DEEP RED (1975)
Directed by: Dario Argento
Produced by: Claudio Argento, Salvatore Argento
Written by: Dario Argento, Bernardino Zapponi
Starring: Macha Meril, David Hemmings
Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Giuliana Calandra, Glauco Mauri
Clara Calamai, Piero Mazzinghi
Released: March 7 1975
*DEEP RED (1977)*
Deep Red is a classic Giallo crime movie by acclaimed Italian director Dario Argento. The film is bloody and mysterious — the usual hallmarks of this auteur.
In the film, a famous psychic is brutally murdered in her apartment one evening after sensing her future killer’s presence hidden in a crowded room earlier at a lecture. The vicious act was witnessed by Marcus Daly (Hemmings), a British Musician who becomes consumed by what he saw and starts investigating the case of his own accord. Marcus is soon accompanied by a dashing reporter named Gianna Brezzi (Nicolodi) looking to find the killer all the while evading attempts on their lives by the unseen hatchet killer hellbent on keeping a secret hidden by any means necessary.
Customary of Dario Argento’s films (particularly his earlier pictures), there is a large degree of concentration on the visual aesthetics such as the lighting, the gorgeous yet foreboding sets, and lingering frames of brutality in the murder sequences. There are few contemporary horror-thriller films that are even close to being on an even keel to those of Dario Argento. His Giallo movies are bloody, have an incredible Gothic feel to them, are generally immensely brutal, yet artistic, and feature frenetic soundtracks (usually by the rock band Goblin). Deep Red is perhaps one of the best in the director’s filmography.
THE OMEN (1976)
Directed by: Richard Donner
Produced by: Harvey Bernhard
Written by: David Seltzer
Starring: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick
David Warner, Billie Whitelaw
Released: June 6, 1976
There was something about devils, possessions, demons, and children that seemed to be a strange mix in the late 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s. In 1967 Rosemary had her devil Baby, in 1974 a single mom required assistance from an Exorcist to rid the demons that possessed her daughter, and in 1976 a respected American Diplomat and his wife adopt a baby by the name of Damien who is hellspawn in the flesh.
Gregory Peck gives a stellar performance as a Political Diplomat, who slowly discovers that his fate is closely entwined in ancient biblical prophecy of the return of the Anti-Christ. The Omen is dark in both tone and design and has several shocking moments. The movie is not lacking on frightening and memorable scenes, including one of my favourites where the Nanny inexplicably hangs herself for all to see during little Damien’s birthday party, shouting from the roof top with a smile “It’s all for you Damien” – and then jumps off of the roof to her death. The strength of this horror film lies in the insinuation that doom is slowly escalating and it all stems from this little boy. His Mother fears him, and his father searches the globe for answers only to be shaken to his core when he discovers the horrifying truth.
The Omen haunts long after the credits roll, spawned several devilish sequels and a 2006 remake, and remains one of the finer films of its ilk.
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Produced by: Paul Monash
Screenplay by: Lawrence D. Cohen
Based on: “Carrie” by Stephen King
Starring: Sissy Spacek, John Travolta, Piper Laurie, Nancy Allen, Amy Irving, William Katt
Released: November 3, 1976
Carrie (1976) tells the tale of young Carrie White (played by Sissy Spacek) a teenaged girl living a life of abuse and ridicule. Her mother (Piper Laurie) is a religious fanatic who punishes Carrie for little to no reason, and her classmates (Nancy Allen, P.J. Soles, John Travolta) are mocking, callous, and cruel. They torment her because she is different, quiet, and naive to the needs of teenage girls. She manages to push past all of the ridicule and torment that she endures. But Carrie has a secret, a frightening and destructive secret…she is an incredibly powerful telekinetic — able to move things with just her thoughts. Her powers are heightened the more emotional the young lady becomes. When a vicious high school prank at the Senior Prom leaves Carrie broken and horrified, those around her feel the full brunt of her awesome powers with catastrophically lethal results.
The movie was based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, and was his first real breakout book. The picture was one of the most successful movies of 1976 and ranks highly in many best of lists. The film is a classic, and its themes of bullying and abuse are still prevalent today. Although it is not a movie that depicts a great deal of on-screen horror, Carrie delivers with its climactic final scenes.
This summer, grab a bigger boat and make sure you check the water before going in – cause this shark is Hungry!!
Directed by: Don Coscarelli
Produced by: Don Coscarelli
Written by: Don Coscarelli
Starring: Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury
Reggie Bannister, Kathy Lester, Angus Scrimm
Distributed by: AVCO Embassy Pictures
Released: June 1, 1979
I should be more afraid of the movie Phantasm than I actually am. Firstly, there’s the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) – a creepy, towering, ghoulish figure from another world that acts as a mortician of sorts. He’s a supernatural and malevolent undertaker who turns the dead into dwarf zombies to do his bidding in a twisted attempt at taking over the world. His dwarf minions and hovering metal orb (equipped with extending razor knifes), contend with anyone who tries to interfere with his operation. Young Mike, his brother Jody, and family friend Reggie investigate the mysterious mortuary and the ominous Tall Man in the hopes of solving the mystery of some unsolved deaths in the town.
What they uncover is a gateway to hell, littered with lobotomized bodies along the way, and they incur the wrath of the Tall Man. “Boooooooy!” the Tall Man bellows as his frustration with Mike grows. The film delves further into a surreal landscape, bridging this world to another.
Director Don Coscarelli has maintained that the film is about mourning and death. He purports that the theme of loss and by fantasizing about death, and how the young protagonist deals with the deaths in his family is essentially what drives the story. The Tall Man is a representation of death, and embodies childhood fears of adults.
“I had a compunction to try to do something in the horror genre and I started thinking about how our culture handles death; it’s different than in other societies. We have this central figure of a mortician. He dresses in dark clothing, he lurks behind doors, they do procedures on the bodies we don’t know about. The whole embalming thing, if you ever do any research on it, is pretty freaky. It all culminates in this grand funerary service production. It’s strange stuff. It just seemed like it would be a great area in which to make a film.”
—Don Coscarelli (Director)
Phantasm is often described a being a strong example of existentialist horror. One reviewer, Gina McIntyre of the Los Angeles Times, describes the movie as “a truly bizarre mix of outlandish horror, cheapo gore, and psychological mindgames that purposefully blur the line between waking and dreaming.” True, it maybe all of those things — including being a cult classic spawning four sequels, introduced a timeless figure in the pantheon of horror maniac icons with the Tall Man, and the bloodlusting orb is one of the coolest and most recognizable weapons in horror film history.
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Written By: Dan O’Bannon; Walter Hill
Starring: Tom Skerritt; Sigourney Weaver; John Hurt
Released: May 1979
The tagline for this movie was “in space no one can hear you scream” but I bet you can smell people shitting their pants in fear. Tame by today’s standards, Alien was a frightening science fiction film for 1979. The creatures, and the world they inhabit, were brilliantly designed by H.R. Giger and the sight of them immediately illicited a sense of fear and foreboding. The ensemble cast is fantastic, and Ian Holm as the emotionless artificial human Ash is standout as the instrument of corporate manipulations with his hidden nefarious agenda. Sigourney Weaver’s character Ripley has also become a template for strong and fully capable heroines. We get a solid glimpse of the character’s fortitude in this movie (which is amplified to the nth degree in the sequel Aliens). Most memorable scene is John Hurt’s chest bursting debacle in the mess hall. Upon viewing that scene, you probably lose your appetite!