If you think of the horror movie genre, the first thing you probably imagine would be a masked maniac dismembering some poor horny teen deep in the woods or some freaky ghost twisting its victim’s head and limbs and popping them like a blood-filled balloon. The point is: horror movies have a lot of death on the screen to keep the viewers entertained. But not all scary movies are like that.
Here are eight excellent horror films where nobody dies.
1 Swallow (2019)
Hunter, played by Haley Bennett, is a soon-to-be mother with the weirdest food cravings. She starts eating small balls and buttons scattered around the house and ends with sharp pins and needles. This incredibly uncomfortable film is not meant to scare the viewer with an abundance of violence and death but, on the contrary, with stomach-churning physical horror.
2 The Babadook (2014)
The Babadook tells the story of the problematic relationship between a single mother, her son, and a creepy creature, which may or may not be real. Despite many episodes of domestic violence, there wasn’t a single death on the screen. Surprisingly, the family deals with the paranormal monster by locking it in the basement, after which they can live a “normal” life.
3 Poltergeist (1982)
You could expect anything from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper, but probably not a harmless family horror movie about a ghost. The film felt more like an edgy amusement park where gallons of blood were replaced by fantastic make-up. In the 80s, when slashers were a hot commodity, this PG horror became a real godsend for those who went to the movies with children.
4 1408 (2007)
Writer Mike Enslin, played by John Cusack, checks into an ill-fated suite at the Dolphin Hotel, where hordes of spirits are rumored to dwell. At first, the skeptic author does not believe in the curse cast upon this place, but as soon as the phantoms pay him a visit, he has no other option than to deal with them face to face. This screen adaptation of Stephen King’s novel completely smooths out the depressing ending, leaving Mike scared and bruised but still alive.
5 The Green Knight (2021)
When it comes to fantasy movies about knights, we always imagine sword fights and bloody duels, but the Green Knight manages to turn a medieval poem into a touching aesthetic masterpiece with ghosts, a talking fox, and forest spirits. The adventures of Gawain are as creepy as they are meaningful. Even more surprising, the movie doesn’t technically kill anyone, even when the antagonist’s head is cut off.
6 Piercing (2018)
Choosing a novel by Ryu Murakami, where the number of corpses is disproportionate to the number of heroes, is truly a tall order. And yet Nicholas Pesch succeeded. In The Piercing, a regular family man Reed, played by Christopher Abbott, is messed up in the head and can’t wait to kill and dismember someone. One day he goes hunting and finds the perfect candidate – sex worker Jackie, played by Mia Wasikowska. That’s when the plot is flipped on its head, and the hunter becomes the hunted. The Piercing has really disturbing and gory scenes, but oddly enough, nobody dies.
7 The Conjuring 2 (2016)
James Wan’s films often land on the scariest horror movie lists, but the Conjuring is one of the more tame franchises that manages to scare the viewer without killing a single character aside from the poor doggy in part one. In the second movie, Wan turned that number down to zero. Yes, it’s still a jumpscare fest, but hey, they can’t all be hardcore.
8 Signs (2002)
This classic Shyamalan film starring Mel Gibson is the most biblical allegory about faith. After the death of his wife, the priest becomes disillusioned with his vocation. But when aliens land on the farm, he rethinks the essence of divine providence. The movie also feels like one of Alfred Hitchcock’s thrillers, and he preferred to leave horror vague because the human imagination can make up much scarier monsters than CGI.