Child’s Play (1988) introduced horror audiences to Chucky, who, as well as drawing on the long tradition of malevolent dolls on page and screen, creates a bridge between the monster children of the 1970s and the serial killers of the 1990s.
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).
Writer-director Larry Cohen began his career creating television shows before he moved into low-budget genre movies (horror and Blaxploitation, mainly). By 1974, he was known for campy humor, wry social commentaries, and well-rounded characters facing dilemmas audiences actually cared about. It’s Alive certainly helped define the ‘Keep It In The Family’ vibe of horror in the mid-1970s.
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.
Shivers (1976) and Rabid (1977) established Canadian director David Cronenberg at the forefront of psychosexual body horror and The Brood (1979) caps off his 1970s work with a flourish. Within Cronenberg’s unique vision, human flesh is itself monstrous, capable of mutating, detaching, slithering, and destroying its progenitor. His movies of this decade burrow deep inside the human reproductive system and the urges that drive it, emerging drenched in blood and quite, quite demented. They refract male envy of pregnancy and childbirth by presenting alternative, non-sexual methods of reproduction. These narratives straddle the border between science fiction and horror, often including a cool, dispassionate doctor who, when consulted, regards the abominations of nature on display with only mild curiosity, as if they are the predictable consequences of human evolution: This is who we really are, this is what has always bubbled beneath our skin. Step across the threshold and embrace it.