Horror Films: The Satanic Film Craze of the 1970s

Horror Films: The Satanic Film Craze of the 1970s

Ask any horror film fan and they will most likely tell you they have a special place in their hearts for 1970s horror films. The 70s was an important decade for all film genres, because the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA – the folks responsible for film ratings) lifted the restrictive Hays Code in the late 60s.

With the Hays Code banished, filmmakers suddenly felt they had a new license to go hog-wild – and that they did (lucky for us). Moviegoers saw the beginnings of slasher flicks, exploitation flicks, a new level of guts and gore, and bolder frontal body nudity – all of a sudden there were bare breasts everywhere! What a wonderful (and confusing) time to be a kid… it was great!

As you can imagine, horror filmmakers ran with the new opportunity to scare audiences to death… by any means necessary. And, what better villain to scare the hell out of a country full of Christians than the Devil?

A Satanic Car Chase and a Demonic Car

Picture it, it’s 1975…you and three of your friends decide to take a road trip and drive across the country in an RV. While you’re camped in a remote area, you happen to witness a satanic ritual where one of the participants is murdered….you can run…but as these four friends learn in Race with the Devil (1975) …you cannot run far or fast enough. Peter Fonda and Loretta Swit star in this over the road thriller.

The Car (1977), which starred James Brolin and Kim Richards, offered another variation on a satanic car chase…this time the car is possessed, and it is doing the chasing… sans a driver. When a car drives itself to your house, parks in your driveway and then honks the horn for you, you are probably in a lot of trouble.

Demonic Possession

The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972) is the creepy story of a man who becomes possessed with the soul of a dead friend – a dead friend who happens to be a six-inch blade-wielding psycho who may have been demonically possessed.

Perry King stars as the man who begins to adopt his evil friend’s persona. He commits gruesome beheadings, maniacally terrorizes his sister (Shirley MacLaine), and completely traumatizes her kids. Some parts of this film are hard to watch – you have to keep telling yourself “it’s only a movie.”

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The Anti-Christ

Several films have been made about the coming of the Anti-Christ, but none has relayed such a chilling tale as The Omen (1976). There is very little gore, because the story and its message is sufficient enough to scare the hell out of you – he’s coming, and he cannot be stopped, and if you try, you’ll die in a most unpleasant manner.

The Omen became a trilogy, and the second film lived up to the first, but the third and final film proved to be a complete disappointment. So too was that awful 2006 remake (but, of course…). The Omen (1976) stars Hollywood screen legends, Gregory Peck and Lee Remick.

Possessed By the Devil Himself

The Exorcist (1973) was so good at what it did (scared the taste out of everyone’s mouth), it caused a string of copycats to be released the following year: Abbey (1974); Beyond the Door (1974); The Bloody Exorcism of Coffin Joe (1974).

The Exorcist (1973) also became a film franchise, but neither the sequels, nor the prequel was even remotely interesting. Filmmakers are constantly trying to conjure up the same recipe as the original 1973 film, but they still cannot duplicate the same level of fear.

Other devilish films of the decade include The Sentinel (1977), The Legacy (1979), To the Devil, a Daughter (1976), and Lisa and the Devil (1974).

Horror filmmakers today use slick animation techniques, exorbitant amounts of gore, creepy Japanese horror film atmospheric cinematography, and the best and latest special effects that money can buy, but they still cannot compare to the distinctive, eerie ambiance of satanic 70s horror films.

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