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4 Gore-Free Horror Movies to Reign in Spooky Season

By Ari H on December 8, 2023

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For me, fall always means good books, scary movies, midterms, and great food! As an avid horror movie fan, I know that blood and guts deter a lot of people from the genre, but there are plenty of great movies without gore so that even the most squeamish can get their scream on! Here are 4 of my favorites!

1. Coraline (2009)

By virtue of being a children’s movie, Coraline is completely free of vile viscera, but still packs a powerful punch for its scare factor. It’s a beautifully crafted stop-motion film from Laika Studios based on Neil Gaiman’s novella.

The film follows Coraline Jones, an 11-year-old girl who has just moved into the Pink Palace apartments. Feeling lonely, bored, and neglected by her parents, Coraline is left to her own devices to explore her new home, where she discovers a secret door behind the wallpaper. Late at night, Coraline crosses through the door into an idyllic world with her Other Mother, an attentive, caring version of Coraline’s real mother. As she explores the world, Coraline learns that all of her neighbors and friends have Others, all of whom lived idealized versions of their lives...or so it seems. Coraline learns from ghost children in the Other World that the Other Mother, known as the Beldam, lures unhappy children to her Other World, where she sews buttons in their eyes and devours their souls. Coraline is her newest pursuit, and the Beldam has captured her parents to get the girl truly alone. As a result, Coraline must beat the Beldam at her own game to save the souls of the ghost children, get her parents back, and save herself.

With just a 100-minute runtime, Coraline is fast, funny, suspenseful, action-packed, and family-friendly!

2. Lake Mungo (2010)

This Australian horror film uses “mockumentary” style cinematography to convey the story of a family of a teenage girl, Alice Palmer, coming to terms with her untimely death by drowning in the titular Lake Mungo. In the interest of forgoing major spoilers, because the movie relies heavily on suspense and the unknown for its scares, I cannot summarize the film beyond that.

According to Wikipedia, writer/director Joel Anderson has said “I don't think it's a supernatural thriller. I think it's meant to be an exploration of grief.” This suspenseful and dramatic film runs at just 88 minutes, and may not be as suitable for younger children, but is perfect for parties, movie nights, and solo watching.

3. Mama (2013)

This entry is absolutely not suitable for children under age 13. Mama is a feature length film based on the 2008 Argentine short film. Directed by Andy Muschietti, Mama tells the story of two young girls, Lily and Victoria, whose father committed suicide after the 2008 financial crisis and hoped to spare his daughter a lifetime of hardship bestowing the same fate upon them. The two girls, however, were saved by a shadowy figure, whom they call Mama.

Lily and Victoria are discovered 5 years later, after being raised by Mama in complete isolation, and left in the care of their father’s twin brother Lucas and his girlfriend Annabel (played by Jessica Chastain). After an attack from Mama leaves Lucas in a coma, Annabel is left to reintroduce Lily and Victoria to society. Victoria, the older of the two girls, adjusts quickly and grows closer with Annabel, while Lily, who was only one year old when Mama found her, remains feral and deeply attached to Mama.

Annabel is left to fight with Mama to care for the girls and although Victoria is prepared to stay with Annabel and outgrow her feral state, Lily refuses and chooses to stay with Mama, and joins her in the afterlife. Victoria is left with Annabel and Lucas.

It is worth noting that though this movie is technically gore-free, it has themes and imagery that may be mildly disturbing, so I would approach with caution. This 100-minute film is a quick watch and a fun, tense, eerie experience that brings all of the best parts of horror without any of the blood.

4. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

This remake of a classic vampire tale doubles as a foreign language feature, as the film is available in both English and German. Nosferatu follows Jonathan Harker, a German real estate agent in 1850, who travels to Count Dracula’s castle in Transylvania to close a lucrative deal with the count on a property in Wismar, Germany. Harker stops at a village during his four-week voyage, where the locals warn of the tales of Count Dracula and his vampirism, which he dismisses as superstition until he arrives at the castle. He discovers Dracula asleep in a coffin, confirming to Harker that he is indeed a vampire. However, this revelation occurs just before Dracula is enchanted by Harker's wife, Lucy, and swiftly begins his journey to Wismar. His employer, Renfield has gone insane in Wismar and Lucy has been plagued by night terrors. After his arrival triggers a plague in Wismar and leaves Harker imprisoned at the Dracula estate, Harker, Lucy, a team of doctors, and other allies must work together to both end the plague and defeat the sinister Count Dracula.

This film is a remake of the 1922 silent film and because of film regulations and its commitment to the original story, it uses classic suspense, ambience, compelling visuals, and a killer soundtrack to bring hair-raising fear to viewers.

Truthfully, these are just my top 4 movies to share with my more squeamish friends, but there are plenty of other approachable movies and gateways into the horror genre. I recommend Random Number Generator Horror Podcast Number 9, which releases weekly episodes of randomly selected horror films and rates them for gore, approachability, and quality while summarizing the film and creating a deeply entertaining dialogue about the horror genre. Happy watching!

Thank you Sharon V for editing this article! peer tutoring, for free.


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