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My name is Lisa and I weirdly like and enjoy watching horror movies. It started when I was a little kid when my dad showed some of the classic monster movies from the 1930’s and then watching scary movies during sleepovers and trying not to pee the bed out of fright. (it happened twice.) Now, every so often my sister and I will Skype one another and watch horror movie together. My obsession with the horror genre died down a little bit until I was in college and needed a topic for my senior thesis. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I chose to write and research my thesis on horror movies, more specifically, 1970’s horror movies. That’s when I found that doing research about the history of the time of these movies made the movies better; my obsession is back. I’m currently in my last semester of school and since I’ve been waiting for fall and October weather to come for months, I felt that I would share my love for history and horror movies by writing a blog. I wanted to challenge myself to research and watch 31 horror movies in 31 days to celebrate my favorite holiday, Halloween. Won’t you join me?

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October 18: Carrie (1976)

November 3, 1976, The Vietnam has finally ended in the previous year. The fall of Saigon forced south Vietnam to surrender to the Vietcong and communist North Vietnam and America got out of Vietnam. The Sexual Revolution continues as birth control pills are now made readily available and Hugh Hefner opened his first Playboy club in Chicago the year before. The computer company, Apple, is formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, following another company that formed a year earlier, Microsoft. America sent up our first satellite into space, the LAGEOS-1. As we saw in the previous film, people are more inclined to place their faith in science and technology rather than religion.

It was in 1976 when America discover the horror genius of Stephen King. Carrie is the first adaptation of his novel bearing the same name and numerous novels of his would be adapted into movies and even television series, like Salem’s Lot, Shawshank Redemption and Utopia. Stephen King has a knack for making ordinary things, terrifying. He wrote about a rabid dog (Cujo), a gypsy curse (Thinner) and even about a book fan (Misery).He taps into the desperation people have in times of sorrow and need.

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Brian de Palma read King’s novel and knew he had to shoot it. His original choice for Carrie Fischer was Betsy Slade but when Sissy Spacek showed up to her screen test with dirty, oily hair and face wearing a sailor outfit her mom made her in the seventh grade and was instantly given the part.In the final scene, it was Sissy’s idea to have her buried alive, instead of a stunt double, and thrust her had out of the dirt. What de Palma did in this film was illustrate the grotesque beauty of a family of shut-ins, completely condemning science and a teenage girl who just wants to be normal. This is another rare horror film that received Academy awards, including Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

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Here is the synopsis and review:

I own this film on Amazon Video.

Next Stop, 1978!

October 17: The Exorcist (1973)

December 26, 1973,   An important Supreme Court decision is made in this year. In the case of Roe vs Wade, the United States Supreme Court ruled that an abortion is a constitutional right. The Vietnam War continues on for another couple of years. The Summer of Love movement is slowly down while the Sexual Revolution is ramping up. Inflation in the economy is affect people lives, like the gas shortage that would occur in the following year. It is in this year that the Watergate hearings takes place and Nixon’s famous words were uttered; “I am not a crook.” This would plant seeds of doubt into the American people who are losing their trust in the government and become uncertain for what the future holds them.

Although the subject of devil worship and dealing with demonic entities have appeared in previous movies, The Exorcist was the first movie about a demonic possession. It is based on William Peter Blatty’s novel with the same name, who did extensive research on the exorcism ritual in the Roman Catholic Church. The sub genre of horror, possession movies, is extremely popular today as the majority of the possession films come from the 2010’s. It is the most primitive evil to occur on Earth and it can’t be destroyed by science or technology but only with religion. Technology was becoming advanced in the 1970’s and people feared what technology would bring.

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Blatty’s reason for writing the novel was to bring people back to religion. His thought was that if people believe in demons, they will believe in God and angels. William Friedkin hired Jesuit priests to come on set and observe the exorcism ritual, making sure it is accurate. The history nerd in me loves that. Friedkin took the documentary-style approach to the film, bringing the audience into the movie with up close scenes of the exorcism and the medical tests in the beginning of the film. This movie has been praised for its use of special effects, which work seamlessly throughout the movie, making you believe that an unseen force is jerking bed or Reagan crawling down the stairs bend backwards on all fours. This would be one of the few horror films to win an Academy Award.

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Here is the synopsis and review:

I own this film on Amazon video.

Next stop, 1976!

