It’s October! The leaves on the trees are turning brown, it’s getting darker earlier in the evening and folks are rummaging through their DVD collections, looking for their favourite horror films to watch in time for Halloween. As such, every week this month will see us expand on our Decade In Film series with a spin off article focussing on five horror films from the sixties, the seventies, the eighties, the nineties and the noughties! The format will be much the same as our regular series, but with a slight twist.
Contributing to this series will be some names our readers will find familiar – and some not-so-familiar. Regular writer and podcaster Owen will be providing his thoughts, and we couldn’t very well go and make a horror related series without our resident expert Mike, now could we? Previous guest writers Andrew and Paul have been welcomed back with open arms and completing the line-up is newcomer Liam, sharing his eclectic taste with our humble little team. We five will each in turn pick our favourite horror film from the specified decade, in this case, the 1960’s.
The sixties gave horror a new edge. Young and ambitious directors like Roger Corman were able to make a name for themselves whilst Hammer Horror capitalised on their success in the late 50’s. Well established directors such as Michael Powell and Alfred Hitchcock could turn their hand to something more sinister. We even saw the rise of a new wave of film maker (Roman Polanski, George A Romero, etc) who would push the boundaries further than it had ever gone before. So, let’s begin with arguably the most iconic film of the decade and one of its earliest releases.
I first watched Psycho when I was nine years old with the babysitter. I hid behind the sofa for most of it. I’ve only just come back to it this year, such was the effect it had on me.
Hitchcock has crafted one of the greatest horror thrillers ever put on film. From a perfect cast through to the nerve shredding music, Psycho delivers on every level. Hitchcock doesn’t follow normal film conventions either. With a twist in the middle that is both as shocking as it is pure genius; Hitchcock unsettles the viewer from this point on. We are never sure what’s going to happen next and that’s just genius. Hitchcock’s direction is outstanding – near enough flawless – his ability to frighten the viewer without resorting to cheap scare tactics or gore is a master lesson in film making and makes Psycho one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen.
Along with the great direction is the superb cast, which is backed up by an outstanding screenplay from Joseph Stefano. Janet Leigh is excellent, but it’s Anthony Perkins portrayal of Norman Bates which is truly outstanding. One of the finest pieces of casting and acting I’ve seen in any film. Perkins’ ice cold delivery and dangerous glint in his eye is perfect; his Norman Bates is one of the most chilling characters ever put on film and that’s what makes Psycho my favourite horror film from the 60’s.
by Mike Shawcross (@Shawky1969)
The Innocents (1961)
The Innocents is chilling, psychologically disturbing adaptation of Henry James’ novel The Turn Of The Screw.
Starring, the always wonderful, Deborah Kerr as an eager new governess, Miss Giddens, employed by a wealthy but entirely selfish businessman to take over sole responsibility for the upbringing of his orphaned and unwanted niece and nephew.
Set on a country estate, run by a housekeeper and a few domestic servants, all seems idyllic, with the housekeeper, staff and governess getting along extremely well. The little boy, Miles, is away at school meaning the entire household revolves around the seemingly angelic girl, Flora. Things soon start to tumble out of control when Miles is dismissed from school for frightening classmates.
What follows is an increasingly rapid descent into chaos with Miss Giddens becoming convinced evil spirits are at work and a story of the children witnessing violent, sexually abusive former employees is built.
This is a superb, unforgettable film where all the terror is derived from the building of intense, suffocating atmosphere through clever direction, lighting and sound rather than any visual brutality. Kerr is at the very top of her game and it leaves you befuddled as to what was real, what was imagined, who was mad and who was bad.
by Liam (@ElmoreLTM)
Carry on Screaming! (1966)
In true Failed Critics tradition, even in spin-off articles, we reveal just how much of an omni-shambles we can be. For example, this is the first article in a brand new series and we’ve started in a week where one of the writers is insanely busy.
However, we did manage to catch Paul for five seconds and squeeze a few words out of him as to why exactly this Carry On comedy about Dr Watt, stealing women and making them into mannequins, is his favourite horror of the 1960’s.
“Making fun of Hammer, it’s the original horror comedy. Odd-job, Fennela Fielding and the famous….. “Frying Tonight” line from the wonderful Kenneth Williams. It was actually creepy too, the people taken and turned into mannequins.“
So there you have it. We promise to plan ahead a bit better for next week’s article!
by Paul Field (@pafster)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Rosemary’s Baby is a marvellous exploration of the psychological horror-come-thriller genre. Classier than a lot of its contemporaries and imitators have often tried to replicate the feeling of dread that Roman Polanski instilled without coming close. Especially not the appalling TV movie Whatever Happened To Rosemary’s Baby?.
Rosemary and her husband, Guy, an out-of-work-actor, move into an apartment in New York. Soon after, Guy gets close to an over-friendly elderly couple next door and mysteriously his career begins to turn around conspicuously as his rival suffers a tragic accident. With Guy’s ascent, he becomes increasingly aloof leaving Rosemary feeling alone in her big and empty apartment. She’s convinced that this is the perfect time to have a baby and after a bit of Satanic rape, Bob’s your uncle, Fanny’s your aunt and Lucifer’s your.. relative.
If you’ve ever had that sudden feeling that everybody is out to get you, then Roman Polanski’s horror will truly resonate. Moving to a new place can be a stressful time for anyone, but when your new neighbours force chocolate mousse on you, well that’s just not cricket. Even worse when it seems like they want to steal your unborn baby.
There isn’t a single bad performance from any of the cast. Not least of all Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer as the unnervingly pushy couple next door. Mia Farrow is utterly fantastic, portraying a woman teetering on the edge of insanity, not knowing if she’s paranoid or if they really are out to get her.
by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Before Shaun fought the dead, Zombieland had its rules and the Pet Sematary was zombifying cats, there was George A. Romero. The man who, with this walking dead frightener from 1968, invented the zombie film.
OK, so maybe “invented” is kind of a strong word for a genre that had been around decades before this. But what Romero did, was redefine zombies. Before Night of the Dead, the undead weren’t the undead. Being a zombie usually meant to be under the influence of a voodoo curse, with 1932’s “White Zombie” being the genre’s defining film up to this point and the shift to the walking dead was George’s key to success.
On the outskirts of Everytown, Pennsylvania, Barbara and her brother are attacked in a graveyard by a walking corpse. Rescuing his sister, Johnny doesn’t make it and Barbara flees for her life.
Forced to take refuge in a nearby farmhouse where she meets fellow survivor Ben and forms an uneasy alliance with a handful of survivors hiding in the basement. The group fight to survive the cannibalistic horde outside and the insanity inside.
Not without its flaws, “Night of the Living Dead” is far from perfect. But no-one can say that this gory scarer isn’t deserving of its cult classic status. It’s inspired generations of film makers and is the foundation for its own sub-genre of horror film. Spawning four sequels, two remakes and countless imitations. George A. Romero is indeed the father of the modern zombie film. And while this may not be the best of them, it’s certainly the most important.
by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)
Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to comment below if you agree or disagree with our choices and we’ll be back soon with a look at our top five horror films of the seventies!