- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2006

It’s almost Halloween, and movie lovers will be tempted to rent some horror flicks this weekend to gin up the goosebumps. But time has been unkind to some fright flicks once considered classics. Audiences are more sophisticated than ever before, and some movies that seemed bloodcurdling years ago can appear quaint, if not downright silly, to modern eyes. Others can still keep us up at night.

Aged poorly:

“Suspiria” — Dario Argento’s Italian horror gets downright spooky in its final reel, but getting there means slogging through some orange-colored blood and some less-than-impressive performances.

“Poltergeist” — Tobe Hooper’s suburban nightmare packed a wallop back in 1982. Today, the special effects seem crude, and the diminutive actress who guides Carol Ann into, and out of, the light is a source of much imitation. Besides, losing your child in the television set seems a bit silly these days, right?

“Hellraiser” — Clive Barker’s Pinhead, the villain in the film series inspired by his books, may be the least frightening monster in the modern pantheon of baddies.

“Frankenstein” — The 1931 classic holds up in many ways, particularly with Boris Karloff’s inimitable take on the Monster. But during its theatrical release some patrons were literally fainting in the aisles from fright. Today’s horror fans need a lot more than a man juiced up with lightning to make us go ashen.

“A Nightmare on Elm Street” — It isn’t Freddy’s fault. The crash of sequels inspired by the 1984 Wes Craven hit turned Freddy Krueger into a comic cut-up in the literal sense.

Aged well:

“Alien” — Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic pairs an A-list director with a conventional horror tale. The results are anything but conventional, and the Alien itself looks as malevolent today as it did 27 years ago.

“Jaws” — Director Steven Spielberg fretted that Bruce the Shark, the mechanical beastie that threatened police Chief Brody, looked fake. There’s nothing inauthentic about the scares raised by this 1975 smash, even if no computer-generated effects swam in Mr. Spielberg’s waters.

“The Shining” — Jack Nicholson is a special effect unto himself, but the real star is director Stanley Kubrick’s imagination. Stephen King supposedly hates this film version of his book, but everyone else knows better. Few films make us as uneasy as the simple line “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” does. And let’s not forget “Redrum.”

“Night of the Living Dead” — No budget. No stars. Plenty of chills. The 1968 film’s opening sequence in which our heroine is chased by a lone zombie still gives us a start.

“Patch Adams” — Robin Williams emoting himself into a frenzy to save sick kids? Now, that’s scary.

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