Three years ago, filmmaker Oren Peli released "Paranormal Activity," a frightening little movie he made for about $15,000.
To date, it has grossed nearly $200 million and spawned three sequels - one of which came out just in time for Halloween this year.
In honor of that series and this frightful holiday, here's a baker's dozen of other scary movies:
"The Blair Witch Project" (1999) Though the ending is weak and there's too much swearing, this alleged amateur documentary about witches in the forest is absolutely terrifying. I had never seen it and watched it for this piece; I was still shaking when I sat down to write.
"The Sixth Sense" (1999) M. Night Shyamalan's unexpected smash has more than just a clever ending; it's deeply moving, truly creepy and beautifully acted (Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette).
"The Haunting" (1963) Forget the tepid 1999 remake; this bloodless haunted-house tale has been called "the scariest movie ever." Black and white; from a novel by Shirley Jackson.
"Don't Look Now" (1973) Brooding, atmospheric chiller about grieving parents accosted by two elderly women who claim to be in contact with the couple's dead daughter. With Donald Sutherland, Julie Christie, a creepy Venetian setting - and one killer of an ending.
"Vacancy" (2007) I seem to be almost alone here - but this neglected B thriller about a nightmarish hotel had me wanting to hide under my seat. Nicely photographed, with a touching relationship between the victims (Luke Wilson, Kate Beckinsale).
"Silent House" (2012) Again, few others liked this - but it scared the living crap out of me. On top of that, Elizabeth Olsen is dynamite - and it's filmed as one continuous take, with no apparent cuts!
"Night of the Living Dead" (1968) Director George Romero's many follow-ups are too gory; but the black-and-white original, for all its shoddy production values, remains unnerving to this day.
"The Silence of the Lambs" (1991) The climax of this film, with Jodie Foster in the killer's house, just might be the most scared I ever felt in a theater. One of only three films to win all five major Academy Awards - screenplay, actor, actress, director, picture (the others were "It Happened One Night" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest").
"Manhunter" (1986) Set earlier than "Silence of the Lambs" and based on a novel by the same author, this Michael Mann film features a fine early performance from CSI's William Petersen. Hannibal Lecter makes a brief appearance, played by Brian Cox. Later remade as "Red Dragon." You have to love a film whose scary climax is set to Iron Butterfly's "Inna Gadda Da Vida."
"Alien" (1979) I was nearly 19 when this film came out, and later that night I still had to get out of bed and shut my closet door before I could sleep. Terrific acting and special effects; directed by Ridley Scott ("Blade Runner," "Gladiator").
"Ringu" (1998) The 2002 remake is pretty good - but the original Japanese version has much less blood, more common sense and a lot more terror. Don't watch it alone.
"Open Water" (2003) Yet another inexpensive indie shocker, this tale of a couple on a cruise, mistakenly left behind in shark-infested waters, isn't exactly a horror film - but it's among the most shattering experiences I've had in a theater. From the same team who directed "Silent House."
"Psycho" (1960) Another low-budget shocker that left everyone a wreck - in this case, a dirty wreck, since many (including the movie's star, Janet Leigh) found it tough to shower afterward. Having rewritten the rules of terror, it has a strong claim to the greatest thriller ever made. Watch for "Hitchcock," about the making of this film, with Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren as Hitch and wife - due Jan. 10.