Happy New Year, horror fans! It’s officially 2018!
We’ve already looked back at the best genre offerings of 2017 and our most anticipated films coming in the year ahead, but it’s also the perfect opportunity to reflect on the entirety of horror history. Below, in no particular order, are the Top 10 horror movies turning 40-years-old in 2018. Get ready to feel old! Throughout the month of January, we’ll bring you lists of the best horror films celebrating their 30th, 25th, 20th, and 10th Anniversaries.
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The films below have all left a lasting legacy by heavily influencing the direction of the horror genre moving forward. Give this article a read and let us know what you think in the Comments section. Are you familiar with all the films on this list? Which one do you believe has left the most significant impact on the horror genre as a whole. Let’s discuss!
Halloween (Directed by John Carpenter)
Release Date: October 27, 1978
Official Synopsis: On a cold Halloween night in 1963, six-year-old Michael Myers brutally murdered his 17-year-old sister, Judith. He was sentenced and locked away for 15 years. But on October 30, 1978, while being transferred for a court date, a 21-year-old Michael Myers steals a car and escapes Smith’s Grove. He returns to his quiet hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, where he looks for his next victims.
The impact of John Carpenter’s Halloween can never be understated. Though Tobe Hooper may have created the first great American Slasher with Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and countless others might never have existed without Halloween and Michael Myers’ impact. The Halloween reboot currently in the works at Blumhouse is scheduled to coincide with the original film’s 40th Anniversary this October.
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Dawn of the Dead (George A. Romero)
Release Date: September 1, 1978
Official Synopsis: As hordes of zombies swarm over the U.S., the terrified populace tries everything in their power to escape the attack of the undead, but neither cities nor the countryside prove safe. In Pennsylvania, radio-station employee Stephen (David Emge) and his girlfriend, Francine (Gaylen Ross), escape in the station helicopter, accompanied by two renegade SWAT members, Roger and Pete. The group retreats to the haven of an enclosed shopping center to make what could be humanity’s last stand.
Though American audiences had to wait until 1979 to see George A. Romero’s sequel to Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead first hit the masses in 1978. The film’s legacy would go on to surpass that of its predecessor, establishing a franchise that will continue, even though Romero shook his mortal coil in 2017. Like the zombies who inhabit his films, the influence of George A. Romero will never die.
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I Spit on Your Grave (Directed by Meir Zarchi)
Release Date: November 22, 1978
Official Synopsis: After a young writer (Camille Keaton) is brutally raped and left for dead by four men, she systematically hunts them down one by one to exact a terrible vengeance.
Considered a feminist nightmare upon its initial release, many modern viewers now consider I Spit on Your Grave an empowering illustration of a woman refusing to let tragedy and humiliation define her.
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Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Directed by Philip Kaufman)
Release Date: December 20, 1978
Official Synopsis: This remake of the classic horror film is set in San Francisco. Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) assumes that when a friend (Brooke Adams) complains of her husband’s strange mood, it’s a marital issue. However, he begins to worry as more people report similar observations. His concern is confirmed when writer Jack Bellicec (Jeff Goldblum) and his wife (Veronica Cartwright) discover a mutated corpse. Besieged by an invisible enemy, Bennell must work quickly before the city is consumed.
1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers should serve as a reminder that remakes aren’t a recent trend in Hollywood, and that remakes can often surpass the originals.
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Patrick (Directed by Richard Franklin)
Release Date: October 1, 1978
Official Synopsis: A telekinetic killer (Robert Thompson) causes chaos for his nurse (Susan Penhaligon) and doctor (Robert Helpmann) while lying in a coma in a clinic.
While the original remains an obscure horror gem, Patrick’s influence is evident by its 2013 remake. Once watched, it’s easy to see the impact this film had on many filmmakers who came of age in the 1970s.
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (Directed by John De Bello)
Release Date: October 8, 1978
Official Synopsis: A group of scientists band together to save the world from mutated killer tomatoes.
While most people haven’t seen the film for themselves, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is nonetheless an extremely well-known horror parody, designed as a celebration and send-up of Drive-In Era B-Movies. And, hey, it was good enough to spawn a sequel!
Jaws 2 (Directed by Jeannot Szwarc)
Release Date: June 16, 1978
Official Synopsis: Years after the shark attacks that left Amity Island reeling, Sheriff Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) finds new trouble lurking in the waters. Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) wants to rid the beach town of the stain on its reputation. But the disappearance of a pair of divers suggests that all is not right. When Sheriff Brody voices his warnings about holding a sailing competition, everyone thinks it’s post-traumatic stress. That is, until a shark fin cuts through the water.
Though not as popular as the original, Jaws 2 is actually the film that spawned the tagline most affiliated with the entire franchise: Just When You Thought it was Safe to Go Back in the Water… This film isn’t just better than the majority of ridiculous Jaws sequels, it’s a worthy predecessor; the inclusion of Roy Scheider creates perfect continuity while maintaining the intensity of Spielberg’s classic. And, personal, I think the helicopter scene is nothing but outstanding!
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Martin (Directed by George A. Romero)
Release Date: July 7, 1978
Official Synopsis: Young Martin (John Amplas) is entirely convinced that he is an 84-year-old blood-sucking vampire. Without fangs or mystical powers, Martin injects women with sedatives and drinks their blood through wounds inflicted with razor blades. After moving to Braddock, Penn., to live with his superstitious uncle (Lincoln Maazel), who also believes Martin is a vampire, Martin tries to prey exclusively on criminals and thugs but stumbles when he falls for a housewife (Sara Venable).
Martin is the second film on this list by George A. Romero, though many of the filmmaker’s most ardent fans have never seen it. It’s a reminder that Romero produced a body of films that had nothing to do with the undead; other example of non-paranormal Romero films include Knightriders and The Crazies.
Piranha (Directed by Joe Dante)
Release Date: August 3, 1978
Official Synopsis: Two people (Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies) unwittingly free a mad military scientist’s (Kevin McCarthy) mutant fish near a summer camp and resort lake.
Though Joe Dante would go on to become synonymous with Gremlins, the director’s first spin with a horde of ravenous attackers is Piranha. The film is plenty cheesy but holds up incredibly well for its age. Not only did Piranha spawn a sequel, the 21st Century remake from Alexandre Aja was extremely well received (and also spawned a sequel),
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Long Weekend (Directed by Colin Eggleston)
Release Date: March 29, 1979
Official Synopsis: Peter (John Hargreaves) and Marcia (Briony Behets), a bitter married couple teetering on the edge of divorce, take a camping trip to heal the rift between them. As the weekend progresses, the selfish pair engage in reckless behavior that demonstrates an increasing disrespect for their natural surroundings. When Peter and Marcia become the targets of a series of inexplicable animal attacks, it becomes clear that an angry Mother Nature has come to exact her revenge.
40 years later, Long Weekend is still regarded by many as the greatest horror movie ever to emerge from Australia, and the grandfather of the eco-horror subgenre of horror. Most Americans didn’t get their first look at Long Weekend until it was released on DVD in 2005. If you’re a fan of “Ozsploitation” and 1970’s era cinema, consider this import a must-watch.