Image: The Blair Witch Project, the first “found-footage film, 1999.
The Complete Horror Timeline
Part 3 of 3: Mid-End of the 20th Century (1970 – 1999)*
Go to Part 1: Pre-20th Century * Go to Part 2: 1900-1969
This is the decade where film really started to see how far it could go in terms of gritty and sordid realism as America reeled from the images and their eventual loss of the Vietnam War. As Robert de Niro so prosaically put it: ‘Each night… I have to clean the come off the back seat. Some nights I clean off the blood.’ Outside the genre, violent movies were drawing the crowds, the like of Taxi Driver, The Godfather and The Deer Hunter, following on from 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde. It was also the decade of the (s)exploitation movie, though for the horror fan the most notable of these is Spermula, by its title alone (we’re not sure if The Sexorcist counts).
While there are certainly individual novels of great merit in the genre up to this point, fiction had been dominated by the short story since the demise of the Gothic Novel in the previous century. That all changed in this decade, and the novel would soon be the dominant form. Preceded by such successes as Levin , Fred Mustard Stewart’s The Mephisto Waltz (1969) and Blatty , the deluge began in 1973, soon finding Stephen King  as a champion.
The re-growth of the popularity of horror on the stage started slowly this decade, the first real indication being Don Taylor’s The Exorcism (1975), playing at London’s Comedy Theatre, starring Honor Blackman and Brian Blessed. The show didn’t last long due the death of another lead, Mary Ure, but received rave reviews. The Rocky Horror Show  and other successes had already occurred, including major adaptations of Blithe Spirit (originally by Noel Coward in 1942) and Sherlock Holmes (1974), with America taking the hint with The Crucifer of Blood (Paul Giovanni) three years later. Another American version of Dracula (1979)  was a ‘miracle of production design and barely concealed eroticism’, though the English tour somehow turned high drama into comic absurdity . This all set the stage, so to speak, for greater things to come, in the [1980s]
A critical year for all death and speed metal, gloom and doom rock fans with the release of Black Sabbath’s first album. Make all the cracks you want about their imbecility, their inability to play their instruments beyond the most rudimentary of levels, their pretentiousness, whatever — the fact remains that there could have been no satanic/death/end of the world/crazed killer from beyond the pale metal without these Birmingham lads. — Tristan Riley
Getting the whole gritty-film-thing off to a fine start was Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, based on Anthony Burgess’ novel of 1962. With its alienating view of rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven, it engendered a rather large amount of controversy, but also carried its own message about the rights of the individual. Not strictly a horror story, excess pushes it into the genre. Stanley Kubrick’s other major horrific foray was The Shining (1980). ‘At 14 [David Duchovny] saw A Clockwork Orange “which didn’t necessarily make me want to be an actor, but did make me want to be a criminal!”‘ [interview in The Sun-Herald, 21/1/96]. [Clippings]