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Horror movies dont have to be gory to be scary
The British fright flick "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors" (1965), with Christopher Lee, left, and Peter Cushing kicked off a spate of anthology horror in the 1960s and 70s. - photo by Chris Hicks
When was the last time you went out to a horror movie as a family that is, a horror movie that wasnt a cartoon?

Really, is Hotel Transylvania a horror movie?

How about Goosebumps?

Well, only if Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is also a horror movie.

Family friendly live-action fright flicks are definitely a thing of the past.

I can remember going to monster movies and ghost stories with my parents when I was young. Heck, we went to Alfred Hitchcocks Psycho when it first came out. I was 12 and swore Id never take another shower. (Along with half the country.)

We went together, and it was scary fun. Cmon, kids like scary. Its the very definition of Halloween. And the best of these movies are also funny.

But whod take their kids to a horror picture today? There's no telling what theyd be exposed to.

A few weeks ago, I wrote that comedies are the one genre that Ive almost entirely abandoned in my current moviegoing habits, but horror films run a close second.

Back in the 1980s and 90s, I was often the only one in the room that had seen all of the Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare On Elm Street films, as well as such lower-rent efforts as Terror Train The Funhouse and When a Stranger Calls, and all those no-budget, generic knockoffs, like Sleepaway Camp, Motel Hell and "Slumber Party Massacre.

A dubious distinction, I know. But the slasher-flick sub-genre of horror was extremely prolific, they all came to town and I was tasked with reviewing them.

These creative-killing teens-in-trouble pictures arent pleasant to sit through but they are really easy to ridicule. The 80s slasher-flick tropes are simple: promiscuous teens in a camp or at a party or just living in the same neighborhood are killed off one by one by a masked or hidden killer in various gruesome and very gory ways.

And the killer cannot be killed. Even at the end. The only hope these films leave for the audience is the possibility of a sequel.

Yes, I reviewed all of those and many more back in the day.

But nowadays, Im often the only one in the room that has not seen any of the Saw or Hostel or Paranormal Activity or myriad zombie/end-of-the-world movies that come under discussion. Which is, of course, by design.

In fact, gory, mindless horror films along with raunchy, stupid comedies played a big part in my giving up the full-time movie-reviewing gig in the late 1990s. I had had enough.

Which is too bad since, at this time of year, theres nothing better than a good scary flick on a chilly, blustery, windy or drizzly fall evening.

But I prefer to take mine without excessive gore or sex or foul language. And Im not sure they make those anymore.

So, as is so often the case, its back to the oldies. And fortunately, there are plenty out there to choose from.

Im happy with what my wife calls good old black-and-whites, such as the Universal monster flicks Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, etc.

Or the later color British versions from the Hammer studio Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula, The Mummy and their sequels.

The Edgar Allan Poe adaptations that star Vincent Price are favorites at our house House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, Tales of Terror and the like.

As are the British anthologies the black-and-white Dead of Night and the later color films, Dr. Terrors House of Horrors, Torture Garden, The House That Dripped Blood, etc.

These are all what we lovingly refer to as vintage titles, of course pre-1970 pictures that let the imaginations of the audience run rampant instead of graphically splattering gore and more all over the screen.

And there are many other chillers among my personal favorites such black-and-white classics as The Haunting, Village of the Damned, The Thing From Another World, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The House on Haunted Hill and the color films House of Wax, The Fly, Forbidden Planet and Invaders From Mars, among others.

Never seen them? Never heard of them?

All are easily accessed these days.

Happy Halloween, and youre welcome.