Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '78 - Anya Stanley ""

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Underrated '78 - Anya Stanley

Anya Stanley is a columnist at Dread Central and Daily Grindhouse. She is a contributor to Fangoria, Birth. Movies. Death., Colider, Vague Visages, and wherever they’ll let her talk about horror. More of her work can be seen at her website: On Twitter as @BookishPlinko.

1978 was a banger of a year for horror films. HALLOWEEN. I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. DAWN OF THE DEAD. Even the bad ones, like ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES, were still great in their own right. The decade also saw an exponential increase in telefilms that often served as their own subgenre of domestic diet-horror. The following are some especially sweet spots, of both big screens and small, to add to your to-watch queue.

Did you watch that recent Spanish film VERONICA on Netflix, about the Catholic schoolgirl who fools around with a Ouija board and opens herself up to demonic shenanigans? Did you like that? Would you like to see a 'roided-out grindhouse version of that plot with a little bit of a HEAVENLY CREATURES friendship dynamic thrown in? Are you down with a whole lotta THE DEVILS-style sacrilege and defliled religious iconography?

Have I got the movie for you.
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The TV movie gets a bad rap as overindulgent melodramatic cheese, but on occasion, there are diamonds in the rough. Walter Grauman's ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE? is one of those gems, itself an adaptation of Richard Peck's 1976 novel in which a teenage girl is tormented by an increasingly aggressive stalker. It's tone and plot is not a far cry from WHEN A STRANGER CALLS, so the movie serves as a great "If you like this, then you'll like..." segue from thriller to straight horror. The film is such a textbook example of the telefilm-as-genre-gateway that it serves as the centerpiece to Amanda Reyes' fantastic book Are You In The House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium 1964-1999. Bonus points for a young creepy Dennis Quaid.
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Let's keep the made-for-tv film train rolling along with Robert Day's supernatural horror film, written by none other than Tom Holland (and co-writer Carol Saraceno). In a nutshell, a reserved young woman pledges a sorority and discovers that she has CARRIE-lite psychic powers. A coupld of women at Phi Epsilon Delta house are rather unkind toward the titular Sarah, and they pay. They all must pay. THE INITIATION OF SARAH really wants to be a De Palma film and never gets beyond corny imitation, but it's a fun ride, nonetheless.
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THE TOOLBOX MURDERS is one of the grittiest grindhouse joints, filmed on the lowest of budgets, that raised the highest ire of right-wing moral crusaders back in the day. Despite being a decent proto-slasher flick that didn't make much of a splash at its '78 release, the film's most notorious scene (a woman gets naked, masturbates in the bathtub, and gets chased around by a killer wearing a ski mask before she takes a nail gun to the head) had so many academics and evangelical moms clutching their pearls that a furor ensued. The film, they cried, would inspire the youth of western society to go on killing sprees with toolboxes in tow! Won't someone think of the children?! For a brief shining moment in the mid 80s, it graced the Video Nasties list of banned films in the UK before its acquittal in court. So, if you're the kind of rebel who enjoys consuming previously banned art (and I'm using the word "art" loosely in this case), THE TOOLBOX MURDERS is up your alley.
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