Film & TV Series, Movies

Best Horror TV Movies of the 1970s

Just as people began to get really keyed up about Satanism, possession, Bigfoot, the Bermuda Triangle, ghosts, serial killers and ESP during the 1970s, a surge of made-for-TV movies attempted to cash-in on the public’s appetite for the occult. With many of these movies finally available again either on Blu-ray/DVD or YouTube, we thought we’d take our readers back on a serious nostalgia trip with a list of The 15 Best Horror TV Movies of the 1970s, which you can check out in our gallery below!
818PcZy6AdL._SL1500_Our list was kicked off this past summer by the terrific new TV movie compendium titled Are You in the House Alone?: Growing Up with Gargoyles, Giant Turtles, Valerie Harper, The Cold War, Stephen King & Co-Ed Call Girls. This wonderful guidebook to TV movies (click here to purchase!) from 1964 to 1999 features countless reviews, plus fun essays on various subgenres like small-screen scream queens, eco-horror, Wes Craven, superheroes and more. The book’s editor Amanda Reyes also provided a commentary track on Scream Factory’s recently-released Blu-ray edition of 1977’s Carrie-esque psychokinetic high school girl TV movie The Spell, which features Lee Grant and a very young Helen Hunt! It’s an above-average shocker with some killer set pieces, and a crisp transfer for a movie that surely never looked better. Click here to purchase The Spell on Scream Factory Blu-ray! Other TV movies of the era not found in our list below that we heartily recommend digging up for continued study include Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (later remade by Guillermo del Toro), Snowbeast, Satan’s Triangle, A Howling in the Woods, Good Against Evil (a failed TV pilot featuring Kim Cattrall), The House That Would Not Die, Dan Curtis’s Dracula (starring Jack Palance!), Trilogy of Terror (includes the famous Zuni fetish doll segment), The Norliss Tapes (a way more serious version of Kolchak), Moon of the Wolf, The Bermuda Depths, Something Evil (directed by Steven Spielberg!), Bad Ronald and Summer of Fear (directed by Wes Craven!), also recently out on Blu-ray!
  1. Gargoyles (1972) This interesting oddity about a an anthropologist (Cornel Wilde) and his daughter (Jennifer Salt) who stumble upon a colony of real, living gargoyles is perhaps best known for being an early triumph for the late, great make-up effects genius Stan Winston, who won an Emmy for his efforts. It also features an early appearance from actor Scott Glenn, as well as Dark Shadows star Grayson Hall.
  2. The Stone Tape (1972) The British also dabbled in the occult for their TV movies during this era, with writer Nigel Kneale (the Quatermass films, Halloween III: Season of the Witch) being the greatest purveyor of such chills. His groundbreaking work on BBC Two’s The Stone Tape brought the worlds of science and superstition together, and introduced audiences to the idea of a residual haunting, or a ghost as essentially a recording of an incident from the past. Michael Bryant and Jane Asher star in this story of a big team of scientist who invade a Victorian mansion to investigate the supposed haunting, and wind up unleashing a terrible evil. 

  3. 12. The Victim (1972) While not an exceptional TV movie by any stretch of the imagination (it’s not even featured in Amanda Reyes’ book!), The Victim is a perfect synthesis of what makes TV horror great. It has a washed up star past their prime (Bewitch‘s Elizabeth Montgomery), a spooky setting (a secluded house in the mountains during a thunderstorm) and a dead body with maybe two or three potential suspects as to who killed her. A perfect late afternoon movie to put on and enjoy. 

  4. Night Terror a.k.a. Night Drive (1977)

    This NBC thriller plays almost like a female version of The Hitcher, with Valerie Harper as a high-strung mother trying to drive through the night to see her hospitalized son. She inadvertently witnesses a murder on the side of the highway, and is summarily chased down by the sleazy killer (a very effective Richard Romanus). Harper is outstanding in this surprisingly feminist spin on the damsel-in-distress movie, with lots of high-tension moments from start to finish. 

  5. Night Terror a.k.a. Night Drive (1977)

    This NBC thriller plays almost like a female version of The Hitcher, with Valerie Harper as a high-strung mother trying to drive through the night to see her hospitalized son. She inadvertently witnesses a murder on the side of the highway, and is summarily chased down by the sleazy killer (a very effective Richard Romanus). Harper is outstanding in this surprisingly feminist spin on the damsel-in-distress movie, with lots of high-tension moments from start to finish.

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