An old-fashioned film fright fest

Photos courtesy of The Everett Collection; illustration by Sean Ochal/Staff artist)

Published: Friday, October 19, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 6:24 p.m.

When you are a child, Halloween is about CANDY, CANDY, CANDY.

When you are an adult, it's about a good scary movie or two ... and candy that many will pilfer from their children.

Much like a kid's Halloween haul, these 10 scary movies offer something for everyone: An old-fashioned fright fest, creepy children, campy classics and thought-provoking terror.

The price is right:

“The Last Man on Earth” (1964): When a global plague strikes, Dr. Morgan (Vincent Price) is the last survivor, yet he is not alone: Vampires roam the city at night. Morgan spends his days hunting them as they sleep and his nights barely sleeping as they try to get inside. His will to live gone, he keeps on going out of habit. Like “Night of the Living Dead,” which it clearly inspired, this is not the kind of scary movie where you lift a rock and it flutters away. It has real weight to it.

“Pit and the Pendulum” (1961): Nicholas (Vincent Price), the son of an infamous torturer during the Spanish Inquisition, is haunted by a horrific act he witnessed as a child. When word gets out that his wife has died, Nicholas must face his inquisitive brother-in-law who will not stop until he finds out what happened. Is Nicholas truly tortured by his father's history or following in his footsteps?

“House on Haunted Hill” (1959): Vincent Price turns the creepy quotient up to an 11 as Frederick Loren, a millionaire who promises five guests 10,000 smackers each ... if they survive a night in a haunted mansion. A near miss with a chandelier, a close encounter with an old woman who would make Frankenstein call for his mommy, a severed head. As the scares mount, the guests wonder if they have a ghost of a chance.

The Thinker:

“Panic in the Year Zero!” (1962): After a nuclear attack on the U.S., Harry (Ray Milland) and his family flee the breakdown in law and order as much as the fallout. But Harry finds himself contributing to the unraveling of society as he robs and kills to protect his family. This film is a study in tension and paranoia. You can't help watching it without asking how you would respond in a similar situation.

Campy classics:

“Attack of the Crab Monsters” (1957): When a second team of scientists arrives on a remote island to find out what happened to the first group, one man gets his whole head snapped off in the water before they can even get settled. “I hope that man's death is not an omen of things to come,” one of them says. Dun-dun-dun. OK. They didn't have that music, but they should have because a couple of minutes later the plane that dropped them off explodes while trying to go back home. If that's not enough, loud booms start chipping away at the island. And, oh, yeah, ginormous crabs are picking them off one by one. This is one crab-tastic Roger Corman flick.

“Frankenstein's Daughter” (1958): When a descendant of Dr. Frankenstein decides to bring a little “girl power” to the monster game, the result is far from “America's Next Top Model.” They repeat over and over that it is a girl because you would have no clue otherwise save a smear of lipstick. The monster looks a linebacker in the world's most unflattering jumpsuit with a face full of clay. They succeed in one thing: Creating a stinker that is fun to watch.

Strange, but truly watchable:

“The Wasp Woman” (1959): Janice Starling (Susan Cabot) is the face of her makeup company, but her business begins to slump as she ages. Enter a wasp whisperer, who starts injecting her with their enzymes to try to make her look young again. When she starts taking a highly concentrated amount on her own to speed up the results ... well, the title kinda tells you how that ends up.

“Attack of the Puppet People” (1958): Disturbed doll maker Mr. Franz (John Hoyt) has a select group of dolls that are so life-like that you would swear they are real. And you would be right. His secretary finds that out the hard way. When she tries to leave him he uses a contraption to shrink her to doll size and adds her to his collection. Mr. Franz has a wee problem on his hands when the living dolls try to escape.

Children you would not want to babysit:

“The Bad Seed” (1956): Eight-year-old Rhoda (Patty McCormack), with her long blond braids and overly starched manners, has three favorite words: “I, me, mine.” That little gal is the epitome of the Foreigner lyric: “She's as cold as ice.” Whether it is a classmate who wins a medal she wanted or a handyman who sees through her act, those who cross Rhoda live to regret it ... but not for long.

“The Other” (1972): Young twins Niles and Holland, sporting matching bowl cuts and Sears-catalog smiles, look like choir boys. They just don't act like them. Life on the family farm is filled with secrets and mischief as they use their imaginations the way kids today do game controllers. But their games take a hard right down a dark alley when people start dying and Niles begins to suspect Holland is to blame.

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