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.
Best horror films of all-time
Best horror films of all-time
1/10 The Shining
The retailer play.com used a heart rate monitor on film watchers to assess what horror films set pulses racing. The ‘Here’s Johnny’ scene in which Jack Nicholson peers through a hole in a door he has just created with an axe came up on top.
The rest of the film isn’t any less scary as a writer coops his family up in an empty Colorado hotel for the winter.
Stanley Kubrick creates tension at every turn, especially when he follows Danny riding his bicycle along the corridors.
2/10 Rosemary's Baby
Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Ira Levin’s best-seller is the daddy of demon baby movies.
It involves a struggling couple, a pregnant Catholic girl and unemployed actor, played by Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes, who move into an apartment block and are befriended by Satanist.
The occult is scary, but not nearly as evil as Guy’s decision to sacrifice his wife for an acting role.
Polanski’s brilliance is that the horror is not the supernatural but the doubts that brew up in our own minds. Paranoia reigns.
There is a sense of foreboding even before petty thief Vera Miles checks into the Bates motel.
Then we are introduced to Norman Bates and his Oedipus complex.
The fact that Bates on the surface seems mild-mannered and ordinary only made his transformation scarier. Showers would never be the same, in the must iconic murder scene on celluloid.
4/10 Blue Velvet
The huge amount of film noir elements in the narrative of David Lynch’s murder tale often see this 1986 American tale overlooked on horror lists.
But this film is aimed to chill and has the aesthetics, pacing and tension of the greatest horror, including severed ears, dwarfs, and the supernatural.
But it’s Dennis Hopper’s Frank Booth that is the clincher, whenever he’s on screen, whether he’s harassing Isabelle Rossellini or encouraging singing, he’s the scariest character that has ever been on-screen.
5/10 Nosferatu - A Symphony of Horror
The granddaddy of the genre, this silent masterpiece, an unauthorised adaptation of the Dracula tale (The Stoker estate won a case ordering all copies of the film destroyed, which was thankfully unenforceable in Germany), sees director FW Murnau establish many of the touchstones of the genre including vampires lusting after blood
6/10 The Orphanage
The haunted house is a staple of horror movies, especially of American horror.
But it’s this Spanish gem from 2007 that is the scariest of them all. It starts with a mother whose attempts to deal with her childhood inner demons seeking closure by buying the orphanage in which she was born, and taking on the demands of looking after not just her own imaginative adopted son, but six other Orphans.
What ensues is an eerie homage to Jack Clayton’s The Innocents that once again proves that nothing is as scary on film as creepy children.
Lars von Trier’s says it was while he was undergoing cognitive therapy for depression that the idea to make a film exploring the semiotics and tools used by depression came to mind.
Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe play a couple coping with the death of their son.
She cannot belief his response and he hers. The result is a film featuring gender mutilation, talking foxes and where chaos reigns. Booed at Cannes only seems to cement its status.
8/10 Don't Look Now
Adaptations of Daphne du Maurier’s prose have a habit of making great horror films, especially in the hands of Alfred Hitchcock (Birds and Rebecca).
British director Nic Roeg created this masterpiece when he took Maurier’s short story and meshed it with his trademark non-linear approach to the story of parents attempting to come to terms with the death of their young daughter by moving to Venice.
Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie give career best performances in a film that has a clairvoyant, serial killer, but most scary of all, feelings of guilt.
There are not many directors who have made more horrors than Italian maestro Dario Argento. His 1976 effort Suspiria remains his masterpiece.
An American ballet dancer goes to study in the Black Forest, where she meets a pair of lesbians administrators (Alida Valli and Joan Bennett), a bizarre shrink (Udo Kier, an actor who adds to the terror level of any movie) and discovers that the school was once a notorious witches’ coven.
All this done in piercing Technicolor and a terrific synthesised score.
J-Horror (Japanese horror) went through a purple patch at the end of the 90s with Hideo Nakata’s excellent Dark Water follow Ring trilogies.
However, the most chilling film of the era was directed by Takeshi Miike, who makes films like they are cups of morning coffee.
He uses the casting couch as the source of his evil as a friend tries to find a television producer a new wife by hosting a fake casting call.
Miike slowly pulls us into the tale, as we discover dark secrets of both the widower and the actress who has caught his eye.
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.
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.
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