From the time I lost interest in spending my Halloweens dressed like Superman and mooching candy kisses from strangers, my favorite fright-night tradition has been camping on the couch and watching classic scare cinema - always in black and white. Some of my fondest cinematic memories involve sneaking candy from the trick-or-treat bowl and marveling at how, in a monochromatic world, Hershey's syrup looks just like blood.
Here are some of my favorite Halloween treats.
CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962): With few shocks and fewer special effects, Carnival of Souls succeeds because of its ability to keep the audience off balance. Viewers are never quite sure what is going on in the story; they just know it is something very, very bad. Besides, it has one of the greatest titles in horror history.
THE INNOCENTS (1961): This is a movie I feel a responsibility to champion. Largely unseen and unheralded, it might be the scariest movie ever. You can have your Exorcist, your Omen and your Jaws. For my money, this classic tale of psychological terror offers more shivers to the gallon than anything before or since.,
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954): Sure, it isn't really scary. In fact, sometimes it's downright laughable. But there is something about this movie that always gets me. Perhaps it's the classic theme of the misunderstood monster. Perhaps it's the thrill of knowing death lies beneath still waters. Probably, though, it's because I love the fact that the star is a guy in a fish costume with a clearly visible zipper.
VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1960): Let's face it. Nothing gives a case of the collective creeps like a kid gone bad. Village of the Damned offers a town full of them. Born after a mysterious blackout, the little blond monsters give their parents the dead-eyed stare, and only the village schoolmaster can save the town, country, world and so on from the little brats.
NIGHT OF LIVING DEAD (1968): It's a simple premise. The dead have risen, and the living don't want to get eaten. Seems reasonable. What makes this film interesting is director George Romero's unflinching approach to the film. There is no romance, no unlikely heroics, just a group of people, trapped in a farmhouse by a growing legion of zombies, fighting to survive. Hey, who can't identify with that?
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