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!

Oct 22, 2022

SHOCKtober Day 22

One of my most beloved micro-eras in horror is the Satanic mid-to-late 70s. Thanks to the massive success and critical accolades of The Exorcist (1973) and Rosemary's Baby (1968), for a good while there horror movies were really concerned about Satan and or those who hung out in the private club of the Satan's Helpers. Yes, these films (including The Amityville Horror) helped usher in the Satanic Panic era of the 80s--an era that may seem silly now, or one merely to be used as an """aesthetic vibe""" in the retro-flavored horror movies that are all the rage these days, but unfortunately it was also an era in which many lives were destroyed. (It's also a phenomenon that has happened repeatedly throughout our history and always feels a hair's breadth away from happening again.) 

But the films from that little pre-Panic chunk of, I love 'em. They were (or can at least be viewed as) a response to an uncertain, tumultuous time here in the United States. Watergate, the Vietnam War, the energy crisis, the failure of the "free love" hippy movement, burgeoning civil and women's rights movements, the SLA and rampant was like the decay that ran deep through our roots had finally reached a nerve and hit it with a screaming jolt. But why examine that decay, why confront the ills and make (costly) systemic changes? The answer, it seemed, was much easier than that: we just had to get back to the values we had clearly lost. And in America, those values mean getting right with God. Satan is everywhere, you see, and the private club of the Satan's Helpers could be in your neighborhood!

And yet! Unlike a film such as The Conjuring, which paints Ed and Lorraine Warren not as the con artists they were but as a loving couple of God's Warriors who will help you with ghosts and also hit you with The Good Word along the way, the movies from this micro-era are rarely heavy-handed with the propaganda or proselytizing. Most of the time they're just a good time, no matter where they fall on the spectrum that ranges from legit masterpiece (The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby) to legit trashterpiece (Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell, 1978) to legit oh no what is happening, what a terrible day to have eyes!!! (The Antichrist, 1974).

The marvel of The Omen (1976) and Damien: The Omen II (1978) is that they both zip around that spectrum, upending all of your expectations as a viewer. One minute you're watching Academy acclaimed, storied actors like Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, William Holden, and Lee goddamn Grant do some, you know, acting. The next minute, you're watching Meshach Taylor get cut in half by a runaway elevator cable! Then Jerry Goldsmith drops some wicked Latin chant grooves (Enigma wishes, okay) and you're, I gotta convert to something, or start practicing whatever before it's too late! 

The violence in those two films is nuts: shocking, brutal Final Destination shit wrapped up in a pashmina of prestige. I've seen both movies a whole messa times (The Omen II in particular has my heart) yet I'm always surprised by how over-the-top they can be. Every death takes me right out! Which leads me at long, long last, to today's favorite character:


The "thwump" when she hits the trailer...reader, it adds years to my lifespan every time I hear it.

It's an insane end to an insane sequence, and I highly suggest checking out the whole scene, which shows what happens to a nosy gal reporter when she starts flapping her gums too much and being all We Need to Talk About Damien!

What a terrible day for Joan to no longer have eyes!


James Lewis said...

I've never seen Damian: Omen II.

You've sold me!

Steve K said...

According to imdb, Devil Dog: The Hound from Hell was first aired on Halloween, 1978, and my 12-year-old-self was there.

I wish I could adequately describe to post--Gen-x generations just how magical late 70s made-for-TV horror was in the moment.