When Halloween movie marathons roll around every October, we have to wonder: When did gratuitous gore become the norm for scary movies? How did carnage get conflated with creepy? And what exactly is it about blood and guts that's supposed to be so terrifying, anyway?
We decided to dig up the most frightening gore-free films we could find. And you know what we discovered? When you strip away shock-value violence from the genre, an impressive trove of genuinely well-made fright-fests remain. These scary films range from seminal classics like Rosemary's Baby to more modern fare like Paranormal Activity. (That's right, folks, there's more to modern horror than Saw!) Packed with psychological thrills and masterful suspense sequences, these films are bloodcurdling, not blood-filled. (We can’t promise they won’t make you queasy, though. A truly terrifying film will do that to you, anyway.)