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Thursday, Oct. 27, 2005 03:14 am

Halloween horrors

Finding a great terror flick takes effort, but here some screamers

The last movie that scared me was The Black Pit of Dr. M, and I was 8. I’d probably laugh at it now if I could find it. When I look for a horror film, all I hope for is to be drawn into its dark, creepy world. Finding something worthwhile these days isn’t so easy, but here’s one reliable tip: Avoid most of the major Hollywood productions. There is little to recommend among the recent tepid releases Hide and Seek, Cursed, The Boogeyman, and Alone in the Dark. The remake of The Amityville Horror is by far the best of the bunch, but classic status is not likely. There are surprisingly a few gems on the new-releases wall, but they aren’t the obvious titles. In fact, few horror fans are likely to be attracted to the odd title Dead Birds, but this may be the best horror film of recent years. Henry Thomas (E.T., The Extraterrestrial) leads a gang of thieves to a deserted farmhouse while escaping from Confederate soldiers. They were safer with the Rebels. The pacing is slow and deliberate, and an atmosphere of dread envelops the film. I challenge anyone who believes that France is a nation of wimps to watch High Tension, a French slasher film that certainly lives up to its title. Alex brings her friend Marie home to stay at the family farm just as it becomes the target of a deranged psychopath. This unrated film has some rough scenes that will make the big talkers out there squirm in their seats. The zombie genre has been done to death, so the next step is to laugh at it. The quirky Australian film Undead follows both paths by upping the blood content without sacrificing the film’s odd humor. Rural America serves as the backdrop for both Hide and Creep and Dead & Breakfast, two low-budget indie films that don’t mind being completely silly. The latter actually features a zombie-line-dance scene.
Asia has become a primary source of movie horror, but none quite reaches the shocking level of Takashi Miike’s 1999 film Audition, which is now available locally. Love goes awry when a widower discovers that the woman he is dating is not as sweet and innocent as she first appeared. Be warned: Audition raises sadism to a new level. Finally, remember that the classics from the 1970s — The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, and Dawn of the Dead — retain their charm.
New releases on DVD on Tuesday (Nov. 1): Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, The Perfect Man, and Millions.
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