The 30 Most Underrated Horror Films From The 1970s

11. Westworld (Michael Crichton, 1973)

Screenplay by Crichton


In the wake of the success of The Andromeda Strain, Crichton wrote an original screenplay for his directorial debut about a theme park wherein adults can explore their fantasies about living in historical time periods.

Technology is always on the verge of taking a catastrophic turn in much of Crichton’s work and Westworld is no exception as the androids that populate the park start to malfunction with lethal results.

Highlighted by an intense, charismatic villainous performance by Yul Brynner, Westworld spawned the wretched sequel Futureworld in 1976, a short-lived TV series misfire in 1980 called Beyond Westworld and is the basis for an upcoming HBO series. Watch Westworld then watch Steven Spielberg’s goofy 1993 Crichton adaptation Jurassic Park for a crystal clear contrast between early 1970s filmmaking and 1990s filmmaking.


12. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (Jorge Grau, 1974)

Screenplay by Sandro Continenza & Marcello Coscia

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie

Also known as The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue, Don’t Open the Window and several other titles, this Italian/Spanish co-production is one of the most underrated zombie films ever made.

In this film, the police blame a series of gruesome murders on an innocent man when the culprits are actually reanimated corpses. Containing a level of zombie violence much more commonly associated with later subgenre entries such as George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and the Italian zombie films of Lucio Fulci and other directors, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is a groundbreaking horror film in addition to being a too-often overlooked gem.


13. Phase IV (Saul Bass, 1974)

Screenplay by Mayo Simon

Phase IV

By far the most cerebral entry in the Revolt of Nature horror film cycle of the 1970s, Phase IV is the visually stunning tale of a pair of scientists waging war against a colony of highly intelligent ants. Sadly, this was legendary title sequence creator Saul Bass’ only film as director.

Phase IV’s lengthy psychedelic ending, presented in a truncated form after studio-imposed edits, was discovered a couple of years ago and screened uncut in several theatrical venues.


14. Scream of the Wolf (Dan Curtis, 1974)

Teleplay by Richard Matheson based on the David Case story “The Hunter”

Scream of the Wolf

Director Curtis re-teams with legendary writer Richard Matheson for one of the most unusual films of the 1970s TV horror film wave. Peter Graves stars as a writer helping police investigate a series of murders that appear to have been committed by a werewolf. A former hunting partner of Graves’ character played by Clint Walker assists in the investigation.

Matheson claims that the strong homosexual undercurrent that makes this film particularly fascinating was intentional which, if that is truly the case, would make Scream of the Wolf a far more daring TV film of its era than it initially appears to be.


15. Deep Red (Dario Argento, 1975)

Screenplay by Argento & Bernardino Zapponi


While many cite Argento’s 1977 Suspiria as the director’s masterpiece, that accolade belongs to the giallo Deep Red which benefits from about as much focus on narrative as you are going to find in Italian horror cinema.

David Hemmings stars as a musician who teams up with a reporter in the wake of the savage murder of a psychic and finds himself embroiled in a far more gruesome world of mystery solving than his previously best known role in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966).

Employing one of his favorite narrative devices in which the protagonist was exposed to vital clues early in the story that they fail to put together until the end of the film, Argento creates some of his most accomplished sequences along the way including a great scene wherein David Hemming’s character breaks down the wall of an old abandoned house accompanied by the bombastic theme music of the group Goblin.


16. Race with the Devil (Jack Starrett, 1975)

Screenplay by Lee Frost & Wes Bishop

Race with the Devil

Two married couples vacationing in an RV witness a human sacrifice and are pursued by a deadly cult in this very entertaining film.

Cults had previously been the villains in a number of horror films including Terence Fisher’s The Devil Rides Out (1968), Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and Robert Fuest’s The Devil’s Rain (also released in 1975) but Race with the Devil amps up the action element considerably with intense car chases. A remake was announced in the mid-2000s that never came to fruition.


17. Shivers (David Cronenberg, 1975)

Screenplay by Cronenberg


Also known as They Came from Within, Cronenberg’s first theatrical feature is an excellent example of the concept of “venereal horror”-a trademark of his early horror films. The film opens with a disturbing murder/suicide scene then goes on to explore the spread of a bizarre parasitic infection throughout a chic high-rise apartment building.

The acting and pacing in the film may be lacking in a number of places as can sometimes be the case with works by young filmmakers but the overall portrayal of Cronenberg’s apocalyptic concept wins out over the rough patches.

Shivers’ parasitic slugs were recycled with bigger budgets by Fred Dekker for the goofy but highly entertaining Night of the Creeps (1986) and James Gunn for the horror-comedy misfire Slither (2006).


18. Grizzly (William Girdler, 1976)

Screenplay by Harvey Flaxman & David Sheldon


Having previously directed the low-budget horror films Asylum of Satan (1972), Three on a Meathook (1973) and Abby (1974) and the blaxploitation films The Get-Man (aka Combat Cops, 1974) and Sheba Baby (1975), Girdler delivered his biggest hit with Grizzly.

An immensely entertaining Jaws rip-off with a few trademark Girdler moments of unintentional humor, Grizzly gets a sizable boost in quality from the veteran acting trio of Christopher George, Richard Jaeckel and Andrew Prine.


19. Who Can Kill a Child? (Narciso Ibanez Serrador, 1976)

Screenplay by Serrador based on the Juan Jose Plans novel

Who Can Kill a Child

Viewers of this film are advised to ignore the incredibly unnecessary prologue that informs the audience that we’ve all got this coming and enjoy one of the best “killer kids” horror films of all time. Also known as Island of the Damned, Who Can Kill a Child? tells the story of a pair of tourists who discover an alarming lack of adults on an isolated island and find themselves fighting for their lives against a pack of murderous children.

Not even a lesser-known Spanish film of the 1970s is immune from the pernicious horror remake mentality as Who Can Kill a Child? was remade as Come Out and Play in 2012. Skip the remake, watch the original and if you want to create a superior “killer kids” double-feature for yourself, also seek out Tom Shankland’s highly underrated 2008 film The Children.


20. Alucarda (Juan Lopez Moctezuma, 1977)

Screenplay by Moctezuma, Alexis Arroyo, Tita Arroyo & Yolanda Lopez Moctezuma based on the Sheridan Le Fanu novel “Carmilla”


There have been scores of female vampire films and multiple screen adaptations of the novel “Carmilla” but the Mexican Alucarda is certainly the most unusual and the most memorable film of both of those cinematic arenas.

In this version, a young girl in one of the strangest convents you will ever see strikes up a relationship with a mysterious woman named Alucarda. Sound on Sight’s Ricky D. describes this demented film perfectly as he calls it “part nunsploitation, part possession/Satanism movie and part vampire flick”. Alucarda’s fiery attack on the convent at the film’s end is a classic sequence.