For Hicksflicks.com, Oct. 25, 2013

For many years, come October, like clockwork in fact, I would receive letters and phone calls — you remember letters and phone calls, right? — from Deseret News readers who wanted suggestions for spooky movies to watch around Halloween, pictures that were scary but not graphically violent or sexual, nothing gory or gooey. Something that could be watched with the older kids and provide some scares without grossing everyone out.

As slasher, teen slice-and-dice flicks became common horror fare in the 1980s and '90s (think "Friday the 13th," "A Nightmare on Elm Street," etc.), followed by even gorier so-called torture porn ("Saw," "Hostel"), it was not an easy task, unless you just fell back on the older films, the Vincent Price-Edgar Allan Poe thrillers, the Universal "Frankenstein" and "Dracula" and "Mummy" and "Creature From the Black Lagoon" monster flicks, etc.

So I sometimes didn't even try. It was back to the 1930s, '40s, '50s and '60s for me. I love those old movies, and some can still send chills up and down the spine.

But there have been a few scary pictures in the past few years that are not too excessive, even if they are rated R. Take the recent film "The Conjuring," for example, which just came out on DVD and Blu-ray. The R rating says "for sequences of disturbing violence and terror." Sounds like an endorsement to me. But if you see it, you may come away wondering what all the fuss is about. It has to be one of the softest R ratings I've seen in years. A PG-13 wouldn't have been out of line.

Another R-rated horror movie that is a very light R is "The Orphange" (2007), a Spanish-language film about a haunted former orphanage. Very scary. (Come to think of it, just having to read subtitles may scare some of you.)

Others worth looking up that carry PG-13 ratings are Brad Pitt's zombie thriller "World War Z" and the extremely weird "Mama," both from this year, along with the extremely dark satire "Drag Me to Hell" (2009), about a loan officer cursed by a Gypsy; "The Others" (2001), a ghost mystery with Nicole Kidman; "Disturbia" (2007), an update of "Rear Window" with teens (led by Shia Labeouf); "The Haunting in Connecticut" (2009), in which a new home turns out to be a former mortuary (this year's sequel is rated R); the popular yarn about a killer videotape, "The Ring" (2002), along with its 2005 sequel (thought I actually prefer the 1998 Japanese original, "Ringu," and the 1999 Korean remake, "The Ring Virus"); "When a Stranger Calls" (2006), a remake of the 1979 horror film about prank calls that prove to be originating from the home being called; "I Am Legend" (2007), with Will Smith battling nocturnal monsters in a dystopian future Manhattan; "1408" (2007), a Stephen King story about an occult investigator (John Cusack) spending the night in a hotel room where mysterious deaths have occurred; and "The Eye" (2008), a remake of a Japanese tale about a woman (Jessica Alba) whose eye transplant gives her otherworldly visions.

But, of course, I'm always happy to revert to my childhood favorites, which are also among my adult favorites: "Psycho" (1960), "The Thing From Another World" (1951), "The Bad Seed" (1956), "The Birds" (1963), "The Incredible Shrinking Man" (1957), "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956) a pair of early Vincent Price color thrillers, "House of Wax" (1953) and "The Fly" (1958); and these ghostly haunted-house yarns: "The Innocents" (1961), "The Uninvited" (1944) and "Haunting" (1963).

Happy All Hallow's Eve y'all.