Fear has come a long way, baby.

These days, when you see a scary movie or watch a scary TV show, you may or may not be truly SCARED. What's more likely is that you're on edge and just waiting to be shocked, which is far different. A shock is the cat that jumps off the ledge in the darkened basement when the nubile young teenager is out searching for the serial killer. A scare is knowing that this particular killer has been haunted by beings from beyond the grave for his entire life, and that these beings are forcing him to murder against his will.

To be scared is to know fear. The unknown, the unexplained, the inevitable evil lurking just beyond the corner...scary stuff. A random, senseless dude with a machete? Not so scary, but damned shocking.

Scary movies today live to shock, but few of them know how to build true fear. Back in the grand old days of Universal horror, the late thirties and forties, they KNEW how to create fear. They may seem dated as you watch them in another millennium, but in their time, they were as horrifying as any slasher flick. They live on today because they were all about the scary. And for my money, "The Bride of Frankenstein" is the height of all stylized, spooky masterworks.

"Bride" is perhaps director James Whale's greatest work. A master of classic horror filmmaking, his later years were documented by writer/director Bill Condon in the film "Gods and Monsters." In his filmmaking career, he gave us "The Invisible Man," "The Old Grey House," and the original "Frankenstein," among others...but "Bride" beats them all. Full of atmosphere and attitude, it's one of the all-time greats from Hollywood's golden age, and damned spooky, to boot.

We learn in "Bride" that neither Doctor Frankenstein nor his Monster actually perished in the original "Frankenstein," although it sure looked like they did. (Could this be the first time a sequel reveals to us that one of the beloved characters from the original was miraculously resurrected after the studio realized they wanted a second film?) When the creepy Doctor Pretorius kidnaps his wife, the good Doctor is forced to return to his diabolical experiments to construct a mate for the Monster.

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? You don't know the half of it. Whale's decision to lean on the campy possibilities in such a silly story results in some delightfully wicked moments, such as Doctor Pretorius revealing his own experiments with creating life--tiny people in jars. Throughout the proceedings, actor Ernest Thesiger as Pretorius embraces the inherent insanity of his role, chomping on the scenery with a mischevious gleam in his eye. It's a terrific performance and the best thing about the movie.

Yet through all the camp, a sinister undercurrent remains. It comes to a head in the film's final moments, as the titular Bride finally makes her appearance. As portrayed by Elsa Lanchester, she's become an iconic figure of classic horror, her two-tone hairdo reaching up to the sky and her wild eyes projecting an abject terror. What's surprising is that the Bride only appears for a few moments; Lanchester's role is padded out by a dual part as Mary Shelley in the film's prologue. Lanchester makes every second count.

Once you've heard it, you'll never forget her scream, the one she unleashes when confronted with the sight of Frankenstein's original Monster. It's that moment that burns itself indelibly upon your brain, and that's probably why the character has endured for so long based only on a few minutes of screen time.

This reaction doesn't please Frankenstein's original creation too much, and so he launches into a mad rampage in the Doctor's lab, destroying the place in the process. As the film closes, he utters his one immortal line: "We belong dead."

I get chills just thinking about it--Boris Karloff's phrasing, the language of it, the pity and rage it conveys. It's a truly scary moment, when you know that the laws of nature have been horribly tampered with and this handful of living beings is paying for the crime. That's what a great scary movie can do. It doesn't just startle you, or make you never want to go into the basement again. The best scary flicks hang in your brain like cobwebs and scare you a little bit every time you think of them.

It's amazing to think of the level of filmmaking that the early horror masters achieved using basically a soundstage and a make-up chair. Monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, and many more were all born at Universal over a period of about a decade, using tools far simpler than those employed in today's horror flicks. These classics have endured because the filmmakers involved knew that a good scary movie has to be SCARY. It has to get under your skin, not just with shocking visuals or things that go bump in the night, but with creepy ideas and an overall chilling vibe.

Hit Amazon below or your local video store and visit (or revisit) these timeless classics this Halloween season. "Bride" is available in an affordably-priced set along with all the other Frankenstein films from Universal; they've put out similar packages for many of their classic monster franchises, and they're all terrific. Bonus features, a pristine image, the whole bit.

Forego the Freddy Kruegers and Jason Voorhees this October and go back to where it all began--the creepy, spooky, altogether ooky atmosphere of great scary movies like "The Bride of Frankenstein." The Monster may belong dead, but his legacy should live forever.

Matt Springer has been writing professionally about genre entertainment for the past five years and has worked full-time for such publications as the Official Buffy the Vampire Slayer Magazine, Cinescape, and Total Movie. He co-edits the genre criticism website Entertainment Geekly (http://www.entertainment-geekly.com). His first novel, Unconventional, is the tale of three geeks who spend a life-altering weekend at a convention; buy it online at South Side Press (http://www.southsidepress.net). He's currently working to become a sitcom writer.