A killer puppet, occult orgies, a big walking fish, and even a gay guy in a backwoods horror. Let’s get into these four from the end of the 1970s.
Whether intended or not, Rituals comes across as a rip-off of Deliverance (it so totally intended to be). However, it gets credited as being more of a backwoods slasher these days (it’s really not).
Sure, there is eventually a crazy deformed hillbilly revealed, and several dead bodies pop up, but there’s no slashing at all. Any kills happen off-screen and the film is disappointingly tame in its execution.
Doctor friends hike into the woods for a vacation. They bicker about their specific specialties, which is only the beginning of the bickering that plagues the film, reminding us that toxic masculinity is not a new thing and has been glorified in film for decades. I guess it’s just one of those male rituals…
The “horror” begins when they wake up to find someone has stolen their shoes from their camp. A journey to safety triggers a series of events that gets one guy after another hurt or killed.
Almost like giving Deliverance the finger for its sodomy scene, Rituals features a gay dude who is just part of the gang. On the flip side, he’s also an alcoholic, gets called a faggot, and suffers some injuries then has to be carried around by the other men. Gays will do anything to be queen of the backwoods.
Hal Holbrook is the leading man that must finally face the backwoods psycho, in one of the only scenes that feels like a horror movie.
SATAN’S BLOOD (1978)
Look. I know swinging was big in the seventies, but I feel no sympathy for the dumb couple in this movie after they hook up with a pair that is obviously freaky in all the wrong ways from the start.
Driving around town with their dog, the good couple is drawn into conversation with the bad couple at a stoplight. The bad couple says “we know you,” and the good couple says “we have no idea who you are.”
Sooooo, the good couple goes home with the bad couple. Within minutes the dog goes missing, there’s a creepy doll and a suspiciously inaccurate photo, the bad woman ravages something bloody in the kitchen, and they delve into a Ouija board session.
Sooooo…the good couple stays overnight and has an orgy with the other couple. What’s refreshing here is how unabashedly soft core porn the sex scenes are.
Things just get worse and worse, sooooo…the good couple STAYS. With fourteen minutes left, the husband is finally like, “This is madness! What are we doing here?”
Dumbest movie ever. But damn is the ending a load of fucked up fun.
Magic director Richard Attenborough would go on to play John Hammond, the man who creates Jurassic Park, but he sure could have had a major influence on the horror genre if he had continued to direct films. Magic is an iconic killer puppet movie that impacted a generation of kids before killer dolls and killer puppets became a commercial cash cow. Rather than a body count film, it’s a slow burn psychological horror film.
Anthony Hopkins is fantastic as a man who clearly has issues from the start. A failed magician, he suddenly sees things turn around when he makes a puppet his sidekick. But when his agent, played by Burgess Meredith, offers him the opportunity of a lifetime, he chickens out and runs away to a house by a lake, where he reconnects with his high school crush, played by Ann-Margret.
Hopkins brings all the paranoid weirdness necessary to make it believable that he would become addicted to using his puppet as his crutch—a condition that is played out stunningly in a scene between him and Burgess.
Yet the creepiest parts are when Hopkins is alone having arguments with the puppet as it slowly takes control of his every thought and action. The detailed facial expressions of the puppet are the stuff of nightmares, which only intensify as the puppet and Hopkins begin to resemble each other. Eek!
Typical of low budget 1970s creature features, this film waits until the bitter end to show us the full monster Monty.
Two couples come to hang out near a lake, and before long both women disappear. The local authorities aren’t initially much help to the husbands, so they consult with a creepy witch in the woods.
Eventually we get to see a claw a few times as more people are attacked, and the cops become more involved. Meanwhile, a whole lot of science is presented concerning what the creature could be, for the female scientist on the case and the sheriff have a thing together.
Beware the scariest scene in the film, which is an icky, all-kissing love scene between the pair. Blech. Here’s just a taste of this “romantic” scene…
There are a couple of battles with the creature near the end, and we barely get to see the big, goofy rubber fish monster costume as it is sprayed with a chemical. I guess they camouflaged it as quickly as possible because it’s right out of a 1950s beach party horror movie. Personally, I think they should have embraced it and exploited it.