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Chilling Views on Discovery, AMC

10/27/2002 7:00 PM Eastern

You can get your goosebumps from a variety of sources this week, with choices that range from the world's shortest horror films to the real-life chills induced by a documentary on the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The latter isn't Halloween programming — but it is certainly enough to scare the generation that spent its elementary school years learning to "duck and cover." It documents the only time in U.S. history when the military went to the highest alert short of nuclear war. Hence the name of Discovery Channel's Oct. 30 special, DEFCON-2.

This retelling is not unlike a recent special recently featured on The History Channel, in that it also features crisis participants from Cuba, the Eastern Bloc and the U.S., offering memories of just how close the world came to nuclear destruction.

But DEFCON-2
includes recently declassified audio recordings of the U.S. National Security Council's executive committee. It's eerie to hear John F. Kennedy calmly debating the world's fate with his advisers.

The special touts a rare television appearance by author Tom Clancy, but his participation is limited to a brief introduction and summation.

For quick thrills, originality and tight filmmaking, stay tuned after AMC's "Monsterfest" features for something called Short Screamers.
Group 101 in Los Angeles was charged with coming up with some shorts without the luxury of stars, time or money. Given those parameters, one would not expect much.

But these films — some of which run as short as a minute — are rich in technique, while some are quite creative.

Most are distilled to a brief set-up ending, with the type of thrill one gets when the bogeyman jumps out from the closet. But it's nice to the see films end with a quick "boo," without all the gore and teenage angst endemic to the genre's current features.

Some, like Terminal Illness, are satisfying and quite self-contained.
Others manage to resort to horror-film visual clichés. Scenes of potential victims gasping — followed by a shot of a dropped flashlight — appear in two of the films.

Short Screamers
will be interspersed among AMC features through Oct. 31.

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