October 16: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

October 1, 1968, it feels like things are getting worse in America. Early in this year, Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated. The ever growing peace movement brings more and more riots. North Vietnam has launched the Tet Offensive throughout South Vietnam. Americans watch a South Vietnam general shoot a Vietcong officer in the head on television. The American people, and people around the world, want to end the war. They want peace and love and harmony in a world full of death and destruction. It is during this time when the Zodiac killer becomes infamous and another Kennedy, Robert, is assassinated. The world seems to be going to hell in a hand basket.

Night of the Living Dead would set the tone for the modern day zombies that we see in popular television series and movies, like The Walking Dead and Resident Evil. It is not zombies that roam aimlessly through corn fields like in I Walked with a Zombie. It is not the zombies being brought back to life by science like in The Walking Dead and Frankenstein. There is an unknown factor to why the dead are rising, like the unknown factor to why there is so much violence during this time. George Romero saw an opportunity to revitalize the zombie image in his cult classic, Night of the Living Dead.

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Romero did not intent to make this movie a social commentary when he chose Duane Jones to play the hero, Ben. Duane, an African-American actor, was chosen to play Ben based on his acting skills rather than skin color. When the film was finished, Romero and his producer, John A. Russo, threw the film canister in the truck and drove to New York. It was on their way to New York when they heard on the radio about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. His point in this film is to make a film that was earth-shattering and something people revolutionary that people would refuse to ignore. That’s why he chose to film in black and white, as the news station were broadcasted in black and white,so people would associate the black and white filter with reality.

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Here’s the synopsis and review.

This film can be seen on this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_f2Enn8x5s

Next stop, 1973!

October 15: The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

June 24, 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson is President, as the previous year JFK was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. America was pretty shaken up by what they saw on television. Johnson had a lot on his hands as the Civil Rights Movement was gaining momentum. After three civil rights workers were murdered in Mississippi, Johnson would sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but this would not stop the violence. Something also is occurring in 1964 that remains a pivotal moment in music history. Beatlemania happened. The Beatles came to American and every teenager girl died, metaphorically of course. The Beatles would start the British invasion, which isn’t really an invasion, but many other British bands make their way across the Atlantic and on American radios, bands like the Rolling Stones and The Animals.

Not only was the British invasion occur in the music industry, but also in the film industry. By this time, James Bond was popular with its third film, Goldfinger, premiering in this year. Dr. Strangelove also premiere in this year and even the delightful, and personal favorite, Mary Poppins made its appearance around this time. We, Americans, are embracing the ingenuity of the British films and loving every minute of it. Roger Corman cashed in on this British invasion by adapting American writer, Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and poems into film. Although he made six Edgar Allan Poe adaptations before 1964, The Masque of the Red Death was notable one starring Vincent Price.

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Roger Corman had always thought that The Masque of the Red Death and The Fall of the House of Usher were two of Poe’s greatest stories and with the success of The Fall of the House of Usher in 1960, Corman decided to make of the Masque of the Red Death. He struggled this the script because every rewrite, he didn’t like it. It wasn’t until Charles Beaumont’s draft when Corman really like the screenplay, but sadly Beaumont became too ill to fly to England for rewriting. Corman shot the film in 5 weeks and he wasn’t happy with the final sequence because he didn’t have enough time to perfect.

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Here is the synopsis and review:

I watched this film on Youtube but the sound kept going in and out during two scenes so it’s best to rent it on Amazon.

Next stop, 1969!

October 14: Psycho (1960)

September 8, 1960, there’s a lot going in America at this time. The first presidential debate was aired on television in this year, leading John F. Kennedy to be elected the 35th President of the United States. The sexual revolution begins with the use of birth control pills and Hugh Hefner opening the first Playboy club in Chicago. However, the U.S. gets involved with the Vietnam War at this time, when France withdraws its assistance in the fight against Communist Vietnam. The government announces that they will send 3,500 soldiers to Vietnam to help South Vietnam fight the Communists. 1960 was also a great year for movies with epics like Ben-Hur premiering and one of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Psycho.

Alfred Hitchcock is the master of suspense and everyone knows. Watching The Birds in Bodega Bay as a child still gives me chills today (and an irrational fear of birds). Many directors of today were inspired by Hitchcock’s direction and suspense and made great movies themselves, like Jaws and Halloween. Psycho is the beginning of a new sub-genre of horror film, slasher flick. There hadn’t been a movie about a psychopathic killer until this movie. Psycho is the beginning of how we watch and view horror films. It is icon and Hitchcock remains the father and master of suspense and horror. (Sorry, Romero.)

