Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Rosemary’s Baby (1968) expresses some of the anxieties about evil children explored in The Bad Seed (1956) and Village of The Damned (1960) (an adaptation of John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos). It also tapped into the ongoing debate about a woman’s right to choose – if only Rosemary could have marched into Planned Parenthood for some objective medical advice, instead of falling under the control of religious maniacs! This wildly influential movie paved the way for the evil children movies of the 1970s (from It’s Alive to Alien) and is referenced heavily by current horror filmmakers (see: Get Out and Hereditary).

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Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

aka Communion, aka Holy Terror

Alice, Sweet Alice begins with a vicious case of sibling rivalry and explodes into a critique of all levels of family ties — drenched in Roman Catholic ideology, iconography and guilt. It was the director, Alfred Sole’s first non-pornographic feature and he indulged a tendency towards quite brutal onscreen violence like he knew this would be his last chance. While it’s often overlooked in lists of the best 1970s horror movies, Alice, Sweet Alice rewards deeper examination. It has a lot going for it apart from Brooke Shields: the production design captures the intimate, often shabby details of New Jersey Catholicism and Rosemary Ritvo’s screenplay embraces the sheer ugliness of dealing with a death within the family that isn’t really equalled until 2018’s Hereditary.

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Häxan, or, Witchcraft Through The Ages (1922)

Wonderful though this picture is, it is absolutely unfit for public exhibition.” — Variety review, 1923

Häxan is the unique vision of writer-director-actor Benjamin Christensen. The narrative blends fact and fiction, taking the audience on a bawdy romp from ancient times to the early 20th century as it explores beliefs surrounding witches, demons and their assorted familiars.

Even in 1922, when the horror genre didn’t exist and filmmakers were still figuring out the rules of the new medium, Häxan was an oddity. As well as mixing documentary and fairy tale-telling, it’s peppered with gore, nudity and other highly explicit imagery (women lining up to kiss the Devil’s arse). Perhaps that’s why Christensen places his elaborate sequences of flying witches, demon births and out-of-control nuns within an ostensibly anthropological framework? He knew he wouldn’t get away with it otherwise.

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