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: Warner Bros.
To watch a James Wan film is to take a master class in horror filmmaking. From Saw to Insidious, Wan as a filmmaker knows the genre tropes inside and out, as well as the timeworn bags of spooky tricks.
Nothing illustrates this more than his work on 2013’s The Conjuring, which features actors Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as paranormal investigators who come to the assistance of a family stricken by hauntings in their Rhode Island farmhouse. Based on the alleged exploits of real-life demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, The Conjuring is rife with tense moments, such as the scene when actor Joey King points from her bed at a shadowy corner and says, “There’s someone behind the door.”
- Photo: MGM/UA Entertainment Co.
Director Tobe Hooper cut his teeth on the 1974 horror classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which certainly features some vicious executions. His 1982 film, Poltergeist, has zero on-screen slayings - though it does feature several mummified cadavers that are rumored to have been the real deal.
Written by Steven Spielberg, Poltergeist (the German word for “noisy ghost”) revolves around the Freeling family and their move into the new tract home community of Cuesta Verde. Idyllically suburban at first, things quickly go south as spirits begin to make their presence known within the Freeling home. They move furniture, animate a tree, and turn a creepy clown puppet into a homicidal one. It’s all downhill from there.
While there aren’t any on-screen terminations in Poltergeist (unless you count the family’s bird), you should be warned: Someone does scratch their face off.
- Photo: Dimension Films
Spoilers: No one perishes in Alejandro Amenábar’s Gothic 2001 horror hit The Others, because the central characters - unbeknownst to them - are already deceased.
A massive box office success, The Others stars Nicole Kidman as Grace Stewart, a woman who occupies a remote, Gothic manse, who awakens one morning from a nightmare post-World War II and discovers fleeting glimpses of strangers in her home. Beset by the occurrences, which she believes are supernatural in nature, Grace and her two young children try to get to the bottom of it, only to discover in the finale that it is they themselves who haunt the structure, and the strangers themselves are the tenants of the house.
From creaking doors and nocturnal hallucinations to bleeding walls and a basement door that possibly leads to hell, director Stuart Rosenberg’s 1979 horror classic The Amityville Horror stands to this day as a nerve-wracking tour de force.
Based on the 1977 book by Jay Anson, which chronicles a young family’s 28 harrowing days following their move to a Dutch Colonial house in New York, the film stars James Brolin and Margot Kidder as homeowners besieged by the paranormal. What’s more, the book on which its derived claims that the events actually happened, and that the manifestations the family endured stemmed from the real-life slayings that took place in the structure in 1974.
While no losses of life occur on screen in The Amityville Horror, you’re sure to scream when the demonic pig, Jodie, shows up.