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This film had some controversy surrounding it. It was the first film to show an unmarried couple in the same bed together. At the time, this was considered taboo and nontraditional. Not only were Janet Leigh and John Gavin in the same bed together but Janet was simply wearing a bra. That seems pretty tame compared to what we see now on network television (Game of Thrones, True Blood, Weeds, etc.) but that was scandalous then. The film almost didn’t make it to theaters because of that but Alfred knew how to persuade the censors in charge of enforcing the Production Code. Another thing that was controversial was flushing the toilet. That may seem silly but it was never done before on screen until Psycho and the censors didn’t like it but kept it in. This was a new kind of horror film that the audiences and critics were not ready for. It was a beginning of a new era in horror films.

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For the synopsis and review, watch this video.

 

Disclosure: I have mistaken John Carpenter for Wes Craven. John Carpenter is still alive and well. That is all.

Next stop, 1964!

October 13: The Blob (1958)

September 12, 1958, America is back in a recession, otherwise known as the Eisenhower Recession. Car sales have plummeted, house sales have fallen, and unemployment is back up to 7.7%. Things can’t always be great in America but, that doesn’t mean exciting things aren’t happening. NASA is formed in this year, launching the Explorer 1 satellite, because we certainly allow the Russians to be the only ones in space (Sputnik 1). We are constantly racing Russia on space and nuclear weapons because it is still the Cold War. The amount of science and technology happening in the 1950’s is astonishing and contributes to the new wave of science fiction films.

The Blob is probably one of the most iconic horror films in America’s history. It has been referenced in movies like Grease and Flash Gordon. We all know about the movie but do we know anything about it? It’s a blob that sucks people into itself right? Right but we forget about the back story of The Blob. The Blob reminds us of the spectacle movies used to. They were sensationalized. When you look at the poster, “IT CRAWLS! IT CREEPS! IT”S THE BLOB!” They don’t do that anymore because it makes the film seem cheesy nowadays. I will point out that this is the first movie on this list that’s in color. Color movies and television was expensive to make so most directors stuck with black and white but not Irvin Yeaworth.

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Originally titled, The Molten Meteor, The Blob went through several title changes until it settled on The Blob. This is an independent film directed by Irvin Yeaworth starring the one and only, Steve McQueen, in his first debut leading role. Reception for this film so anything but great, called a “cheap teen movie”. The background score was composed by Ralph Carmichael, who wrote the original theme song “Violence” to give the movie a more serious, frightening tone. It was against Yeaworth’s wishes that the original theme song be ditched because the production company wanted to encourage audience to view The Blob as campy fun. It would’ve been an entirely different movie with the original theme song.

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Steve Andrews takes his girlfriend, Jane Martin to lover’s lane when they witness a meteor crash beyond the next hill. Andrews decided to look for it but it is found first by an old man who lives near by. The old man sees this small jelly-like substance come out of the meteor and attach itself to the man;s hand. In terrible pain and unable to get it off his hand, he runs to the road to find Andrews and Martin, who takes him to the doctor. The doctor is leaving for a conference but send Andrews and Martin back to the meteor site to gather information while he anesthetizes the old man and decided to amputate his hand. Before he can do that, the Blob devours the  old man, the nurse and the doctor himself, growing in size. Andrews and Martin witness the doctor’s death and go to the police but there is no evidence of the creature so they are sent home, which they sneak out of later. The Blob is growing every time it consumes someone, the mechanic, the janitor, a number of moviegoers. Andrews and Martin, along with Andrew’s brother, Dave, run into a diner when the Blob engulfs the entire diner. Andrews remembers that the Blob recoils to coldness so he recruits some of his friend to go to the high school and retrieve 20 fire extinguishers. Returning with the fire extinguishers, the police drive the Blob away from the diner and then freeze it, saving Andrews and his brigade of teenagers. Air Force airlifts the Blob to the Arctic but the Blob is not dead, it has only been stopped. As long as the Arctic stays cold is the last line in the film and it ends like this:”THE END?”

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I hate to admit it but I did not care for this film. I’m not a huge fan of campy horror movies and this is the campiest of them all. And somehow, this didn’t seem realistic to me. Before you say that, yes, the majority of the films on this list are not based on real stories so none of them are realistic. But, they are realistic enough for us to use our imaginations and see the possibility of a scientist creating a man out of other dead men, a prehistoric creature living in the Amazon that hasn’t been discovered, or even man turning into a wolf by the full moon. I can watch campy horror films when I’m in the mood to watch them but tonight was not one of those nights. But I can see how something utterly ridiculous as The Blob can be considered a classic.

To view this movie, I rented it on Amazon.

