Horror cinema, from its early 1896 inception in George Méliès’s Le Manoir du Diable (The House of the Devil) through 2020’s The Invisible Man, has long been a creatively fertile genre. It's also populated by all manner of frightening and homicidal antagonists. From the hockey-masked Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th film series to A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger, the horror genre is full of colorfully malevolent characters - and their many casualties. But what of the horror movies where no one dies and where everyone lives? Do such films exist, and if so, do they deliver on the chills while reining in the gore? We took a dive and found the answer to be, “Yes!”
The horror movies collected here are scary, but also somewhat bloodless. But just because there are no casualties in them, it doesn't mean they aren’t still terrifying. Let’s take a look at a few horror pics that buck convention and allow everyone to live.
- Photo: Artisan Entertainment
Based on the 1958 novel by literary great Richard Matheson, and written and directed by David Koepp, 1999's Stir of Echoes is a nail-biter. Kevin Bacon stars as a working-class line operator who begins to experience troubling visions after he's hypnotized by a relative.
Though the third act reveal does feature an act of cruelty that occurred prior to the events of the film taking place (and it’s one heck of a reveal!), Stir of Echoes manages to deliver a taut, thrilling ride from start to finish without once ever employing a single body drop. That, and Bacon, as always, is on fire.13122Still scary?
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
Director Sidney J. Furie’s 1982 supernatural horror film, The Entity, was inspired from supposed real-life events: a 1974 case concerning Southern California resident Doris Bither, who claims to have been assaulted by an unseen force. Barbara Hershey stars in the film as a woman terrorized by an invisible, nocturnal beast.804Still scary?
“You can’t get rid of the Babadook!” That chilling phrase, as repeated often in Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent’s 2014 directorial debut, The Babadook, scared audiences silly upon the film’s release, and does so to this day.
Revolving around a sinister pop-up storybook called Mister Babadook, which describes its titular character as a top-hat-wearing, claw-fingered monster with a nasty visage, the film follows a widowed mother and her son who are stalked by the supernatural force surrounding the tome.
While featuring one of the most frightening pieces of production art ever created (seriously, the book itself, as well as the Babadook at its center, is absolutely terrifying), and the demise of the family dog, the toll on human life in The Babadook remains at an absolute zero.12752Still scary?
- Photo: MGM
Director Tod Browning terrified audiences in 1931 with the release of his classic film Dracula, but he may have created an even more disturbing film in his follow-up feature, Freaks. Banned in the UK for more than 30 years, Freaks also helped to end Browning’s career due to the ensuing uproar upon its release. Why the controversy?
Based on the short story “Spurs” by Tod Robbins, Freaks follows trapeze artist Cleopatra, who plans to marry and then bump off the leader of a carnival sideshow to gain his inheritance. Her husband-to-be is a dwarf, who is smitten by her manipulative affections. Once labeled as “exploitative” for Browning’s casting of real sideshow performers possessing actual disabilities, the film is now listed in the United States National Film Registry as a work “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
But Freaks is also terrifying. The final scene, in which the mud-covered troupe stalks the temptress through a rainstorm, is unforgettable - as is the strange and final coda: Cleopatra transformed into a bizarre duck-human. Bloodless, but scary.7112Still scary?