The 1960s was a great decade for the horror genre. Sixties' horror films pioneered many innovations, such as the introduction of copious gore, nonlinear plots, and realistic storylines. Between the threat of nuclear annihilation, the Vietnam war, and the psychedelic hippie movement, it was a truly terrifying time to live.
The 1960s marked the decline of traditional Hollywood, and the rise of independent filmmakers. Radicalism found its way into cinema, and nowhere was it more pronounced than in horror. The old guard monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein's monster gave way to new types of monsters like Norman Bates and flesh-eating zombies. Many new techniques were tried: some of them failed, but others ushered in a new era.
While films like Psycho, The Birds, and The Night of the Living Dead captured the public consciousness, a lot of great horror from the '60s has been forgotten. This list of obscure horror movies should even up the score a bit. Some of these you may have heard of. All of them are highly recommended.
This 1968 Japanese horror involves a ghost who has been ripping out the throats of samurai in medieval Japan. A samurai is dispatched to stop the spirit, but he must face his own past to do so. This Criterion Collection film is extremely sexual, and surprisingly feminist for the time. Combining a complex plot with eerie cinematography, Kuroneko remains one of the best examples of Japanese horror.
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This independent film begins with a woman surviving a traumatic car crash. From that moment she is haunted, having difficulty distinguishing reality from hallucination. Eerie throughout, this black and white film makes excellent use of shadow and dead space to leave the viewer feeling isolated and detached. The score adds another layer of creepy, making Carnival of Souls an excellent horror film.
#13 on The Best '60s Horror Moviessee more on Carnival of Souls
This Vincent Price film is a masterful adaptation of the Edgar Allen Poe short story of the same name. The Masque of the Red Death centers around a despotic prince whose kingdom is gripped by the Red Death plague. The style is reminiscent of Shakespeare, with a touch of Satanism thrown in. With opulent costume parties, Satanic rituals, and a disease that makes you bleed from your pores, this film has it all.
#14 on The Best '60s Horror Moviessee more on The Masque of the Red Death
The mask is really creepy, first and foremost. Beyond the visually frightening imagery, though, lies a suspenseful and complete horror film. Eyes Without a Face is both gory and macabre by the day's standards, initially having trouble getting past the censors. It is a great example of the shift toward realism in horror that defined the '60s. This French film follows a doctor's attempts to restore his daughter's disfigured face to its former beauty, even if it means using less than ethical means.
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This one can definitely be qualified as art house. The 1969 Czechoslovakian film involves a man working at a crematorium who enjoys reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead and believes that cremation relieves earthly suffering. The Cremator combines black comedy with surrealist cinema to make an interesting and unique experience.see more on The Cremator
The title says it all. This is a gore-fest from back when the trope was first invented. The Italian film involves a group of models who go to an old castle to shoot some sexy horror novel covers. There they encounter an insane executioner in tights with tastes similar to those of the Marquis de Sade. Bloody Pit of Horror combines gore and erotic fan service in a way that only the campy horror of the 1960s can.
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The sequel to At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul follows Coffin Joe the gravedigger on his quest to find the perfect woman to give birth to his son. The Brazilian horror film is plenty sleazy and equally sadistic, but the violent imagery and bizarre plot also give the film its appeal. The addition of a color sequence as Coffin Joe descends into Hell is particularly good. This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse is a great example of the campy, ultraviolent style of horror.
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Part Rear Window voyeurism, part meta-level movie about movies, Peeping Tom centers around a murderous, amateur filmmaker and part time pornographer. His basic motive is to capture on film the terror in a person's eyes as they are being killed. The British film makes you think, as if the film is hinting that it knows it is being watched. Without overtly breaking the fourth wall, this film manages to leave the viewer a little uncomfortable with their own viewing tendencies. I mean, what kind of a person likes to watch these films, right?
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