Halloween films: 13 best horror movies that terrify without relying on gore

From The Shining and It Follows to Rosemary's Baby and The Others, it's time to stock up on pillows to hide behind

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The Independent Culture

Hallowe’en is nearly upon us and as it's a Saturday night this year, there’s no excuse not to stay up far too late, scoffing a load of popcorn and freaking out the neighbours with your screams.

Not everyone has the stomach to handle some of the bloodier horror flicks out there but that doesn’t mean you should miss out on a night of spooky fun. Here are our favourite gore-free scary movies:

The Birds (1963)


You’ll never look at the seemingly innocent bird in the same way after watching this Alfred Hitchcock classic. Based on Daphne du Maurier’s novelette, the story focuses on a town under siege by increasingly vicious flocks of birds. Most of the horror comes from suspense but there are some extremely disturbing scenes. 

The Orphanage (2007)

When a mother takes her family back to her childhood home that used to be a refuge for handicapped children, her son makes a new, invisible friend, and everything thing takes a turn for the horrifying.

The Shining (1980)

Jack Nicholson hacking at a bathroom door with an axe and screaming “Here’s Johnny!” still sends shivers down our spines. Stanley Kubrick’s take on Stephen King’s novel about a hotel caretaker who goes insane and begins to attack his wife and young son will leave you unable to sleep at night, no gore required.

The Ring (2002)

That long soaking wet hair draped over the strange girl’s face in Gore Verbinski’s supernatural flick is already iconic, but if you haven’t watch this first US remake of a Japanese horror classic, it’s time to check out the cursed videotape this Hallowe’en.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)


Roman Polanski’s 1968 film stars Mia Farrow as a mother-to-be overcome with paranoia about what her new neighbours may be plotting. Just the theme tune alone is enough to give you goosebumps. 

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Fear of the unknown is the real terror in this cult hit, made on a tiny budget and entirely ad-libbed by the actors. Viewers must use their imaginations to put images to eerie noises in this groundbreaking “found footage” movie.

The Wicker Man (1973)


Sergeant Howie goes in search of a missing girl on the remote island of Summerisle, only to find that its inhabitants have rejected Christianity and started practising a form of paganism. Dubbed ‘the Citizen Kane of horror movies’, the final burning man scene is often included in scariest film moments lists.

The Others (2001)

Nicole Kidman stars in this popular thriller about a woman who lives in a dark house with her two children, both of whom are highly sensitive to sunlight, and soon becomes convinced that its haunted.

It Follows (2014)


College student Jay is followed by a supernatural force after being cursed by having sex with her boyfriend in his car. If the mysterious entity, pursuing her at walking pace, catches her then she will be murdered. It’s a race against time, and one that will keep your heart in your mouth.

Funny Games (1997)

Violence takes place off screen in this gore-free but extremely disturbing film about two psychopaths who take a family hostage in a cabin and force them into playing sadistic “games” for their own entertainment. Remade shot-for-shot by the same director in 2007. 

The Babadook (2014)


A widow believes her son has behavioural problems when he starts acting strangely, but it soon turns out that he is being haunted by a creepy supernatural monster who soon possesses her, too. You can run and you can hide, but “you can’t get rid of the Babadook”. 

The Conjuring (2013)

A dark presence begins tormenting a family in their farmhouse, leaving paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine to come to their rescue. Or try to.

Insidious (2010)


When a couple’s son suddenly falls into a coma for no apparent reason it slowly becomes clear that he is now a lifeless shell for ghosts to inhabit in order to live again. Stock up on cushions to hide behind.

Have we missed out your favourite? Let us know by tweeting @IndyArts.