Shot in Africa, the much-buzzed-about zombie flick "The Dead" will screen at the Spooky Movie Fest a week before its commercial release in the D.C. area. (Spooky Movie Fest)

That’s the cinematic prognosis of Curtis Prather, the founding director of the sixth annual Spooky Movie International Horror Film Festival, which will haunt Artisphere’s Dome Theatre through Sunday with an assortment of vampires, psychopaths, serial killers, aliens, monsters and, of course, those Energizer Bunnies of the horror world, zombies. “The Dead,” an African-set zombie flick that’s generating a lot of buzz, screens on Friday, a week before its commercial release here.

Just don’t expect to see too many poltergeists. For mysterious reasons, the old-fashioned ectoplasm that some of us still fondly remember from movies like “The Others” is pretty scarce in movie theaters these days. In its place, says Prather, is the demonic entity. (Remember “Insidious”?)

Read on for Prather’s tips about what else you can look forward to — or, as the case may be, avoid — at this year’s festival.

According to Prather, the quality of this year’s festival has taken “a quantum leap” over previous years. That’s good news, considering that more than a few films from 2008 — the last year I slogged through a representative sampling — didn’t have the highest production values in the world. Prather says this year’s festival boasts several examples of what he calls opening-night-caliber films, including “The Oregonian” (Saturday), a dreamlike, David Lynchian head trip that played Sundance, “The Dead,” which Prather describes as both “gorgeous and scary,”and “Helldriver.” That bloody Japanese zombie film, the actual opening-night headliner, comes from the demented imagination of Yoshihiro Nishimura, who brought you “Tokyo Gore Police.”

For other other tastes, Prather recommends:

“The Watermen” (Friday)

Prather describes the film, which was shot in Norfolk and stars Kevin Smith fave Jason Mewes, as resembling “The Hills Have Eyes,” but set on the water. Note to self: Stop working on spec script for “The Water Has Eyes.”

“The Afflicted” (Saturday)

A deranged mother torments her grown children in what Prather calls the fest’s “most disturbing” fare. I don’t know. This might sound like a documentary to some folks.

“The Thing from Another World” (Sunday)

The festival’s only family-friendly fare, this free screening brings back the 1951 Howard Hawks classic about an alien invader. You know it’s good if the Library of Congress placed it on its exclusive National Film Registry.

“Killage” (Sunday)

Campy, funny, and yet still gory, this film pokes clichéd serial-killer movies in the eye by making light of such tropes as the non-working cellphone. It’s Prather’s pick for the most over-the-top fun.

Tickets, scheduling and other information are available through the festival’s Web site, which also includes trailers for all features. Prather says that with a little bit of homework, nearly everyone — even those who faint at a paper cut — are likely to find something they like.

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