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Commentary: Sample lesser-known on-screen scares this Halloween

Courtesy of Magnet Releasing

There’s no better time to indulge in scary movies than the weeks approaching Halloween. However, there comes a time when all fright-flick fans have made their way through most of the well-known genre favorites. Let’s face it: “Halloween,” “Psycho” and “The Exorcist” are classics, the best of the best. But they’re also the movies anyone getting into horror films watch first. So, what happens when you’ve made your way through the greatest hits from John Carpenter, George Romero, Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper? Head to the horror graveyard and dig up some flicks that aren’t as famous. Here’s a list of 10 movies from throughout horror history to keep you scared all the way up to Oct. 31.

1. Lewis Allen’s “The Uninvited” (1944, and not to be confused with the mediocre 2009 remake) ranks among the spookiest haunted house films of the classic Hollywood era. Starring Ray Milland as a composer who moves into a haunted seaside estate, fans of the “Paranormal Activity” series will appreciate the thrills derived from the things which go unseen.

2. Influencing Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” and David Lynch’s “Eraserhead,” Herk Harvey’s “Carnival of Souls” (1962) is a black and white nightmare that makes up for its low-budget and thin plot with a creepy, haunted pavilion setting and a truly spooky specter. Concerning a young woman’s descent into madness following a car accident, the film has a delightfully cheap charm, with the director himself playing the ghost.

3. As “Halloween” director Carpenter has said, “Horror is a universal language,” and indeed, many frightening films have come from across the globe. Mario Bava’s “Black Sabbath” (1963) is a fun collection of three short spooky stories – “The Telephone,” about a woman harassed by strange phone calls, is a clear influence on 1974’s “Black Christmas” – and features genre legend Boris Karloff.

4. Juan Piquer Simon’s “Pieces” (1982) is a classic of another kind. Featuring some truly questionable acting and downright ridiculous voice dubbing, the absurd slasher movie offers as many laughs as it does scares.

5. Canadian auteur, meaning the filmmaker has total creative control over his work, David Cronenberg is well known as a director of body-centered horror. Perhaps no other film exemplifies his icy, disturbing view as well as “Videodrome” (1983). Starring James Woods as a seedy cable programmer who gets in over his head when he tries to find the origins of a show featuring torture and murder, the film is full of nightmarish imagery, and stuns with an epically downbeat ending.

6. Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s “Inside” (2007) is possibly the most horrific of the new wave of French horror films. Alone on Christmas Eve, the pregnant Sarah (Alysson Paradis) is stalked by a mysterious stranger (Béatrice Dalle) who says she will leave on one condition: she gets Sarah’s baby. The film unfolds in increasingly shocking acts of violence, and expectant mothers would do well to avoid it.

7. “Let The Right One In” (2008) was one of the more popular foreign horror films in recent memory. The Swedish vampire coming-of-age story is charmingly chilly, boasting stellar performances by its two young leads. The American remake, renamed “Let Me In,” unfortunately failed to retain what made Tomas Alfredson’s original special, and aside from a few well-handled set pieces, was mostly a waste of time.

8. Ti West’s modern masterpiece “The House of the Devil” (2009) thrives on its deliberate pace, creeping along until it reaches its bold, bloody climax. From the moment heroine Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) agrees to a babysitting job the night of a lunar eclipse, we know things will not end well. “The House of the Devil” might test the patience of some viewers early on, but those who persevere are in for one hell of a finale.

9. “The Woman” (2011), the latest from genre master Lucky McKee, turns the idyllic northeast mountains into the scene of unspeakable horror. When a feral woman is captured by an average family man, he decides to “civilize her,” the implications of which become increasingly disturbing as the film builds to a blood-soaked finale.

10. Also in 2011, Ben Wheatley’s “Kill List” has proved to be an unmatched cinematic nightmare. The British film begins as a straight-ahead thriller about a pair of hitmen, but quickly goes off the rails in the best way imaginable. A brutal assault on your senses with a pitch-black comedic streak, the ending of “Kill List” will leave you shaking.

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