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Screens: TV the week of Oct. 23

Masters Of Horror (10 p.m. Friday, Showtime) -- A grisly anthology series that gives big-name horror directors an hour to be as eyeball-pluckingly, tongue-severingly, liver-chewingly scary as their febrile brains will permit returns for a second season. First up: The Damned Thing, directed by Tobe Hooper, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre guy, with Sean Patrick Flanery as the sheriff of a little town that's consumed by lethal rage. Like, imagine if Howard Dean were not chairman of the Democratic party but of a pack of flesh-eating zombies. Yeah, now you're getting it.

Biography: Bela Lugosi (8 p.m. Monday, Biography Channel) -- A documentary on the distinguished Hungarian stage actor whose indelible performance in the original 1931 Dracula either turned him into a legend or ruined his life -- take your pick. It kicks off a whole week of Biography dedicated to Halloween themes, including The Munsters (Tuesday), Boris Karloff (Wednesday), Linda Blair (Thursday) and Carolyn Jones, The Addams Family's Morticia (Friday).

The Secret Life Of Vampires (9 p.m. Monday, Biography Channel) -- A two-hour special on the lore and legend of bloodsucking creatures who haunt the night -- and, believe it or not, neither Paris Hilton nor Lindsey Lohan even gets a mention.

Them! (7:30 a.m. Tuesday, AMC) -- The biggest deficiency in CBS' post-nuclear-apocalyptic drama Jericho is that Skeet Ulrich has not been eaten or even had a leg chewed off by a giant mutant insect -- which, as every kid who grew up in the 1950s knows, is the inevitable aftermath of a nuclear explosion. This 1954 flick about monstrous ants swarming out of the New Mexico desert to eat Los Angeles is the first and best of the big-bug movies, with James Arness and James Whitmore fighting them off with jumbo-size cans of Raid. This is part of the 230-hour orgy of horror and sci-fi flicks that AMC calls MonsterFest, which gets underway at 11:30 this morning with the creepy 1986 version of The Fly.

Son Of Dracula (11 a.m. Tuesday, AMC) -- OK, so I already mentioned MonsterFest. But the AMC publicists all have cute voices that make me willing to do anything they ask, up to and including putting my eyes out with a red-hot poker -- and, more to the point, this atmospheric 1943 Universal thriller with Lon Chaney Jr. in the title role doesn't make it to television very often. And the opening scene, with Chaney floating out of the mists of a Louisiana swamp, would make Son Of Dracula worth mentioning even if the AMC publicists sounded like Paris Hilton after a lobotomy, which coincidentally is the theme of next year's MonsterFest.


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