The Occult Age (1968-1981)

As a result of the turbulent 1960s, horror films of the 1970s became even harder and more excessive. They were also more of them than ever before. The phenomenon of looking inward continued and when President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 after the Watergate scandal, mistrust of a corrupt America was at an all-time high. A new attitude towards individualism became such a contrast to the past that author Tom Wolfe coined the term the “Me Decade” to describe the 70s.

A revolution against Hollywood had begun in the late 1960s with a new generation of young filmmakers producing movies outside the system. In the 1970s, the “graduating class” of horror filmmakers remains the most influential of any decade:

George A. Romero, Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Brian DePalma, Sisters (1972)
Tobe Hooper, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Wes Craven, The Last House on the Left (1972)
David Cronenberg, Shivers (1975)
Joe Dante, Piranha (1978)
John Carpenter, Halloween (1978)

At the same time, influential directors of other genres were getting their starts in suspense and horror:

Oliver Stone, Seizure (1974)
Steven Spielberg, Jaws (1975)
Richard Donner, The Omen (1976)
Ridley Scott, Alien (1979)

A number of horror trends occurred in the 1970s. Producers and/or studios figured out that from one horror blockbuster could spring a seemingly unlimited number of profitable knockoffs. Most prominent, hence naming this era “The Occult Age,” were movies planted from the seeds of Rosemary’s Baby (1968) that exploded in growth after The Exorcist (1973). The Exorcist started a mini-industry of devil/Satan movies, including titles such as:

The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
The Devil’s Rain (1975)
Race with the Devil (1975)
The Omen (1976)
To the Devil a Daughter (1976)
Demon Seed (1977)
The Sentinel (1977)

Since the word “occult” can also be used as an adjective to describe magical powers or mysterious phenomenon, it applies to this era’s rise of another mini-industry of thrillers featuring social outcasts as protagonists. Earlier movies had featured such characters (for example, Willard in 1971) but with Carrie (1976), these characters gained the addition of psychic or telekinetic powers used to exact revenge for being mistreated or ridiculed:

Ruby (1977)
The Fury (1978)
The Medusa Touch (1978)
Jennifer (1978)
Patrick (1978)

As the hippie generation wound down, a new culture of environmentalism wound up; hence the horror trend of nature gone wild films like:

Frogs (1972)
Jaws (1975)
Empire of the Ants (1977)
Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)
Piranha (1978)
Nightwing (1979)

These films, of course, sprang from one of an earlier era, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963).

The portmanteau films from Amicus Productions reached their peak of popularity during the Occult Age, including:

The House the Dripped Blood (1971)
Tales from the Crypt (1972)
Asylum (1972)
The Vault of Horror (1973)

Also, Euro Horror continued to invade the United States, peaking with such modern classics as:

A Bay of Blood (1971, directed by Mario Bava)
Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972, directed by Amando de Ossorio)
Suspiria (1977, directed by Dario Argento)
Zombie (1979, directed by Lucio Fulci)

One last horror trend to mention in the Occult Age is the exploitation movie. These movies did not have major releases, but could be found in seedier theaters on grindhouse double-bills. While they may not have had the exposure of the blockbusters, they would eventually experience great success at midnight movies and in the home video boom of the 1980s. Even their titles were exploitative:

I Drink Your Blood (1970)
Blacula (1972)
Don’t Look in the Basement (1973)
Eaten Alive (1976)
I Spit on Your Grave (1978)

When Jaws was released in 1975, the summer blockbuster was born. The first blockbusters were really in the 1950s, as Hollywood attempted to lure audiences away from television even as they began using the medium to advertise their product; however, this was the first time movies opened simultaneously coast-to-coast and there were lines around the block.  Jaws reflected this phenomenon on steroids. One result of the summer blockbuster was that one hit movie seemed to automatically green light a sequel (or sequels), usually nowhere near the quality of the original:

Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
Damien: Omen II (1978)
Jaws 2 (1978)

In fact, the Occult Age officially ends in 1981 with The Final Conflict, the third movie in The Omen trilogy and one that combines the two primary components of this era: Satan and mysterious powers.

