Top 10 Foreign Horror: 1970s & 1980s

Top 10 Foreign Horror: 1970s & 1980s

Just in time for Autumn, the perfect season for getting into the primordial emotion of fear, I thought it apt to create a list of some films I will be cozying up with this October.

This is not just any Top Ten Horror Film list. This is a top ten list of horror movies with parameters, for my ultimate viewing and sensory pleasure--like that scene in Ridley Scott's 2012 Sci-Fi thriller, Prometheus, when leading lady Dr. Shaw gives herself an abortion. Mmmmm, good cringey feels...

So as I said, this is a list with parameters, let's cover those:

  • Horror films between the 1970s and 1980s
  • Foreign horror films

Do not fret, all of these films can be found dubbed in English, as I have viewed them. I do want to note, the reason I chose foreign horror films was not to be different from the modern mainstream trends of the United States. It's because before the 1980s, when the American 'Slasher' films took a hold of the horror genre, other nationalities had long been exploring with the idea of murder (mysteries) and sub-genres within, especially in a country that had a gorgeous Golden Age of film in the late 1960s: Italy. Most of the films on my list are from Italy alone... But let's roll into this list, shall we?

10. Cat O' Nine Tails (1971): Let's gently guide you into the wonderful world of Italian Horror Cinema. Here we have a prime example of a style of horror popular in the 60s and 70s, and one of my favorite genres as well: Giallo. Giallo in Italian means yellow, like the yellow-covered murder mystery books that were popular back-in-the-day. So Italian Giallo is a blood-filled, beautiful landscape-filled murder mystery... Who doesn't love a good mystery? In this film in particular, I love the combination of the child and blind man solving the grizzly murder... 

9. Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971): So let's say you're done with the cutesy introduction to Giallo, fine. I bring you something as little more erotic and hardcore. I bring you Italian Paolo Cavara's fun Giallo thriller, Black Belly. In this horror film, victims of a serial killer are paralyzed with spider venom that keeps them completely aware while the victim's bellies are torn out. Yummy.

8. Zombi (1978): I introduce a classic, maybe THE classic zombie film by Horror master Lucio Fulci. Fulci has a slew of zombie films, but this is one of my favorites for a couple of reasons. Yes, this is a typical zombie movie, and also not typical. For example, a zombie fights a shark in the ocean. That's right. a f*cking shark fighting a f*cking zombie. Radical. Also, there's a great through-the-door scene, where a zombie is trying to get at a girl through the door...he succeeds in grabbing her head, slowly bringing it into the splintered wood of the door it's broken though...piercing the eye... Ooof. Horror magic!

6. Bay of Blood (1971): It's almost impossible to talk Italian Horror without mentioning someone who has been described as the Godfather of Horror, Mr. Mario Bava. This Giallo is based around the murder of a rich lake-house-owning widow. The opening scene, she gets murdered--but then the murderer gets murdered in the same scene by a different murderer! Insanity! Awesomeness! The opening and ending scenes may be my favorite in this film, but watch the whole thing to see the killing spree and to find out who the killer is.

7. Don't Torture a Duckling (1972): Lucio Fulci, again? yes. Fulci again. But instead of a zombie movie, I offer you Fulci's take in the Giallo vein with a murder mystery set in an Italian boy's school run by a church/priest. In this tale, the children are the primary victims of the murders, although there is also a brutal scene where a bunch of men viciously beat a woman they believe is the killer. You won't believe who the murderer is in this Giallo!

5. Eyeball (1975): OK, so disclosure, I have only viewed this film once, on VHS, which I borrowed from a friend. But if you get your hands on a copy, or are willing to go the DVD route (I am personally hesitant), do it. The title says it all. From director Umberto Lenzi comes a Giallo about a murderer who takes beautiful female eyeballs. This rarity is certainly a fun slasher-ride!

4. Cannibal Holocaust (1980): By Italian director Ruggero Deodato as a part of the cannibal series, this one is filmed with REAL ANIMAL KILLINGS, Cannibal Holocaust is definitely  for those who are not easily sickened. Tagged as "THE ONE THAT GOES ALL THE WAY," we get to see a turtle sliced and torn apart, monkeys torn apart,  all while witnessing rampages of murder in the Amazon. This is the story of what happened to the film crew that went to study the Amazon tribes, those who kill and fuck with tribes in countries they don't belong. Maybe a warning to heed... And definitely a fun one for Halloween.

3. Santa Sangre (1989): This film is by political and surrealist giant,  Chilean-French Alejandro Jodorowsky, has a beautiful and unexpected twist to add to this creepy, haunting, slightly-psychologcial thriller. This film is set in Mexico, were a traumatized circus child witnesses his unfaithful father getting acid thrown on his junk, and then sees said father cutting off his mother's arms (who survives). The tale is one of the traumatized boy coming to terms with his past, with his own killing spree issues, and being his mother's arms in this colorful, fantastical film. Sublime and touching. Provocative and rich. Enchanting and haunting. I love it all.

