Classic ’70s Horror Currently Streaming on Shudder

While the horror community is dominated by conversations and lists of the best ’80s horror flicks, the previous decade of amazing films is overlooked, and sometimes even avoided, which is a shame. Horror in the ’70s had not yet become formulaic with by-the-numbers slashers but instead was filled with stylish haunts and wild exploitation. Giallos have renewed popularity and appreciation these days with many articles already looking into them so instead I’ll be focusing on mostly American and international films.

Messiah of Evil

two women relax in a bathroom, the wall behind them is painted with black and white images of men in suits

Considered underrated, Messiah of Evil is loose on plot but big on creepy dreamlike vibes. After a desperate foreshadowing describing the terrible events we are about to see, we follow Arletty as she travels to a small coastal town in search of her artist father. She stays in his house, decorated with huge paintings of men in suits with blank expressions and interesting perspectives. 

The town is full of similarly zombie-like people who attack one of the women in a grocery store, easily the most memorable scene in the film. It’s an overall unnerving experience that I’ve watched several times by now and always unconsciously before bed, leading to some strange dreams!

Horror Express

Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing speak to a Russian military leader in the film Horror Express

With horror icons Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing leading the cast you know it’s going to be a good time. Based on The Thing From Another World with the added bonus of being set on a train, the frozen “man” Lee discovers soon comes back to life and begins sucking the passengers dry. The bright red eyes are pretty spooky and it’s a fast-paced film that wastes no time getting to the juicy bits. Horror Express gained steady popularity from frequent airings on TV and remains a beloved classic to this day. 

Burnt Offerings

A white haired woman sits in a wheelchair facing a window

It wouldn’t be a ’70s horror list without a haunted house film and there’s none finer than Burnt Offerings. Renting a huge house for the summer, Ben and his wife Marian and young son Davey spend a lot of time fixing the place up while Marian brings trays of food to the mysterious shut-in homeowner, an elderly woman who never leaves her room. Ben’s older aunt Elizabeth soon joins them as well.

The house itself begins to affect the family—Father is overcome with rage and tries to strangle Davey, an old-fashioned hearse with a ghoulish grinning driver appears to menace them, and with each event, the house repairs itself. Extremely compelling with a delicious descent into madness and my personal favourite from this list!


A group of men wearing hats and backpacks pose for a photo, smiling

Four former military doctors take a trip to a remote fishing spot, planning to be picked up by a bush plane a few days later. Almost immediately they are taunted and tortured by a hidden stranger who first steals their boots and then throws a beehive at them. I couldn’t stop thinking about how debilitating taking their shoes would be—the forest is rough terrain and they have no choice but to strap plastic bags to their feet. Things get worse for the group as they try to figure out why they’re being picked off one by one. By far the most harrowing film on this list.


Patrick stares up at the ceiling. A medical tube is inserted into one of his nostrils

One of the first Ozploitation films I’d ever watched, Patrick begins big with the titular character murdering his parents. We pick up after a few years and the young man is now in a coma at a local hospital. Kathie, a new hire, is tasked with caring for him. I want to give a lot of credit to Patrick’s actor Robert Thompson—this is a difficult role. He does not speak, nor even blink the entire film yet he demands your attention just the same. 

Kathie soon learns to communicate with Patrick by asking him to spit to say yes or no and he, in turn, shows her his psychic powers, moving objects and using the typewriter. Strange deaths begin to happen around the hospital as well. Patrick was remade in 2013 and while that version is not too bad, as far as remakes go, the original is where it’s at.


a man in a long coat and hat stands in a dark alley at night

Also known as House of Crazies in later U.S. releases, Asylum is a series of shorts with an interesting bookend—a new doctor to a psychiatric facility is told he will be hired on one condition, to guess which patient is a former doctor now being treated for mental health issues. The young Dr. Martin sits with each person as they tell the story. Scripted by Robert Bloch, who wrote the novel Psycho on which the Hitchcock film was based, adapted his own short stories for Asylum. “The Weird Tailor” is my favourite out of the four, about a mysterious glittering material being made into a suit.

Honourable Mentions

Dora lays in bed, her hair falling over her face and neck

There are a few more retro horrors on Shudder including The Beast Must Die, a werewolf whodunit with Peter Cushing and Michael Gambon, Psychomania, ridiculous British zombie biker mayhem, Mario Bava’s Shock about a woman who believes her son possesses her dead husband’s spirit, and The Baby, featuring a social worker attempting to free an adult baby from his abusive family. What’s your favourite ’70s horror flick? I’d love to add more to my ever-growing To-Watch list.

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Written by Lor Gislason

Lor is a body horror enthusiast from Vancouver Island, Canada who can be found chilling with their two cats and playing farming simulators. Find them on Twitter: @lorelli_

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