It's time for us bloodhounds to start lining up our Halloween film fests.
There's a certain art to assembling fright-night fare. I used to like mixing up the classic flesh-rotting, undead action of "Dawn of the Dead" with the shout-out-the lines hilarity of "Motel Hell" and maybe throw in a "Leprechaun" movie to honor my ancestors back in Ireland who, as you know, would hunt down and dismember anyone who even thought about stealing their gold. Here in America, we call such people "One Percenters."
But I grew out of a decades-old phase of judging good horror based on exploding torsos, which started the day my sixth-grade friends and I sneaked in to see the original "Alien." Perhaps not coincidentally, that film also started my decades-long phase of enjoying films featuring Sigourney Weaver in her underwear.
I'm terribly uninterested in today's so-called horror films, occasionally called "torture porn," which don't seem anything like porn to me. Not that I would know. ... I close my eyes when that sort of thing happens on Animal Planet. I've seen enough to know I don't enjoy movies in which characters graphically carve each other up for fun. I got my fill of that sort of thing back when I covered local politics.
I just saw "Psycho" for the first time since I was a kid. Yes, there was blood in the famous, still-amazing shower scene (probably more blood than viewers were used to in 1960), but it was visible only in short cut-away
"Psycho," and Hitchcock's other works, aren't the only horror films over the years to use viewers' imaginations against them, instead of just spilling blood and guts all over the screen. "The Blair Witch Project" was a massive hit in 1999, partly because having a horror film in which there was no violence or gore, and the antagonist wasn't even there, was a real novelty. That the film was freakishly scary only helped. I know it completely exploited my own fear of getting lost in the woods (I've had that ever since my sister Gretel and I were kids).
Hold the fava beans
Hannibal Lecter didn't even have to leave his cell to be terribly frightening in "Silence of the Lambs" (and when he did leave his cell, it was the thought of him being loose that was really scary).
"Paranormal Activity" wasn't very violent, but it still managed to scare pretty severely. One of the most frightening things I've ever seen in a theater was Bill Pullman getting buried alive in "The Serpent and the Rainbow" (the only time I ever had to leave the theater, not counting "Howard the Duck").
Other good Halloween film fest choices featuring minimal gore include "Rosemary's Baby," "The Haunting," "The Amityville Horror," and pretty much any of the old Frankenstein and Dracula movies, if you want to involve older-age kids.
And when it's time to get your guests to leave, of course, cue up "Howard the Duck."