Horror has a love/hate relationship with hippies. I suppose most of us do. And while some of the greatest films in the genre were made by Sixties freaks George Romero, Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper and the like, most of the time hippies’ onscreen representation got wrapped up in Manson hysteria.
5. Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972)
Full disclosure: George objects to including this film on the list. It’s not good.
But it’s not good in such a good way! Director Bob Clark (Black Christmas, A Christmas Story) and writer/co-star Alan Ormsby seem basically to be taking out their frustrations at being part of the theatrical community.
Ormsby’s Alan is a director, and he drags his troupe of hippie thespians to a lonely island once used to bury the criminally insane. He then insists—if they ever want to work with him again—that his merry band dig up a body and perform a ritual to bring him back to life.
It’s basically theater kids making fun of theater kids. Watching a group of actors being literally eaten alive by their audience is its own stoke of genius, even if the film itself is not.
4. Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971)
In this Age of Aquarius riff on J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s vampire novel Carmilla, the unfortunately titled Let’s Scare Jessica to Death follows a somewhat delicate woman through what amounts to either a nervous breakdown or the seduction of a female vampire.
A married couple and their organic farmer friend move into an old, abandoned house on a New England island. They find a vagrant—long haired, pretty, can play an acoustic guitar, natch—and they ask her to stay. Why not?
Deliberately paced and boasting a genuine and sympathetic performance by lead Zohra Lampert, the film’s a slow burn, a hallucinogenic smalltown horror. The creepy townies, the spooky cemetery girl, and the moody cinematography blend with Lampert’s committed performance to make this one a dusty little gem.
3. I Drink Your Blood (1970)
David Durston’s grindhouse classic (in which no one drinks anyone’s blood, regardless of what this lying trailer tells you) marks that great divide in hippie horror: those made by and about hippies and those made by opportunists seizing upon a population’s terrified fascination with the Manson Family murders.
I Drink Your Blood is the latter. We open on a group of hippie Satan worshippers who turn out to be gang rapists. They descend on a little town almost empty of inhabitants—the menfolk all having moved to live and work in the nearby mining camp. That leaves just that scrappy family working in the bakery.
But once young, vindictive Pete injects the baker’s meat pies with rabid dog blood, them no goodnicks might learn some manners.
Actually, that’s the last thing they’ll do.
This is an extremely violent film, not very well made and certainly not well acted. It has a punch, though, and several scenes are provocative enough to warrant its inclusion on this list.
2. Mandy (2018)
A hallucinogenic fever dream of social, political and pop-culture subtexts layered with good old, blood-soaked revenge, Mandy throws enough visionary strangeness on the screen to dwarf even Nicolas Cage in full freakout mode.
Red (Cage) and Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) live a secluded, lazily contented life somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.
That contentment is shattered by a radical religious sect under the spell of Jeremiah (Linus Roache), who takes a liking to Mandy when the group’s van (of course it’s a van!) passes her walking on a country road.
Horror of the late 60s and early 70s saw hippies terrorizing good, upright citizens, perpetrating cult-like nastiness. Thanks to Charles Manson, society at large saw the counterculture as an evil presence determined to befoul conventional, Christian wholesomeness.
With Mandy, it’s as if the 70s and 80s have collided, mixing and matching horror tropes and upending all conceivable suppositions. In this case, zealots consumed with only the entitlement of their white, male leader wreak havoc on good, quiet, earth-loving people. The Seventies gave us some amount of progress, civil justice and peace that the Eighties took back under the guise of decency.
1.The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Hippie pals pile into a van and head to Texas to double check that Grammy and Gamps still rest in peace, what with these rumors of grave robbing. Along the way they talk astrology, smoke some weed, pick up a hitchhiker–it’s all in a day’s journey for a hippie.
That hitchhiker thing goes sideways. In fact, the whole trip feels like a bad idea by the time pretty Sally Hardesty and her friends make a second trip to the cemetery. Well, what’s left of them.