There’s more to the horror genre than just blood and guts, so if you’re the squeamish type, don’t feel like you have to sit scary movies out. Here are ten movies that are low on on-screen violence, but high on scares.
Note: these movies are still disturbing. It is horror, after all.
The Others (2001)
Alejandro Amenabar’s horror thriller The Others might be tame by some standards, but the carefully cultivated creepy atmosphere and spooky story at the heart of the film garnered the movie significant critical acclaim when it premiered in 2001. The movie was even nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay, which is notably rare for a horror film. The Others stars Nicole Kidman as Grace Stewart, a mother of two children with a rare disease that makes them incredibly sensitive to sunlight. The family lives in their remote house in the wake of World War II with their servants — but Grace soon realizes there may be mysterious “others” living among them. Curious happenings occur around the house, and the children report seeing shadows around the house, including a child named Victor. The suspense escalates, until Grace ultimately makes a chilling discovery about the inhabitants of the house.
John Carpenter’s remake of the 1960 film of the same name, is a largely faithful adaptation of the original creepy science fiction thriller. Village of the Damned follows a sleepy, coastal Californian town called Midwich, which one day suffers an inexplicable “black out” in which all of its inhabitants lose consciousness at the same time. A short time later, the townspeople discover ten women are mysteriously pregnant, including a virgin girl. All of the babies are born on the same night in a barn, five boys and five girls — but one of the girls is stillborn.
As the children grow up, they develop pale skin, white blonde hair, and intelligence far beyond their years. They seem to act as one unit, and before long develop psychic powers that threaten the town. It’s not long before the citizens try to dispense with the creepy hive-mind children — but how do you get rid of an enemy that can always see you coming? There are some gruesome moments in this flick, but they’re mostly self-inflicted, as the kids use their psychic powers to make their enemies turn their weapons against themselves.
Watch The Village of the Damned now on amc.com, the AMC apps for mobile and devices, and AMC+ through Halloween.
The Wicker Man (1973)
The Wicker Man is a particularly British cult classic, starring Edward Woodward as Sergeant Neil Howie. Howie is tasked with investigating the disappearance of a young girl, Rowan Morrison, on a remote island. There, he meets the locals, who have completely adopted paganism and openly pay homage to Celtic gods and goddesses, which disturbs Howie, who is an uptight, devout Catholic.
Christopher Lee plays Lord Summerisle, the island’s eccentric leader, who leads the island’s inhabitants in ceremony and celebration. Howie finds more clues about Rowan’s disappearance and possible death, leading him down a dark rabbit hole of bizarre incongruencies in the island’s happy façade. Screenwriter Anthony Shaffer deliberately strived to create a horror movie with a minimum of violence and gore, but the movie is still deeply disturbing without unsightly viscera. It won the 1978 Saturn Award for Best Horror Film, and its final scene still ranks as one of the scariest moments in film.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The 1999 “found footage” horror film The Blair Witch Project took audiences by storm when it premiered after a promotional campaign that actively positioned the movie as being based on real events. In fact, thousands genuinely believed the film’s events actually happened. In the movie, three film students set out to make a documentary in rural Maryland about a local legend called the Blair Witch. As their investigation takes them deep into the woods, unsettling events occur around them, putting the students on edge and convincing them that they are the Blair Witch’s next victims. While there isn’t onscreen violence, there’s a considerable amount of deeply chilling screaming about events happening offscreen. After all, The Blair Witch Project is a testament to the fact that sometimes, the scariest things are those we never see.
The Orphanage (2007)
Spanish filmmaker J.A. Bayona premiered his Spanish supernatural horror film The Orphanage at the Cannes Film Festival, where it received a standing ovation for 10 minutes. The film went on to become internationally critically acclaimed, and was noted among horror fans as being unnerving and scary without relying on cheap jump scares. The film follows Laura, who has returned to the now-closed orphanage of which she was a resident in her childhood. She plans to remodel and reopen the orphanage as a facility for disabled children, but soon events inside the eerie building start to get spooky (of course). Her son Simón tells Laura that he’s made a new friend inside the walls of the orphanage: another child wearing a sack mask. Things take a dark turn when Simón suddenly goes missing. While there isn’t on-screen violence here, be forewarned: someone does get struck by a bus.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
Paranormal Activity is another found-footage sensation, chronicling the nights of a young couple, Kate and Micah, in their home. Kate is convinced they’re being haunted by a supernatural presence. They set up security cameras throughout their home to capture the strange phenomena happening at night. A visit from a famous psychic “confirms” that Katie is being haunted by a demon, and that it’s important she not communicate with it in any way. Micah, of course, remains unconvinced. There is unfortunate Ouijia board usage — and the unsettling happenings in the home start to escalate. Paranormal Activity is a slow burn scare that capitalizes on the tension and dread that come from waiting in silence.
The Woman in Black (2012)
The Woman in Black is a gothic horror ghost story starring Daniel Radcliffe—it’s his first movie after closing the chapter on his work on the Harry Potter films. Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipp, a lawyer in the early 1900s who’s tasked with retrieving documents by the late owner of a desolate, abandoned estate in a remote marshland. The local villagers are bent on keeping Arthur away, but he continues on to the house, which is about as creepy as one would expect an old abandoned mansion to be. Spooky noises, a bolted nursery door, and the floating shape of a spectral woman in black build the film’s tension. Soon, the villagers start experiencing unexplained deaths — the children are all being goaded into killing themselves by “the woman in black.” When Arthur realizes his son is the ghost’s next victim, he races to remove the curse on the manor.
The Possession (2012)
AMC alum Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars in this creepy supernatural horror film that follows a family whose young daughter, Emily, buys a mysterious wooden box at a yard sale. When Emily hears whispering coming from the box, she opens it and slowly becomes possessed by the spirits inside. Her behavior turns aggressive and erratic. When it’s clear they’re in over their head, the family tries to find out the truth about the box and the spirit inside, before they lose their daughter to the malevolent spirit forever.
In this supernatural possession thriller starring Anthony Hopkins, young seminary student Michal Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue of Once Upon A Time) is at first hesitant in his path to becoming a priest. He learns that there’s been a rise in demonic possessions every year, and the Church is actively looking for more exorcists. Despite his hesitation about the priesthood, Michael heads to the Vatican for formal exorcism training, where he meets Father Lucas (Hopkins). When Michael shadows Father Lucas’s attempts to exorcise a young girl, the movie starts to pop off into creepy territory — especially when the strange supernatural behaviors start to manifest in Father Lucas as well.
Watch The Rite now on amc.com, the AMC apps for mobile and devices, and AMC+ through Halloween.
In M. Night Shyamalan’s near “bottle-style” horror movie, five strangers are trapped in an elevator — and the Devil is on the loose. Strange happenings in and around the elevator set all of it’s prisoners on edge, and slowly those trapped inside start turning on each other. Especially when the deaths start. The lights flicker at certain intervals in the elevator, and when there’s a blackout, the elevator’s inhabitants discover a new death when the lights turn back on. It’s a race against time to discover who among them is a demon in disguise.
Want even more horror movies? AMC’s annual horror movie spectacular, FearFest is underway now, all through October until Halloween. Check the on-air schedule here, and see what’s streaming here on amc.com, the AMC apps and AMC+, the company’s premium subscription bundle (currently available to Comcast Xfinity, DISH and Sling TV customers).
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