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Flesh-eating zombies cornering you on a dead-end street.

Freddy Krueger caressing your face with his razor-sharp “fingerknives.”

A loveable furry exotic pet that spawns little, crazed, green monsters.

What does it take for a horror movie to freak you out? Your mind starts to play tricks on you. Then the noises start, whether it’s the haunting “Chchch ... ahhahhahh” from “Friday the 13th” or something that sounds suspiciously like the pitter patter of evil dolls scampering under the bed.

Stars and Stripes recently polled readers about their favorite scary movies. The responses spanned decades of evolution of the horror genre — from blood and gore to the recent spate of psychological thrillers, such as “The Sixth Sense.”

One of Geraldine Russell’s favorites is “Horror of Dracula.”

“It came close to following the book, which no one else has done,” said the education counselor at Kitzingen Education Center in Germany. “The atmosphere, costuming and color treatment were amazing for a 1958 film.”

Russell, who has had a lifelong interest in vampires, said the only recent vampire film she liked was “Dracula 2000,” “only because the guy who played Dracula was good-looking.”

Michael E. Wascom, 52, has seen “The Changeling,” a 1980 release starring George C. Scott, about 15 times.

“But it still keeps the hair on the back of my neck raised the whole movie,” said the vehicle maintenance supervisor at Eagle Base, Bosnia and Herzegovina. “It has very little blood and guts, but enough spooky moments.”

But don’t knock the gruesome ghoul factor, says Air Force Staff Sgt. Kent Gentner, 27. He’s especially fond of the “Night of the Living Dead” and follow-ups “Dawn of the Dead” and “Day of the Dead,” in which ravenous dead return to life.

“They haunt you afterwards because of the fear they might pop out,” said the force-protection evaluator from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. “The door to the elevator that you’re in might open to a flood of blue-faced rotting zombies who drag you down as you try to escape out the overhead hatch.”

“Night of the Living Dead,” released in 1968, was filmed on a shoestring budget.

“What makes a horror film great is not the special effects,” said Gentner, who’s seen the films about 30 times. “What makes a horror film great is the director’s ability to … know what scares you.”

The genre has evolved from vampires to giant spiders to zombies to a projectile-vomit-spewing possessed girl to psycho killers who prey on scantily clad teens at pajama parties.

“They sensationalized the genre too much with Friday the 13th,” Gentner said. “Now it’s more suspense — Hannibal Lector-I’m-gonna-gross-you-out-and-at-the-same-time-hurt-your-inner-child.”

Army Spc. Justin T. Scott, 22, prefers psychological thrillers like “The Blair Witch Project.”

“There was this aura about it, everyone thinking it was a real documentary but it wasn’t,” said the signal support systems specialist with the 1st Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany. Scott didn’t know what he was getting into one night when he watched the tale of college students lost in the woods.

“I was alone, starting to hear things, thinking, ‘Is that in the movie or what?’ ”

Four soldiers from the 596th Maintenance Company, Kelly Barracks in Darmstadt, Germany, wracked their brains about their favorite scary movies one recent night on guard duty.

“Gremlins” kept Spc. Samora McLean, 23, looking over his shoulder for little monsters when he was a kid. He and Spc. Jesus Sanchez, 32, both like “Friday the 13th.”

Sgt. Daniel Martinez, 24, says he’s been known to take a date to a scary movie so she’ll cuddle in closer.

“Like ‘Nightmare on Elm Street,’ his gloves with those blades scratching against the walls,” he said. McLean started to tease Martinez, so Sanchez piped in, “And what would you take them to? ‘Gremlins?’”

Spc. Lynnette Cabat’s family won’t take her to scary movies because of her reaction.

“‘Jaws’ is really intense, when they’re on that raft and that music starts. They’re just sitting there waiting for the next one to be eaten,” said Cabat, 34.

Gentner was cut off from horror flicks for awhile, too. One night he watched “Dawn of the Dead” then played a similar horror videogame.

“My wife said in the middle of the night I screamed, did a combat roll out of bed, ran across the room, slammed the closet door and she wakes up and looks at me and says, ‘What’re you doing?’ I put my finger to my lips and said, ‘Shh … they’ll hear you.’ After that she said no more zombie films for you.”

But he might break out the well-worn “Night of the Living Dead” VHS soon.

“I’ll watch them on Halloween as long as my son is asleep and my wife doesn’t protest. I put up with her foo-foo flicks most of the week.”


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