OK, it's the Halloween season, the pumpkin is carved, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Snickers stand at the ready and the subject of the ritual sacrifice is locked up in the basement awaiting the stroke of midnight. What to do to kill some time? Watch a scary movie, of course, but what kind? Horror is like a diamond and each of its facets reflects a different brand of terror. It all depends on what you're in the mood for.
1. Creepy Little Kids
I guess there's something innately horrific about the idea of our own offspring turning on us. That's why there's so many creepy little kids in horror movies. One of my favorite examples is 1960's Village of the Damned (the 1995 remake should be avoided) and its sequel Children of the Damned (1963) in which children who are the offspring of human women and an unseen alien intelligence threaten to take over with their psychic powers. The are few kids creepier than little anti-christ Damien as he appeared in the original 1976 version of The Omen. While one might not think of Night of the Living Dead as an entry in this sub-genre, Kyra Schon's performance as the plucky little girl who doesn't let being dead stop her from chowing down on her father and running her mother through with a gardening trowel makes for a creepy kid indeed. The Other (1972) tells the story of ten-year-old twin brothers Niles and Holland. Holland is the troublemaker of the two, a fact made even more bizarre when we learn he only exists in Niles' mind. Other primo examples include The Shining (1980), Kill Baby Kill (1966), The Children (1980) and Children of the Corn.
Zombie flicks are certainly nothing new. Bela Lugosi himself starred in 1932's White Zombie and in 1943 Jacques Tourneur brought us the haunting I Walked With a Zombie. The modern zombie film began with Night of the Living Dead, despite the fact that the zed word is never once used and the walking dead in Romero's film actually more closely resemble ghouls. That's the film that set the ground rules for the sub-genre: reanimated corpses, a contagion, flesh eating, the potential end of humanity. Not every modern zombie film contains all these ingredients, of course, but that's the basic template. Some of the earliest films to draw an obvious influence from Night of the Living Dead were Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things (1972) and Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974). The sub-genre really hit it big when Romero's sequel Dawn of the Dead became a hit in Italy under the title Zombi and spawned a slew of imitators. Lucio Fulci directed some of the best of this wave like Zombie (called Zombi 2 in Italy to fool people into thinking it was a sequel to Dawn), The Beyond, and City of the Living Dead (a.k.a. The Gates of Hell). Other Italian zombie movies like Burial Ground and Hell of the Living Dead are far less worthy of your attention. The 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead spawned another zombie renaissance, which included the brilliant horror comedy Shaun of the Dead and Romero's Land of the Dead, to say nothing of countless direct to DVD schlock-fests.