Thanks to Stranger Things, nostalgia for the 1980s is at an all-time high. Whether it’s the IT remake (one of several horror films to feature a Stranger Things cast member) or the recent Amazon series Paper Girls, studios are trying to get in on the craving for the decade that gave us the Atari. The 1980s is not the only period worth revisiting, and recent efforts have cast a light on the 1970s instead.
Scott Derrickson‘s The Black Phone follows the events surrounding a child killer stalking the youth of the 70s, and its 1978 setting offers a different view of adolescence. The same commitment from the below films to recreate the 1970s provides a unique perspective amongst the current wave of 1980s nostalgia.
‘The Conjuring’ (2013)
Based on the real-life cases of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, The Conjuring is regarded as one of the greatest supernatural horror films. When a family in 1971 experienced disturbing occurrences at their farmhouse, they contact the Warrens (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) for help.
The Conjuring was a smash hit and solidified director James Wan as one of the brightest talents in horror. The film’s success led to the birth of a franchise, and The Conjuring 2 was released to similar acclaim. Characters from the films have also received spin-offs, such as Annabelle and The Nun, creating an expanded universe like the MCU. The Conjuring is available to stream on Netflix and HBO Max.
A recent release, Ti West‘s X is a throwback to the slasher films of the 1970s, especially inspired by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The cast and crew of a pornographic film travel to a remote house in Texas to shoot their latest production but soon fall victim to their sinister hosts.
X will please anyone looking for a quality slasher movie, as the film’s cast is killed in various creative ways. A prequel named Pearl, which follows one of the villains in their younger days, recently dropped a trailer and is scheduled to release later this year.
‘My Friend Dahmer’ (2017)
Recounting the high-school years of famous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, My Friend Dahmer is an examination into the mind of a highly disturbed individual. Based on a graphic novel by John Backderf, a real-life friend of Dahmer’s, the story follows the teenager until he commits his first murder.
While My Friend Dahmer is more psychological drama than horror, it is easily the most disturbing film on this list. The murders Dahmer committed are especially heinous, and this portrayal of how such a monster was created is a chilling tale that will stick with you for a while. My Friend Dahmer is available to stream on Peacock, AMC+, and Tubi.
‘The Love Witch’ (2016)
Technically cheating since The Love Witch is never stated to take place in the 1970s, but its commitment to recreating the film style of this decade earns it a place on this list. The film follows a young witch named Elaine, who attempts to find a lover through potions and spells. The results prove to be disastrous.
The film was shot and edited to resemble a horror film from the 1960s and late 1970s, resulting in a movie that would seamlessly fit into that era. The Love Witch was praised for its focus on feminist themes, and the movie aims to subvert the ‘male gaze’ prevalent in horror. The Love Witch is available to stream on Shudder and Peacock.
‘The Amityville Horror’ (2005)
A remake of the classic 1979 film, The Amityville Horror follows the Lutz family as they move into the house where a mass murder occurred. As expected, spooky events begin to haunt the family’s every waking moment.
The film was savaged by critics, and while it offers nothing new in comparison to the original, it is worth watching for an early performance from Ryan Reynolds. The father of the young family, Reynolds plays against type as the house corrupts him, eventually turning him into an ax-wielding psycho akin to Jack Torrance from The Shining. Chloe Grace Moretz also makes her film debut, playing the family’s daughter. The Amityville Horror is available to stream on Starz.
‘The Clinic’ (2010)
An Australian thriller with a truly nightmarish scenario, The Clinic finds the pregnant Beth and her fiancé Cameron traveling the outback in 1979. When Beth is abducted, she awakens in a bathtub full of ice with her baby missing. Trapped in a sick game along with other women who have had their babies stolen, Beth is pushed to the limit to reunite with her child.
The story jumps between Beth and Cameron, who is frantically searching for his wife. However, most of the focus is on Beth and the women as they attempt to survive the nightmare inflicted upon them.
‘House of 1000 Corpses’ (2003)
The debut from divisive filmmaker Rob Zombie, House of 1000 Corpses is the shock rocker’s tribute to classic horror films. Centered around the psychotic Firefly family, the film finds four teens crossing paths with the murderous clan after their car breaks down on Halloween 1977. The friends are then tormented to unimaginable horrors.
Zombie equally draws detractors as he does fans, and House of 1000 Corpses proved to be a cult hit. He followed the film with two sequels, The Devil’s Rejects and 3 From Hell, which carry on the story of the surviving Firefly family members as their killing spree continues. House of 1000 Corpses is available to stream on HBO Max and AMC+.
‘Knife + Heart’ (2018)
A tribute to the giallo films that were prevalent in the 1970s, Knife + Heart is a slasher film set in Paris. When Annie, a producer of gay porn, is dumped by her girlfriend/editor, she vows to win her back by creating her best film yet. However, her cast begins to be targeted by a masked killer.
With a focus on sex and queer identity alongside its horror themes, Knife + Heart is as much an LGBTQ+ film as it is a giallo. The soundtrack and the color scheme of the film, which gives the movie an almost dreamlike quality, help to sell the 1979 setting and to transport the viewer to this past period in Paris. Knife + Heart is available to stream on Shudder and AMC+.
Another giallo, this time a remake of Dario Argento‘s classic horror film. Suspiria stars Dakota Johnson as Susie, an American ballet dancer who travels to Berlin in 1977 to train at a prestigious academy. While there, she discovers that the dancing school is merely a front for a coven of witches.
Directed by Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name), Suspiria is visually dazzling as it transitions from mesmerizing ballet sequences to gruesome death scenes. Along with Johnson, the movie stars Mia Goth, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Tilda Swinton, who is fantastic as she plays three different roles throughout the film. Suspiria is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
‘Super 8’ (2011)
If your favorite parts of The Black Phone were the moments when Finney and Gwen were able to act like normal children, then Super 8 should appeal to you. Following a group of young teens shooting their own amateur horror film in 1979, they soon come across a train derailment. Witnessing something escape from the destroyed train, they try to warn their town of the impending danger.
Directed by J.J Abrams, Super 8 is a tribute to classic films such as The Goonies and E.T., albeit with a slightly darker tone. With its premise of a band of kids attempting to save their families from a supernatural threat, the film is worth re-visiting in a post-Stranger Things world. Super 8 is available to stream on HBO Max.
NEXT: 10 Horror Movies of the 1970s That Defined the Genre
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