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In keeping with the spirit of the season, Sandy is sending forth his list of Real Scary Films. Now, the criteria for selecting this list were threefold.

- the film had to be actively terrifying, with heaps of blood & gore. The Haunting, which is in my opinion the scariest ghost story ever filmed gets its impact from subtle psychological cues, and so is left out. (Note: I mean the original Haunting, from the 1960s, not the awful new version)
- the film had to be effective for a modern audience. The Exorcist, for instance, while frightening and well-filmed, is slow and stagey in a way that some people today are unable to get their minds around.
- the film had to be so obscure that most people who will read this have not seen it. Alien is a fine horror film but we've all seen it.

Yes I know not everyone loves being scared out of their wits. So the first few films provided are fun horror films -- horror-themed comedies that are (mostly) fun for the whole family. I realize that most people reading this will be horror fans, but I bet you have a girlfriend, mother, or child who doesn't like being scared out of his or her wits, and by seeing one of these films, you can enjoy the horror hijinks while they laugh their head off.

Monster Squad
Why It's Great - the Wolfman, Mummy, Gillman, Dracula, and Frankenstein's Monster are back to take over the world. And only a gang of 12-year-old kids can stop them. This movie rules.

Stuff to Ignore - they couldn't get permission from Universal Studios to use the original make-up, so all the monsters are subtly different, but still recognizable (Dracula wears his tux, for instance). The movie is FULL of references to the original classics. Example: in the original Dracula film, there were armadillos in Dracula's Carpathian castle. Most people had never seen an armadillo in 1931, and it was a weird-looking thing. In Monster Squad, there are armadillos in Dracula's castle, too, because they were in the original film. Of course, to a modern audience armadillos in the castle is funny, but it's even funnier if you know why they're there.

The Raven
Why It's Great - Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Jack Nicholson ham it up.

Stuff to Ignore - you'd better like bad puns, slapstick humor, and cheesy special effects. A lot.

Return of the Living Dead
Why It's Great - Everything that a funny horror movie ought to be. Don't bother with the sequel, the superfluously-named Return of the Living Dead, Part II.

Stuff to Ignore - tragically, this film is not fit fun for the whole family. There is foul language and generally rotten punk rock music throughout.

Fast-forward Moment - personally, I always skate past the nude dancing scene near the start. Guess I'm a prude.

Dead Alive
Why It's Great - this is the goriest movie I've ever seen. Also extremely funny. However, it's so gory that a lot of people probably can't handle it. NOT recommended for kids.

Fast-Forward Moment - it's not only funny, some parts are pretty disgusting. The tea party near the start of the film is kind of tough going for those with sensitive stomachs. It's still astonishingly funny.


The Evil Dead:
Why It's Great - your friends turn into monsters and try to kill you. What can be more basic than that? This is also the breakthrough film for Sam Raimi & Bruce Campbell.

Stuff to Ignore - the movie's budget was approximately $2.50. Try to see past this to the terrifying jump-out-at-you scenes and the innovative cinematography (including an amazing ram-o-cam that bursts the windows of a car as the view shoots forward).

Fast-forward Moment - even the director admitted that the tree rape scene (near the start) was a bit much and that if he had it to do over again, he'd shorten it significantly.

The Conqueror Worm
Why It's Great - we've all seen Vincent Price ham it up. This is your chance to see him actually act. It's a witch-hunt craze during the English Civil War (in the1600s) and the whole world seems to have gone mad with one exception: Vincent Price, and he's starkly evil and taking advantage of the madness.

Why It's Great - voodoo drums beat through the night, flesh-eating zombies seek out the living, all interspersed with high-impact scenes that are too good to go into here. This film even starts out with a bang (literally - a sheeted corpse is shot between the eyes).

Stuff to Ignore - it's dubbed. Also, it has about sixteen different names though Zombie is the most common in English. I have no idea what it's called in German. Look for the film directed by Lucio Fulci with Tisa Farrow as the heroine.

Fast-forward Moment - some find it hard to sit through the scene in which a woman is pulled face-first through a broken window. I won't think less of you if you skip it.

Why It's Great - beautifully lit and staged scenes in which people get killed in arcane supernatural ways.

Stuff to Ignore - it's dubbed. The movie is purposefully slow-moving, to build up to the scary parts. Finally, the plot makes no sense, but who cares? The scenes are memorable anyway.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Why It's Great - I'm constantly amazed by the number of people who haven't seen this fine film.

Stuff to Ignore - the title. This is NOT a particularly bloody movie. Only one person is killed with a chainsaw. The main impact of the film are other kinds of scenes, like the one in which a guy finds a human tooth on the doorstep.