Try scary flick without gooey, gloppy gore

                      

For Hicksflicks.com, Oct. 10. 2014

EDITOR'S NOTE: With Halloween approaching, this Deseret News column from Nov. 16, 2001, seems timely as it reflects on how horror movies became so gory during the 1980s; specifically recommends ‘The Others,' which was in theaters at the time; and offers some suggestions for older fright flicks that are scary but not disgusting.

During the 1980s and '90s, while I was the film critic here, gory, low-budget slasher movies came into vogue, following the tremendous success of "Halloween."

That film was released in 1978 — and remains the scariest and most satisfying (and, ironically, the least gory) of them all.

But I got into the game after that — just in time for the proliferation of the knockoffs. In fact, there were so many, it's still hard to fathom.

These days, most such movies go straight to video. But back then, several hit the theaters each year, many of them exploiting a variety of holidays (and sort-of-but-not-really holidays) — "Friday the 13th" (1980), "Mother's Day" (1980), "Happy Birthday to Me" (1981), "My Bloody Valentine" (1981), "New Year's Evil" (1981), "Silent Night, Deadly Night" (1984), "April Fool's Day" (1986). …

(How did they miss "The Lincoln's Birthday Assassinations" and "The Arbor Day Woodchip Murders"?)

There were many more, of course — myriad sequels and clones that have deservedly faded from our collective movie memory. But the trend, unfortunately, set a shock-and-gore standard for horror movies and thrillers that lingers.

Maybe that's why I liked "The Others" so much.

If not for the cast (Nicole Kidman stars), "The Others" could be mistaken for a golden oldie; it hardly seems like a new movie. Relying heavily on atmosphere and low-key performances while building a sort of creepy dread, this ghost story resonates with the audience and is quite chilling in its own way.

While it may be tempting for some to write the film off as merely a gimmick picture, one that really just wants to set the stage for its surprise ending, there's more to it than that.

And, if nothing else, it's certainly a nice antidote to all the violent, stupid, killer-that-wouldn't-die flicks that are much more common — even 23 years after "Halloween" established the formula.

There is obviously an audience for something smarter and better, however. "The Others" has been slowly working its way to the $100 million mark for 11 weeks now — and it should hit it right around Halloween, appropriately enough. (Which is all too rare in this day of hit-and-run movies that either rise to the top of the box-office charts in the first couple of weeks or quickly fade away.)

  

So if you're looking for a scary movie at this time of year, but you want one that grips you and has characters you care about — not a flaccid yarn about personality-impaired teenage idiots running from some creep who's wearing a mask and carrying a big knife or a chainsaw — here are some titles you might not have thought about for awhile.

Each offers chills 'n' thrills without the glop-and-goo gore, and most should be on local rental shelves alongside Freddy Krueger, Jason and Michael Myers.

And one last piece of advice — in general, ignore their sequels:

  • "Frankenstein," "Bride of Frankenstein," "The Invisible Man" — just about any Universal monster movies from the '30s and '40s.
  • "Freaks" (1932; Not Rated)
  • "The Thing (from Another World)" (1951; NR)
  • "House of Wax" (1953; NR)
  • "Them!" (1954; NR)
  • "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956; NR)
  • "Village of the Damned" (1960; NR)
  •  
  • "House of Usher" (1960; NR)
  • "The Innocents" (1961; NR)
  • "The Pit and the Pendulum" (1961; NR)
  • "Tales of Terror" (1962; NR)
  • "The Birds" (1963; NR)
  • "Wait Until Dark" (1967; NR)
  • "The Night Stalker" (1971; TV movie)
  • "The Legend of Hell House" (1973; PG)
  • "Salem's Lot" (1979; TV miniseries)
  • "Poltergeist" (1982; PG)
  • "Lady in White" (1988; PG-13)
  • "Arachnophobia" (1990; PG-13)
  • "Tremors" (1990 PG-13)

And while you're at it, go out to a theater and check out "The Others."