Wal-Mart was selling, for five bucks, a three-DVD set of horror movies that are some combination of outdated, unwanted, and out-of-copyright. Everything I dream of in a horror flick! So if you’re following my Twitter going “Where is she finding this stuff?”–well, that’s where.

The Pyx (1973)

Filmed in Canada, and the big surprise here was finding out how much of the dialogue is in French. I don’t know, I was strangely lukewarm on this one. I thought it was generally competent and interesting. I wouldn’t suggest that anyone go out of their way to watch it, but if I saw someone picking it up in the Blockbuster, I wouldn’t tell them to put it back.

Carnival of Souls (1962)

A good, low-budget black-and-white movie with a hilariously stupid beginning, decent scares, and a pretty nice buildup to a stark, interesting ending.

Without spoiling the (fifty-year-old) movie, let’s say the ending is not entirely unguessable. I don’t know whether this was the first one to use that particular premise, but it’s not something I have never stumbled across. I came up with four movies with similar sensibilities off the top of my head.

On one hand, there are no new plots, and it’s unreasonable to go into a movie expecting some brilliant new twist; on the other hand, a large part of fear is anxiety of the unknown. Once you know (or think you know) what’s going on, the anxiety vanishes, and the fear withers…and since fear is pretty much the point of atmospheric horror, well, there goes the movie.

I wonder whether that’s why gore has been so popular lately: we’re all too savvy for psychological horror, but violence can always get more shocking.

(I got through the original Halloween by chanting “Seminal, not derivative” at every worn-out trope. I was hoarse by the end.)

The Undertaker and his Pals (1966)

Just completely horrible. This would be good for a late-night MST3K with some friends who don’t mind blood, nonsense, or catastrophically failed attempts at humor.

I Bury the Living (1958)

Spoiler: nobody actually buries the living. 😦 Serviceable even though it welshes on its premise.

And Netflix sent over a palate-cleanser: Stage Beauty (2004), with Billy Crudup and Claire Danes, which was lively, lovely, and memorable, and had costumes to die for.