They came from the same time period as The Exorcist and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but don’t expect them to live up to the two iconic films of the genre from that era.
THE DUNWICH HORROR (1970)
Based on a Lovecraft story before it became trendy in the 80s, this one stars Sandra Dee. I’ve been singing a song about her for over forty years, yet I think this is the first time I’ve actually seen one of her movies.
Sandra plays a college student given the fricking Necromonicon by her professor to return to the library. WTF?
Some dude with evil intentions picks her up, hypnotizes her into going home with him, and plans to use her for some sort of ritual to open a gate that allows a species from another dimension to enter earth because…why not?
It’s intangible and convoluted enough to make me dislike it as much as anything else by Lovecraft. Blech.
Worst of all, there’s a monster lurking around the dude’s house attacking people, but we never see it, just its POV, which is simply represented by the screen image flashing in solid blocks of color. It gave me flashbacks to colliding with death in every old Atari 2600 video game I ever played.
CARNIVAL OF BLOOD (1970)
As low budget as can be, this early entry in the slasher arena gets all its grit from the fact that it was filmed at the always decrepit and low-brow Coney Island, the perfect setting for a horror movie.
The almost non-existent plot leaves us with a repetitive series of events. Someone plays the dart game at the carnival, where they get into a verbal altercation with the two guys that run the booth. Then they go to a wacky fortune teller who, ironically, has a picture of Jesus in her den of the occult. After that, the person is killed. Rinse and repeat.
Stringing the kills together is a main character that convinces his girlfriend to hang around the carnival with him to investigate the murders.
Surprisingly, veteran actor Burt Young is one of the guys at the dart booth. As for the victims, it feels like they were people the filmmakers just approached at Coney Island while shooting and said, “Hey, wanna be in a movie?”
It’s that bad. However, there are a few gory kill scenes, like the killer pulling out one victim’s guts and digging out another’s eyeballs. Also, the death scenes are usually interspersed with clips of some freaky looking animatronic dummies in the fun house.
Notable is the oddly forced but very classic presentation of childhood trauma that apparently led to the psychotic killing spree.
TERROR AT RED WOLF INN (1972)
The director of Nightmare in Wax delivers a precursor to the many backwoods cannibal family movies that are still terrifying groups of kids heading into the woods to this day.
A college girl wins a trip to “Red Wolf Inn”. She’s picked up by a strange dude that she ends up falling for. He also happens to be the grandson of the quirky old couple that runs the inn.
At first there are several girls staying at the place, and they all feast on meaty meals each night. Uh-oh.
Not as gory as you might expect, this is a fairly tame take on cannibal crazies. Not a whole lot of gore or violence, and while the old couple is zany, it’s the grandson who is fricking insane a shark scene on the beach is particularly disturbing). But he may just be the main girl’s chance to escape being dinner.
Due to its trailblazing concept, I’m surprised it doesn’t get any recognition today, and it especially needs a Blu-ray release, because the crappy DVD releases look worse than a VHS tape and is also the edited version.
HOUSE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1974)
With all this one has going on, it should be a blast. There’s an African plantation, voodoo natives, and a deformed mad scientist performing experiments to keep the soul alive outside the body—first on animals, then on humans.
His brother brings his fiancée to live in the family home, where she is subjected to his crazy mother and bizarre occurrences.
Despite a Night of the Living Dead/House of the Dead mashup title, this isn’t a zombie film. There’s barely any horror at all as the fiancée’s fear simply spins out of control the more she learns about what’s really going on in the home.
Only the final act delivers a fast, psychotic amount of horror and some twists. It’s macabre, it’s gothic, and it’s an absolute raucous mess, but it’s better than anything else that happens during the movie.
CHOSEN SURVIVORS (1974)
This lost film of the 1970s is so unexpected in every way that I’m surprised it doesn’t get more recognition. Honestly, when I began playing the DVD, I was thinking it was going to suck, but it totally drew me in.
A small group of people is whisked away by a helicopter and brought to a minimalistic, desolate, futuristic looking underground facility. A woman on a large monitor tells them they have been chosen to continue the human race after a thermonuclear war has devastated the planet.
I expected long scenes of excessive character development, but instead it’s not long before we are exposed to the real horror of the movie—bats are somehow sneaking their way into the sealed up facility.
That’s right. This is a killer fricking bat movie! It’s sort of like The Birds underground…with bats. There are plenty of bat attacks, freakish close-ups of actual bats, some gore, tensions between the characters, and a desperate escape attempt to up the action in the final act.