To close this look at what would scare me while growing up, I offer you Day of the Dead, the third of George A. Romero's zombie movies. This is the sort of film which I would read about in the Leonard Maltin film guide or occasionally see some details in a Horror Encyclopedia book (I checked out every non-fiction book on monsters in the libraries as I grew up). But, like The Company of Wolves, it belonged to that region of the video store I would not frequent. I knew - I just knew I couldn't handle the hard 'R' horror films.
And yet, over time, I became pretty comfortable with R-rated films. I began to spend a lot of time on the cable network Scream, watching pretty much whatever they put on air. One afternoon they showed Day of the Dead and I watched it to the end, right to the terrible climax where most of the film's surviving humans were torn apart and eaten alive, the camera demonstrating absolutely no discretion to the gore on display.
My reaction: "Huh. That's disgusting. But... it's not scary."
You see, I had finally made the same realization Val Lewton had with the Cat People - that the suggestion of terrible things had a psychological impact much greater than the visceral reaction to gore. Suddenly, I could watch any kind of horror movie regardless of its rating! I had avoided John Carpenter's The Thing because Roger Ebert had dismissed it as a barf bag movie; now that I knew gore didn't bother me I could watch and enjoy the film and realize Ebert (great reviewer that he was) had been talking out of his prodigious rear.
There are still occasionally moments when reading a book or watching a film that I feel the creeps - but thanks to Day of the Dead, I know film violence itself is not necessarily scary.
Man, Day of the Dead. I owe the film a debt, but... what a piece of crap.