Finally, 1978 saw the release of perhaps the most influential horror movie of my lifetime: Halloween. Its success spans decades and remains evident today. Even though director Bob Clark walked similar grounds four years earlier with Black Christmas, it is Halloween that will be remembered for finally bringing into the horror consciousness the Slasher sub-genre introduced by Alfred Hitchcock in 1960’s Psycho. Horror in the 1980s would largely be a result of the success of Halloween, and it’s where the Classic Horrors Club ends its definition of the word “classic.”

exorcist

Below is a list of movies featured on this blog or mentioned on one of our social media channels.  We will update it regularly.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
A Quiet Place in the Country (1969)
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
Alice Sweet Alice (1976)
All Monsters Attack aka Godzilla’s Revenge (1969)
The Amityville Horror (1979)
And Now the Screaming Starts (1973)
The Anniversary (1968)
Assignment Terror (1970)
Asylum (1972)
Audrey Rose (1977)
The Baby (1973)
The Beast Must Die (1974)
Belladonna of Sadness (1973)
Ben (1972)
Blacula (1972)
Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)
The Blood of Fu Manchu (1968)
The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971)
The Blood Spattered Bride (1972)
The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973)
Burnt Offerings (1976)
Carrie (1976)
Coma (1978)
The Conqueror Worm aka Witchfinder General (1968)
Corruption (1968)
Count Dracula (1970)
Count Dracula (1978)
Count Dracula’s Great Love (1974)
Count Yorga, Vampire (1970)
Creatures the World Forgot (1971)
The Creeping Flesh (1972)
Crescendo (1970)
Cry of the Banshee (1970)
Cuadecuic Vampir (1971)
Dead of Night aka Deathdream (1974)
Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)
Demon Seed (1977)
Demons of the Mind (1972)
The Devil’s Bride aka The Devil Rides Out (1968)
Doctor Faustus (1968)
Don’t Look Now (1973)
Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)
Dracula (1974)
Dracula (1979)
Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)
Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1969)
Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971)
Dracula’s Dog aka Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (1978)
Duel (1971)
Empire of the Ants (1977)
Equinox (1970)
Eraserhead (1977)
The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (1973)
Exorcism (1975)
The Exorcist (1973)
Fantastic Planet (1973)
Fear in the Night (1972)
The Flesh & Blood Show (1972)
Flesh for Frankenstein (1974)
Frankenstein: The True Story (1973)
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)
Futureworld (1976)
Gargoyles (1972)
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (1968)
The Green Slime (1969)
Guess What Happened to Count Dracula (1971)
Halloween (1978)
Hands of the Ripper (1971)
The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
The Horror at 37.000 Feet (1973)
Horror Express (1972)
Horror Rises from the Tomb (1973)
Hour of the Wolf (1968)
House aka Hausu (1977)
The House of Seven Corpses (1974)
House of Whipcord (1974)
The House that Dripped Blood (1970)
The Illustrated Man (1969)
The Incredible Melting Man (1977)
Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
It Lives Again (1978)
It’s Alive (1974)
Jaws (1975)
Jaws 2 (1978)
Killer’s Moon (1978)
King Kong (1976)
King of the Tarantula aka Black Belly of the Tarantula (1976)
Lady Dracula (1977)
Legend of the Werewolf (1975)
Logan’s Run (1976)
The Lost Continent (1968)
Lust for a Vampire (1971)
Madhouse (1974)
Marathon Man (1976)
Marooned (1969)
Message from Space (1978)
Moon Zero Two (1969)
Night of Dark Shadows (1971)
Night of the Devils (1972)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Night of the Seagulls (1975)
Night Watch (1973)
Nightmare in Wax (1969)
Nightmares Come at Night (1972)
No Blade of Grass (1970)
Nothing But the Night (1972)
The Nude Vampire (1970)
The Oblong Box (1969)
The Omega Man (1971)
The Omen (1976)
Orca (1977)
The Other (1972)
The Pack (1977)
Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
Piranha (1978)
The Return of Count Yorga (1971)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Rollerball (1975)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Salem’s Lot (1979)
Sax Rohmer’s The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969)
The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
Scars of Dracula (1970)
Scream and Scream Again (1970)
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976)
She Killed in Ecstasy (1971)
Shivers aka They Came from Within (1975)
Sisters (1972)
Soylent Green (1973)
The Stepford Wives (1975)
Straight on Till Morning (1972)
The Swarm (1978)
Tales from the Crypt (1972)
Targets (1968)
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)
The Terminal Man (1974)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Theater of Blood (1973)
THX 1138 (1971)
Time After Time (1979)
To the Devil a Daughter (1976)
The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1977)
Twins of Evil (1971)
The Vampire Lovers (1970)
The Vault of Horror (1973)
The Velvet Vampire (1971)
The Vengeance of She (1968)
Westworld (1973)
What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971)
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970)
Willard (1971)
World on a Wire (1973)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Zardoz (1974)
The Zodiac Killer (1971)

See also:

The Amityville Horror (1979)
Carrie (2002)
Carrie (2013)
King Kong (2005)
King Kong Lives (1986)
The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999)
Willard (2003)