I’m going to take a moment to let you know that, due to school work piling up and still having midterms this week, I will be doing a written blog still but the synopsis and review will be done as a video, to save me some time to do school work because that comes first. Thank you for reading this blog so far! I hope you are enjoying it like I am!

Next stop, 1960!

October 12: The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

February 12, 1954, the war has ended. Which war, you may ask and technically two wars have ended. The Korean War ended the year prior and McCarthyism will end by the end of this year. McCarthyism is the ongoing witch hunt for Communists within the U.S. government and Hollywood entertainers, led by Joseph McCarthy, U.S. Senator for Wisconsin. This doesn’t make Americans any less scared of Communists and possible nuclear warfare. However, another war has begun and it starts with the court ruling in Brown vs the Board of Education. The court rules that separate but equal is inherently unequal when it comes to the public schools and that the segregation of public school violates the 14th Amendment. You may think that it’s a stride in the right direction but it will be an ongoing uphill battle for the African-Americans in this country, especially in the South.

Not only do the 1950’s bring us into the age of Science Fiction movies, but they also give us, what I call, creature features. Usually creature features deal with the idea that, let’s say, a spider touches nuclear waste and it grows to be bigger than skyscrapers and brings havoc into the city or small town. That movie is called Tarantula and it premiered in  1955, a year after Creature from the Black Lagoon. Unlike most creature features, the Creature from the Black Lagoon is not about an animal that finds its way into toxic waste. It is, however, about a creature in the Amazon that is part man, part amphibian living in the Amazon. He is a prehistoric creature but still a good presentation of the creature features of this time.

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Producer William Alland was at a dinner party during the filming of Citizen Kane (another great movie you should see) when Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa told him about this myth about a half man, half fish creatures in the Amazon River. This would spark Alland to write “The Sea Monster” 10 years later and Maurice Zimm would expand this story, calling it The Black Lagoon. They asked Jack Arnold, who directed the 3D film, House of Wax, the year before, to direct this film. The “Gill-man”, as the creature is referred to, was designed by Disney animator, Millicent Patrick but she would never get the credit she deserves as the creation of the creature was credited to make-up artist Bud Westmore. The Gill-man was played by two men as Ben Chapman couldn’t see very well out of it and had immense trouble with the make-up and suit. The underwater scenes, the Gill-man is Ricou Browning.

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Dr. Carl Maia visits his friend and former student, Dr. David Reed and tell shim of a discovering he made in the Amazon: fossilized evidence of a link between land and sea animals, particularly a skeletal hand with webbed fingers. Reed urges his boss, Dr. Mark Williams, to fund a return expedition to the Amazon to look for the remaining skeleton. Maia, Reed, Williams, Reed’s girlfriend, Kay Lawrence, and another scientist, Dr. Edwin Thompson, abroad the tramp steamer, Rita, captained by Lucas. Once they arrived at camp, they discover that Maia’s entire research team has been slaughtered, Lucas suggesting it was a jaguar. However, the audience knows that it was the amphibious humanoid creature they have found evidence of. Maia takes his crew to the excavation site but finds no further evidence. Reed suggests that the water may have taken any evidence downriver and that’s when Lucas reveals that the tributary empties into the “Black Lagoon” which no man has returned from. Scientists decided to risk it, unaware the this “gill-man” has killed Maia’s assistant earlier. As the men dive to the bottom searching for evidence, Kay goes for a swim and is stalked by the gill-man, who gets caught in one of the ship’s lines but escapes, leaving a claw behind. The gill-man kills some of Lucas’ crew before getting captured and locked in a cage on-board. It escapes and blocks the entrance to the lagoon. As the rest of the crew attempts to remove the blockade, Mark takes on the gill-man underwater, single-handedly, but is mauled to death. The gill-man kidnaps Kay and bring her into his cavern but he is being chased by Reed, Lucas, and Maia. Kay is rescued and the gill-man is riddled with bullets and sinks to the bottom of the lagoon.

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To be honest, this film scared the crap out of me as a kid. And I can see why it did. The make-up and suit of the Gill-man is stunningly terrifying. The producer, Alland, was inspired by Beauty and the Beast when he wrote this story and I don’t quite see it. I see when when the Gill-man is stalking Kay in the fores and in the lagoon, as he is fascinated with her but she doesn’t like him at all. Unless I have completely misunderstood the common tale of Beauty and the Beast, the beauty eventually falls for the beast. Not in this tale. The beast is taken down by mere bullets. Nevertheless, this is a classic horror film. It’s creepy and the good guys win at the end, kind of. They discovered the gill-man, only to destroy him.

If you would like to watch this movie, I rented it from Amazon.

Next stop, 1958!