Let’s cut to the chase: the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers opened today in 1956, bringing Cold War paranoia straight into small-town America. Its alien invaders — who duplicate our human forms while removing the pesky humanity from our souls — served as the inspiration for the zombie apocalypse genre to follow, and while it remains a product of the 1950s, it’s still powerful enough to scare the peewuttons out of you if you let it. (You can check out our Halloween review of it here.)
Thirty years later, a much different horror movie opened, and while it can’t quite match Body Snatchers, it serves as pretty potent nightmare fuel on its own. The Serpent and the Rainbow, dealing with the darkest corners of voodoo during the last days of Baby Doc Duvalier’s reign in Haiti, marks a high point in the career of horror maestro Wes Craven, and its loose basis in fact gives it a punch that many of his other films lack. It opened today in 1988.
Over in Uncle Walt’s corner of the pond, Disney enjoyed a massive commercial successes with Peter Pan, opening today in 1953 and forming a cultural touchstone for Boomers growing up at the time. Personally, I find the film problematic — and not just because it includes a song called “What Made the Red Man Red?” — but it’s hard to argue with the benchmark it set for the House of Mouse.