2. Suspiria (1977): Almost coming in first (a personal self-struggle I dealt with for many hours), we have what I believe is Horror Legend Dario Argento's most stunning film. Suspiria takes place in a primary-colored, geometric-forward dance house of Ballet with (unbeknownst to the students) a witch as its's Head of School. When a girl disappears the same day our leading actress arrives at the school, murder mysteries begin to unfold as more girls are killed. I will even point out a fun scene where a dog rips out his owner's throat. Sick. The use of primary color in this film adds to the fantasmic feel, and creates beautiful backdrops Italian films are known for. The mystery of the witch, the blood-covered scenes, and the music by Goblin has given me some pretty weird dreams... Let's see what it can do for you...

1. The Beyond (1983): This film is my number one because I will be watching this every week. It's full of the undead, peeling muck faces, weird face-eating spiders, a morgue full of frothy acid and blood... Need I say more? The imagery alone in this film is something to be admired! The Beyond is a zombie film, at it's basic form yes, by zombie king Lucio Fulci, but it is also a part of a series Fulci constructed called The Gates of Hell (trilogy), where one of the taglines for the films is: "Behind this doorway lie the terrifying and unspeakable secrets of hell. No one who sees it lives to describe it. And you shall live in darkness for all eternity." Cue suspense music. For the setting of this cursed land, we go to Louisiana, full of creepy plantation houses, voodoo folklore, and Spanish moss dangling to strangle the scenes into morbid beauty. Throughout this film, increasingly grotesque supernatural occurrences take shape, while the lead female oversees the reconstruction of an old hotel, not surprisingly built over one of the gates of hell that is busting open through the film... You know only badness can ensue.  I don't want to give away the stunning ending, but the tagline is correct: "you shall live in darkness for all eternity." I guess more of a reason not to enter the upside-down, right?

I don't want anyone to think that because I favor foreign horror, there weren't some incredible gems during this period outside of the slashers and classics we all know and love. So if you need some more films to round out your holiday repertoire, try on these for size: 

11. I Spit on Your Grave (1978): Unlike any Horror film I've seen before, and so much  more powerful for it. Instead of the surrealist visionary films I describe and adore above, this film gives me the creepy Prometheus self-abortion feeling--but worse. 100% "this could happen to you," a girl on a solo retreat to a gorgeous lake cottage gets gang raped (all scenes intact) by a group. This is what happens throughout most of the film. This girl is beaten, raped, and dragged along the lakehouse mud by various men for over an hour. But at the end, this girl gets her revenge. And you cannot help but cheer as she goes along murdering her rapists. Eat your heart out, Brock Turner. 

12. Last House on Dead End Street (1977): In the same "this-could-happen" vein, in the film a young man fresh out of jail decides to torture society through snuff films and, well, torture. Filmed with creepy masks, a girl in black-face getting whipped in her underwear, and lots of animal parts, this meta film about making a film is a fun ride with a different perspective from other films at the time. This film did gain a cult status as being  real snuff film when the initial release of the film didn't appear to go through due to an actress suing for a scene she was in... But it was just hype, even playing in the film's tagline: "It's only a movie!" We hope so. Because those sawed-off limbs look pretty real...

13. Wizard of Gore (1970): I didn't stay out of the fantasy world long. Speaking of sawing off limbs, here is Wizard of Gore by recently-deceased (9/26/2016) American cult king Herschell Gordon Lewis. Although I can point out many films of Lewis' I adore (Two Thousand Maniacs!, Blood Feast, Gore Gore Girls), Wizard of Gore holds a special place in my heart (although, I will point out I appreciate Gore Gore Girls' nipple-cutting scene, and Two Thousand Maniac's rock-drop scene). This film is about a magician who appears to hypnotize and perform gruesome acts of sawing and cutting, gut-ripping and blood-playing for his audience. However, the volunteers on stage walk off scott-free after the gig. Later those evenings of the shows, the volunteers in fact die the very way the magician had disillusioned for his audiences. A fun gut and gore-filled 70s flick, whit eyeballs being ripped out of (clearly doll-faces) heads--and also a murder-mystery with a classic Lewis twist at the end. Fun for all!  


Look for these titles and other films by the same directors, there are so many more I could name, on some of the streaming apps, or, many of them can be found through Amazon Prime, and even Shudder was smart enough to stream The Beyond. Get on that while you can...

What are the foreign films you will be viewing this month that aren't on AMC's FearFest?

Published by Kristiane Weeks-Rogers

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