5 horror films from 1960 to 2000 still defying the passage of time

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Horror movies – Bill Paxton – Courtesy of Lionsgate Films

Some movies when you watch them, feel like instant classics. Here are five films from the ’60s to ’00s still withstanding the test of time.

“Periodically, I return to the classics for inspiration and refreshment.” – Cecilia Dart-Thornton

The Classics

When you have watched as many movies as I have over time, classics tend to stand out. I decided to pick five films from the ’60s to the ’00s that I feel have withstood the test of time.

1960s – The Oblong Box

The Oblong Box – Vincent Price – Peter Arne – Courtesy of American International Pictures

This is one of the first movies in the horror genre I watched. It terrified me on so many levels but I vividly remember a character being buried alive which was disturbing to say the least. Featuring Vincent Price and Christopher Lee, the story takes place in the 19th century and is very gothic in tone.

Edward Markham (Alister Williamson) has had a pretty horrific time in Africa. After being horribly disfigured, his brother Julian (Vincent Price) brings him back to their mansion to live.  Actually, much like the Man in the Iron Mask, he imprisons him.

Edward is quite crazy and hatches a plan with his lawyer, Trench (Peter Arne) to get the African sorcerer N’Galo (Harry Baird) to heal him.

Trench and N’Galo jailbreak Edward from his imprisonment by simulating his death and placing him in a coffin. However, he ends up in the hands of Dr. Neuhartt (Christopher Lee). As it turns out, Neuhartt has questionable morals so for a price, he ends up harboring Edward at his house.

The Curse of Forever

Much like Frankenstein, Edward ventures into town and people react adversely to his mask which hides his deformed face from view. Murders ensue and we end up finding out that Edward has a voodoo curse on him because he was wrongfully accused of killing a child while in Africa.

Edward and N’Galo face off. He kills the African priest but is still cursed. Returning to his family mansion, Julian ends up shooting and fatally wounding him for the murders he has committed. However, Edward ends up biting Julian thus transferring the voodoo curse to him.

Edward dies, only to be resurrected in his oblong box (coffin) underground where he will be for all eternity. Julian is left being disfigured and imprisoned in his brother’s old room.

1970s – Legend of Hell House

The Legend of Hell House – Roddy McDowall- Pamela Franklin – Courtesy of Academy Pictures

Richard Matheson, one of my literary heroes, wrote the book and the screenplay to this haunting film. The Belasco House was the scene of some horrific crimes perpetrated by it’s owner, serial killer Emeric Belasco. This man was definitely sick and twisted.

Enter a team of researchers determined to find out if there’s life after death because the house is supposedly haunted. Physicist Lionel Barrett (Clive Revill), his wife Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt), psychic Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin) and lone survivor from the last fiasco at the house Benjamin Fischer (Roddy McDowall) are being paid to spend a week at the house to investigate.

The last expeditions resulted in deaths and people going mad. Fischer survived but he has masked his psychic abilities so that he doesn’t get attacked. He suffers from PTSD and tries to keep himself aloof.

However, that doesn’t help. Crazy things start happening and he is sexually propositioned twice by Barrett’s wife Ann. Meanwhile, Florence is being haunted by the spirit of Belasco’s son, Daniel.

Determined to free him, she has sex with the entity and ends up getting possessed. Dr. Barrett is busy working on his cleansing machine, which is designed to remove electromagnetic energy from haunted dwellings. It’s sort of like the “Ghostbusters box.”

At first when he runs it, Fischer tours the house and determines everything is clear. No more entities. Of course, this is the calm before the storm.

Violent activity resumes. Dr. Barrett and Florence are killed. Ann and Fischer are the only ones left standing. Fischer confronts the spirit of Belasco. After doing so, he switches the house clearing machine on again and exits with Ann in tow.

1980s – Altered States

Altered States – William Hurt – Courtesy of Warner Brothers

I read Paddy Chayefsky’s book and became immediately intrigued by the notion of regressing genetically. Would that even be possible and under what circumstances? So, in 1980, avant garde British director, Ken Russell tackled the screen adaptation and cast William Hurt in the title role — so I was immediately sold.

Eddie Jessup (William Hurt) is a respected faculty member at Harvard Medical School. However, he longs for his inventive graduate school days when he was experimenting with isolation chambers. He decides to revisit his work but this time using hallucinogens acquired from his trip to Mexico to see a Brujo.

The combination of the potent drugs with the deep isolation triggers religious imagery and a gateway into his primal DNA. Eddie begins changing. As his instinctive self emerges his personality starts altering as well.

After months of experimenting, he finally begins regressing and physically transforming. The only thing that can save him from total annihilation is the love of his wife Emily (Blair Brown).

What makes this film totally engrossing is the combination of the outlandish special effects and the hallucinations that Jessup has while under the influence of the drugs. He even eats a lizard and gets properly sick after one of the rituals in Mexico.

In a fun fact, A-ha’s video, Take on Me, has a sequence that is inspired by Altered States most famous scene in a hallway where we can see Eddie’s entire body transforming and changing. The idea of someone actually altering themselves physically is terrifying like any monster movie.