FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Feb 1, 2010

The Year in Horror: 1977

Boy, do I have fond memories of the Lisa, Lisa films. While the sequel, Lisa, Lisa 2: The Cult of Cult Jam was a gory delight, it's the third in the series (Lisa, Lisa 3: Full Force Never Dies) that truly, terrifyingly rox my sox.

Okay, so I made that up. But really, doesn't the world need more Lisa Lisa jokes? Yes...yes, it does. Some of you may be more familiar with Lisa, Lisa under its video release title: Axe. I've never seen it, but it's one of those movies that's simmering in my brain. I'm not sure if it's good sleaze or bad sleaze, so I never make the move to bring Axe home with me. Good sleaze is great fun and all, but a night with bad sleaze can leave you infected. Not that I know, of course- I am just saying.

The point is, I came across this ad for the drive-in and my first thought was something decidedly old person-ish; you know, "Golly, those were the days!" or "Gee, my old LaSalle ran great!" or "I hate the young!" or something. Then I looked up Lisa, Lisa because, truth be told, I had no idea what it was. Then I discovered it was released in 1977. Then I ate a sandwich while thinking about how 1977 was a fucking great year for horror (yes, much like 1981). Then I started this post...and that gets you pretty much caught up with my day so far.

Oh yes, my friends, 1977 was awesome. Let's take a look, shall we? Come, let's venture back to a time when John Carpenter's Halloween was still a year away!

What the masters of horror were up to:
  • Dario Argento began his "Three Mothers" trilogy with the candy-colored witches in ballet school masterpiece Suspiria.

  • Wes Craven traveled into cannibal country with The Hills Have Eyes.
  • George Romero released Martin, his non-traditional vampire flick. I want to like Martin more than I actually do.
  • Tobe Hooper brought us Eaten Alive, a bizarre, ugly film that made for a strange follow-up to his classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Eaten Alive is perhaps most notable because it features The Man Who Would Be Freddy Krueger, Robert Englund...or maybe because of the giant crocagator.
  • Mario Bava's last film, Shock, was released in the U.S. as Beyond the Door II despite the fact that it's not a sequel- both films simply feature child actor David Colin Jr. Using this logic, I've decided to start calling Christmas with the Kranks "Terror Train 2".
  • David Lynch began his career in mindfuckery in earnest with Eraserhead.
Kids Kill the Darndest Things:
  • Young Cathy was cursed in...Cathy's Curse. You know, I think Cathy's Curse is a film like Rumplestiltskin for me. You know, I've talked about that phenomenon, how Rumplestiltskin is terrible while I'm watching it, but when I'm thinking about it later I remember it being awesome and I want to watch it again...only when I succumb to the urge, I remember that it's terrible, and so on and so on in an endless cycle of pain and happiness. I just read my review of Cathy's Curse and it looks so good I want to pop it in when I'm done writing this, but I know that I probably shouldn't- "probably" being the operative word.

  • In The Child, Rosalie somehow controls a little zombie army. They do her bidding, killing her enemies and finishing her math homework. Okay, so they just kill people. It's a weird movie that's frustrating at times, thanks largely to awful dubbing, bad sound editing, and a grating soundtrack. Despite its shortcomings, however, The Child is The Awesome.
  • Audrey Rose, a tale of reincarnation, wasn't nearly the epic horror film I'd built it up to be in my mind in the years before I saw it. I'll admit: this MAY be a problem with me, not the movie.
Animals Run Amok!
  • The late writer/director William Girdler graced the world with Day of the Animals, featuring a topless Leslie Nielsen wrasslin' a bear in the rain.
  • Joan Collins battled giant ants in Empire of the Ants. Somehow, it turned out not to be the greatest film of all time: another of life's mysteries.
  • There are so many things to love about Kingdom of the Spiders, if I were to list them all I'd be here forever and frankly I just don't have that kind of time. Therefore, I'll just mention the best thing about it: The Cow Who Can Act.

1977, The Year That Keeps on Giving:
  • Nazi zombies ahoy in Shock Waves!
  • Exorcist II: The Heretic, or as it was known upon its re-release years later, Exorcist II: What the Hell Were They Thinking?
  • Warning: The Sentinel is a film that shows things you can't un-see. It may, however, be worth the risk.
  • The Haunting of Julia really needs a DVD release, dammit.
  • Less deserving, perhaps, is The Town That Dreaded Sundown, a quasi-slasher flick based on a true story. I like it, though I'm not entirely sure why.
  • Julie Christie gets it on with a computer in Demon Seed.
  • Haunts is an obscure sleaze-fest featuring scissor murders, sexual hangups, Aldo Ray, Cameron Mitchell, and an ending that makes the whole thing worthwhile. I watched it with the intent to review it here, but then I never did. Maybe I should do it...although I kind of just gave a one-sentence review, didn't I? What more do you want from me??
  • Honk...honkhonkhonnnnnk! The Car vroomed out of Hell and into our hearts.

See? I wouldn't lie to you...1977 was fucking awesome. Some of horror's greatest filmmakers were making great films, and there was a little something out there for everyone. Whether you're into killer cars, killer kids, or killer killers, you can travel back to that magical year and have your thrills. I'm gonna go give 1977 a hug, and resist the urge to watch Cathy's Curse.

Edited for bonusosity! Here's some stuff I missed, as pointed out in the comments...
  • David Cronenberg brought porn star Marilyn Chambers into the seedy world of mainstream horror cinema in Rabid.
  • Bo Svenson stars as Gar, a faded-from-glory Olympic skier who faces off against a rampaging Snowbeast in...umm...Snowbeast.


Anonymous said...

