TV movie that will definitely make your skin crawl.
The plot is simple enough. Construction is being done next to a hotel. The foreman, played by blue-eyed, bearded 70s hottie Robert Foxworth of Prophecy, is dating Linda Day George, who owns the hotel with her elderly mother.
A sleazy businessman and his woman, played by then overnight sensation Suzanne Somers thanks to Three’s Company, plan to lowball them on buying the place.
Unfortunately, all the digging on the construction site has angered a colony of attack ants.
People start turning up dead at the hotel. The foreman figures out the ants are the culprit. The authorities don’t believe him. People continue to die. When it’s just about too late, guests from the hotel are air lifted out by rescue helicopters…that unintentionally blow killer ants all over spectators. Awesome.
It’s typical killer bug stuff, but it definitely gives you the heebie-jeebies by the final act, when the stars of the film become trapped in the overrun hotel and are eventually covered in ants and breathing through tubes in an effort not to move. It’s the part that has stuck with me since I was a little kid and first saw it on television, not only because all I could think was that the ants were going to crawl through the straws and into their mouths, but also because these are no CGI ants…the actors are actually covered in real ants. Eek!
Important to note is the sexualization of the two blonde female stars, even in a 1970s made-for-TV movie. Somers is covered in ants while naked and holding a sheet over her boobs, and Lynda Day George is wearing a skirt, so the camera spends a great deal of time focusing on her sexy legs and the ants crawling towards the hem.