Well, I was born in 1974, so that officially makes me old. I’ll be turning 50 next year, so I thought I would look back at some of the movies, music, toys, and events that happened in 1974. Some of these things will have undoubtedly influenced my life, even if it was much later, but others probably not quite as influential.
But all of the horror movies in this list were influential to me because I really, really wanted to be a special effects artist growing up.
The links to watch are active at the time of writing, but as streaming companies switch up their content, they may be unavailable there and available at others.
10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has quite possibly the best, most visceral title in movie history. From the title, you know what you are in for, but you might not quite realize just how much screaming and how little blood there is in the film. While the sequels and remakes and reboots dial up the blood and tension, the original still feels gritty and fresh, if a little boring since the viewer rarely cares much about the twenty-somethings that end up on the receiving end of a chainsaw.
I have a friend who calls it a home invasion movie because the group invades Leatherface and the rest of the Sawyer clan’s home, so sawing them to pieces is the best option to protect the home front.
9. The Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
Aw hell yeah! A rock opera with Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith as a groupie? Sign-me-the-hell-up! A singer-songwriter named Winslow Leach ends up being double-crossed by the evil music producer Swan. Swan steals his music and Phoenix, the girl he wants to sing it. He will use it as the oeuvre to open the Paradise, his new rock palace. Winslow suffers a freak accident that leaves him horribly disfigured, and so he seeks revenge as only a 70s rock opera can!
Unfortunately, I did not find it on streaming platforms as I wrote this.
But, really, the captivating Cheryl Smith is in it, if only for one scene.
8. Vampyres (1974)
A British bisexual vampire movie with loads of nudity and blood somehow did not end up on the video nasty list. It did receive an X rating in the US, which was characteristic of soft-core horror of the period. I remember staying up late to watch it because I was in a vampire phase. Teenage me was absolutely delighted that it also had a lot of nudity. The feasting scene where Fran and Miriam murder Rupert was especially a treat.
7. TheBeast Must Die (1974)
This is more of a mystery than a horror flick, but it is a treat to watch so I wanted to include it. In a remote island estate, eight people have been invited to dinner. One of them is a werewolf.
The most schlocky and fun moment in the film is near the end where it pauses to let the audience decide who they think the werewolf is.
6. Black Christmas (1974)
Known as one of the first slashers (or to some who believe Halloween was the first true slasher, as a proto-slasher), Black Christmas is a ton of fun. Sorority sisters receive threatening prank phone calls and are then stalked and murdered by a deranged killer. And during Christmas, too!
Black Christmas nails the tension and delivers on the fear of a murderer in the house with you. It also had the perfect setup as a sequel, complete with a Final Girl and a revealing ending.
5. Sugar Hill (1974)
Blaxploitation zombie horror is a thing, and it is divine! Marki Bey plays Sugar “Diana” Hill, a woman wronged by the mafia when they murder her boyfriend. So, she unleashed righteous voodoo zombie justice against them. It is a joy to watch, and Bey does a hell of a job as Sugar. Don Pedro Colley and Zara Cully are wonderful as well as Baron Samedi and Mama Maitresse. If gangster revenge flicks are your thing, and you also like zombies, voodoo, and a killer afro, then you HAVE to see this movie.
It’s Alive (1974)
Wife takes contraceptive pills and gets pregnant with a mutant baby who kills everyone in the delivery room and then goes on the crawl for some more human meat. It’s Alive is pure Larry Cohen goodness! Of course, the drug company wants to keep murder baby under wraps, but since it is free to murder everyone near a sewer, they have their work cut out for them.
This was a staple horror watch growing up. I do not know how many times I saw this or Deadly Eyes (1982).
Unfortunately, I did not find it streaming anywhere.
3. Killdozer! (1974)
From when TV movies were badass, comes Killdozer. A lifeform possesses a bulldozer building an airstrip and goes all Maximum Overdrive on anyone near the dozer. It stalks the construction workers to kill them. It is a slow burn film without a lot of oomf behind its punch, but damn is it a weird little flick that I was obsessed over as a kid.
2. Seizure (1974)
Writing is difficult work, but being a writer who believes characters from his own works are trying to kill him is exhausting! Dark Shadows’ Jonathan Frid takes on Bond Girl Martine Beswick, Fantasy Island’s Tattoo (Hervé Villechaize), and a creepy dude called The Jackal (Henry Judd Baker). It is wickedly weird, and Hervé is creepy AF as he skitters around. His name, Spider, is extremely poignant.
I did not find a place to stream this online.
1. Beyond the Door (1974)
As a kid, supernatural horror really got me going. I loved it. It scared the hell out of me, thinking about ghosts and demons and all of the other spooks that go bump in the night. And after seeing The Exorcist (1973), I was really scared of possession. This fear would wear off as rationalism overtook my brain in the future, but I still enjoy the idea of it, even if most exorcism and possession flicks play out as a Christian (and often delightedly Catholic) indoctrination video.
Beyond the Door was legit scary, and had a lot more tension than The Exorcist. Don’t get me wrong, I dig Blatty’s book and the film has a massive stranglehold on the future of demonic horror, but it is largely boring to watch today. That’s one of the problems with some of the films that really hit hard first: everything that comes afterwards uses their formula and improves on it until the original, when you go back to it, feels like a derivative of the newer influences.