The Cow Who Can Act?!?! That's no way to talk about Wm. Shatner.... for shame, Ponder.... (Where the hell did he ever get a name like Rack, anyways?)

Chris Otto said...

This a tremendous, tremendous read and I will have some longer comments when my supervisors are no longer walking around. ... And, yes, I have seen Cathy's Curse.

The Mike said...

I'd put Lisa, Lisa/Axe in the mid-sleaze category. It's not insultingly bad, it's just kinda there.

Anyway, good write-up.

Anonymous said...

How could you leave out the sheer terror of Snowbeast?! Yeah, it was made for TV but Bo Svenson, Yvette Mimieux, gratuitous monster-cam and, okay, it probably sucked.

Chris Otto said...

Snowbeast. Wow. That was bad, Butler. ... But, speaking of the 50-pack films from 1977, Stacie absolutely hit it right on the bloody head with her description of Cathy's Curse. It's a terrible film. The entire movie looks like an old, badly-faded Polaroid. The plot is laughable and the ending makes no sense. But .... But... unlike a lot of other 50-pack dreck that haunts my soul, I agree with Stacie that I strangely find myself wanting to watch that one again. The dialogue and cursing is LOL hilarious. There are a couple scenes are truly work as creepy when they have no business doing so, and the deaths are just plain fun to watch. It's a great example of a "good" terrible film. I'm sure that the eight of us across the U.S. and Canada who feel this same could easily come up with a dandy Cathy's Curse Drinking Game (tm). ... And then there's The Sentinel. I still maintain it's one of the creepiest films I've ever seen, though it probably didn't hurt that I was in that age 10-12 wheelhouse the first few times I saw it. I also maintain the TV edit of this movie (which is the one I grew up on) is a better and creepier film than the R-rated theater version. Having watched that version for the first time on DVD years later as an adult, I felt the extra slashing violence and, um, other stuff was gratuitous and took you out of the movie, which is a damn fine and atmospheric ghost story at its root. Love the scenes where Cristina Raines keeps hearing the floorboards above her squeaking in the middle of the night. And,yes, the cat shoulda won an Oscar.

Jason Adams said...

I've been staring at my copy of The Town that Dreaded Sundown for months; should I jump in then? Keep in mind that I LOATHED The Legend of Boggy Creek.

I could go for some Kingdom of the Spiders right now.

Also produced in 1977, a little sleazy horror called ME. (Not a movie called Me, that is; actually me. I was born that year. Yay me!)

CashBailey said...

It's also the year I was born.

So Epic Wins all-round, really.

Chris Otto said...

Have to contribute this. I found this in the "Comments" section of another horror blog's review of Cathy's Curse: "Good Heavens! I worked on this tax-shelter epic YEARS ago (with other wacky jobs like Black Roses & Edge of Hell - both highly reccomended). I thought it made no sense - & now that's what people like about it! Is it because people like laughing at bad movies - or are they seeing it as a "non" narrative classic?"

whitney said...

I saw Day of the Animals at a five film festival at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. Oh my god. I was not prepared for the awesomeness of Leslie Neilsen and that bear. Plus, he was such a dick in that movie! So good.

Stacie Ponder said...

Ahh, Leslie Nielsen is SUCH a wonderful a-hole in Day of the Animals...he's probably the best thing about it.

JA, The Town That Dreaded Sundown is better than Boggy Creek, but it's probably still iffy. I don't think many people are wild about it, but I think it's pretty decent. The story is undeniably creepy, the killer is one of the few baghead-varieties, and it features Dawn Wells and Andrew Prine. On the other hand, the picture is dark, the acting mostly so-so and it's got a bunch of weird, out of place humor in it. I still say it's worth a look, though...

Okay, now I REALLY want to go watch Cathy's Curse.

Yay, 1977!

The Mule said...

Great stuff. Also in 1977, David Cronenberg directed Marilyn Chambers as she and her stabby armpit nubbin terrorized Montreal in Rabid. It was indeed a good year.

Stacie Ponder said...

Ack, how did I miss Snowbeast AND Rabid? For shame, self...for shame.

Thanks, readers! You're the ginchiest. I'm gonna add 'em to the list.

P. K. Nail said...

Another great one from 1977 - Hausu, a cracktastic and wonderful "fantasy horror" film from Japan. It features, among many other weird and awesome things, a guy who is transformed into a pile of bananas.

Riccardo said...

Drive-ins *sigh*. Whenever I think of drive-ins I have to mentally count how many drive-ins my hometown had when I was growing up: 6 screens - 3 individual and one tri-plex that lasted into the 90s. I can still hear the tinny speaker in my head. I think the last movie I saw at the drive-in was "Clue" (with the ending where Miss Scarlet did it). My friend's sheepdog was in the back seat!

1977 - The year Joan Crawford died. RIP.

Chris Otto said...

Somedays I wish I could transform into a pile of bananas.

I'd like that a bunch.

Less Lee Moore said...

Oh my god, AXE! That has the ickiest rape scene I have ever seen in any movie. EWWW!

I agree with you about Martin. The first five minutes were so unpleasant I didn't know if I could watch any more, but then it got really boring for well over an hour, only picking up towards the end.

I tried to watch The Child, but the dubbing! Oy!

highwayknees said...

More love for you Stacie.Because You remembered to remember The Haunting of Julia! I'm all over that film! It's so sad AND creepy! Beautifully shot and directed too...It just never gets much mention anywhere,which is SO UNFAIR! I think it's because of it's slow and methodical Brit-ness of it all. Although I think the film is actually a Canadian production? Anywho...I even have the soundtrack! It's amazing!
So ,like, yeah-WHERE'S THE GD DVD!