David Edelstein's scariest movies of all time

George A. Romero's first feature film was an ultra-low budget horror flick, shot in the Pittsburgh area, about a swarm of flesh-eating zombies. Romero returned to the genre with "Dawn of the Dead," "Day of the Dead," "Land of the Dead," "Diary of the Dead" and "Survival of the Dead."
Walter Reade

(CBS News) As we head towards Halloween a new found-footage horror film "Paranormal Activity 4," is expected to be big at the box office. It got us thinking: What are the scariest movies ever made?

We asked "CBS This Morning" viewers to take our poll, and their choices? "The Exorcist," "Halloween," "The Silence of the Lambs," "Psycho," "Alien" and "The Shining."

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We also asked film critic David Edelstein to share with us his favorites.

He pointed out that his choices were not his favorite horror movies, but the scariest. "There are horror films, like 'Frankenstein,' that are my favorites, but they don't make you jump up. Anybody can make a 'boo' movie. Any bum can throw a spider at you and you jump!

"What 'Blair Witch Project' [number three on his list] did was teach us that there's nothing scarier than nothing, or if not nothing, than nothing with a little something on the side you just can't quite see, that triggers your fight-or-flight instinct, your primitive instinct that makes you want to get up and run. You know there's a threat but you don't know why."

Edelstein's picks:

No. 5: The Innocents," based on a Henry James story, "The Turn of the Screw"

"It's about a governess who takes care of two children who may be or may not be haunted by the ghost of their previous governess - we don't know," Edelstein said. "Here's the thing: It could be a projection in her mind, it could be real. We just don't know, and it's that not knowing that gets under your skin. The scariest thing I saw as a kid was a shot of the governess across the pond just standing, staring. Is she a ghost? Did we imagine her? I took it to my bed and my dreams, I've never forgotten it."

No. 4: "Jaws"

"'Jaws' exploited everybody's terror of the sea, about what could be underneath the water we don't see," Edelstein said. "Steven Spielberg teased us, he caught us off-guard. Even when we knew what was coming, we didn't know when it was coming."

He remembered being in the theater on opening night when the shark appeared just as Roy Scheider was cracking a joke about throwing chum in the water: "The laugh came out of our mouth and the shark popped up and I swear to God, the entire theater levitated as one. We went crazy. We were insane. We'd never seen anything like it. We didn't even hear his great laugh line that came after, 'You're going to need a bigger boat.' We didn't hear it."

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No. 3: "The Blair Witch Project"

Edelstein said the found-footage "Blair Witch Project' used our attachment to modern technology and the subjective camera to triggered our imagination, showing you . . . nothing. Nothing!

No. 2: Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho"

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And the number one scariest movie of all time? George A. Romero's zombie film, "Night of the Living Dead."

"For me everything was different after 'Night of the Living Dead,'" Edelstein said. "It was the late Sixties, society was in upheaval. Suddenly you saw apocalypse, plague. You saw children eating their parents. You saw brothers eating their sisters. That movie contained everything was going on on the street. Who cares if it was laughable? It was something we had never seen before. And It did not have a happy ending.

"Nothing was ever the same for movies after 'Night of the Living Dead.' Zombies were not funny back tne. Now they are comic. At the time those cannibal ghouls got into our dreams and became a metaphor for everything we thought was wrong and scary about American society. And it's still there. It's still taken hold."

And what of the latest entry in the "Paranormal Activity" series? "It was frighteningly boring!" Edelstein said. "I actually liked the first one. The first one did get under your skin, simply because your point of view was so narrow. You didn't have this omniscient point of view - it all came through a video camera. This is now business-as-usual.

"There's such a thing as anticipation, but when you're sitting there for an hour going, 'Okay, we get it, we're waiting..." Then when it finally comes and it's nothing, people were booing the screen."

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