Scare me!
March 3, 2009 8:15 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I watched "Them" or "Ils"(the French title) this weekend and loved it. We're looking for other horror/suspense movies that aren't TOO heavy on gore, but have great atmosphere or are outstanding in some other way. We've also enjoyed Suspiria and The Vanishing (Spoorloos). Any ideas for other movies (foreign or not) that we should check out?
posted by odayoday to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (52 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
The Devil's Backbone
posted by Dr-Baa at 8:23 AM on March 3, 2009

You'd probably love Michael Haneke's films - I've not seen all of them, but (both versions of) FUNNY GAMES remind me of ILS and CACHE has a similar feel to (the original of) THE VANISHING.
posted by moxiedoll at 8:25 AM on March 3, 2009

The Haunting.
The 1963 version, obvs.
posted by roger ackroyd at 8:32 AM on March 3, 2009

I just came in here to recommend the two films moxiedoll did!

Along the home invasion front, check out David Fincher's underrated Panic Room.
posted by mkultra at 8:40 AM on March 3, 2009

The Orphanage (or El Orfanato) - the scariest film I have ever seen.
posted by malpractice at 8:40 AM on March 3, 2009

El Orfanato (The Orphanage) has one or two gory scenes but is mostly bloodless. Very scary though.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and recommend Shaun of the Dead. Very gory, but has great atmosphere, and really funny.

I've heard good things about Ginger Snaps.
posted by Ziggy500 at 8:41 AM on March 3, 2009

Let The Right One In - Atmospheric Swedish vampire film.

[REC] - Spanish Blair Witch-esque shakycam film.

Links go to the trailers.
posted by afx237vi at 8:43 AM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

2008's The Strangers
posted by tylerfulltilt at 8:49 AM on March 3, 2009

I recommend The Devil's Backbone and A Tale of Two Sisters. The latter is especially creepy without tons of on-screen gore.

I can also second Haneke as a director. Funny Games(I've only seen the original German-language version) has very little on-screen violence and less gore, but can be severely nerve wracking. The movie does a few things that can really piss a person off, though. Benny's Video and Cache both have great atmosphere and suspense.
posted by owtytrof at 8:50 AM on March 3, 2009

There's also John Carpenter's vastly underrated In The Mouth of Madness
posted by tylerfulltilt at 8:50 AM on March 3, 2009

Well as long as someone's already mentioned Susperia and Shaun of the Dead, I'll go ahead and throw out Dellamorte Dellamore (or The Cemetery Man), recommended as a really entertaining, offbeat, comedic horror/gore flick starring a dashing pre-out Rupert Everett. The director, Michele Soavi, was a student of Argento, Bava, and Modungo, among others.
posted by carsonb at 9:03 AM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Joon-Ho Bong's The Host. Mutated monster flick. Even terrible dubbing on the version I watched couldn't ruin the director's undeniable style and sense of humour.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 9:09 AM on March 3, 2009

Nthing The Devil's Backbone and The Orphanage

The Ring
The Others
The Sixth Sense
13 Ghosts

I'm also going to go out on a limb and say Sunshine. It's not billed as a horror movie, but I think it really is.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:12 AM on March 3, 2009

Ginger Snaps is a fun film, but I wouldnt categorize it as "atmospheric". It's more like "Heathers" only with werewolves. However, there are three Ginger Snaps films and the third one is basically a remake of the first set in the 19th Century. More scenery and atmosphere in that one.
posted by elendil71 at 9:16 AM on March 3, 2009

Oh yes. The Devil's Backbone (isn't it the same team that did the Orphanage? which I also loved)! I also recommend Paperhouse. Very tense. Scared me for weeks.

My "go out on a limb" recommendation is The Exorcist III (Legion). Incredible performances by, well, just about everyone, but particularly the relationship between Kinderman the cop (George C Scott) and Father Dyer (Ed Flanders). One or two moments of gore, but mostly just creeps and scares. I love it.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:16 AM on March 3, 2009

Kiyoshi Kurosawa films, specifically Cure. It's on the more psychological side of J-horror, and is quite well done.
posted by iwhitney at 9:18 AM on March 3, 2009

Well, I'm not sure what to recommend, since you say "not too heavy on gore" but then mention Suspiria, which I would classify as pretty heavy on gore. For a start, since you liked Suspiria, I'd recommend Dario Argento's other classics: Deep Red and Tenebre. If you dig atmosphere, you can't beat Italian giallo horror. Black gloves, straight razors, and 70s synth-rock. If you like those, I'd recommend checking out the work of Lucio Fulci, but all his films are really, really heavy on gore. The Beyond is very near the top of my all-time list, but that is definitely not a movie I'd recommend to someone with an aversion to gore. What movies have you seen that you'd call "too heavy on gore"? That way we can give you better recommendations.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:22 AM on March 3, 2009

The Abandoned, a UK/Russian horror film. Creepy stuff.
posted by Beardman at 9:24 AM on March 3, 2009

The Kingdom. Lars von Trier's TV miniseries that takes place in a 'haunted' hospital is long on chilly atmosphere and short on gore (of the non-medical kind). Available on DVD in the US (though watch out for the American adaptation "Kingdom Hospital," which is substantially worse). Its fabulous.
posted by googly at 9:28 AM on March 3, 2009

Response by poster: Great recommendations!

To clarify, I guess I meant "not too much realistic gore." Suspiria was definitely gory, but it wasn't terribly disturbing because it was so over the top. Things like graphic torture or slow mutilation (even things like the interrogation scenes in Pan's Labyrinth) can be a bit much for me at times. It's not an exact science though, so when in doubt just throw it out there.
posted by odayoday at 9:28 AM on March 3, 2009

Not exactly horror genre, but a great psychological thriller is 13 Tzameti.
posted by jrchaplin at 9:50 AM on March 3, 2009

My roommate and I enjoyed Session 9. Very atmospheric...the kind of movie where a wheelchair in the corner of a room is 1000 times scarier than a chainsaw-wielding maniac.

There is a scene with a lobotomy pic that is pretty intense but that's it in terms of gore.
posted by Diskeater at 9:59 AM on March 3, 2009

No scary, but French and creepy - Crimson River (Les Revieres pourpres). no accent marks, sorry.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:01 AM on March 3, 2009

The Ring

Of course! Creeeeeeeeepy.

Also, have you seen much David Lynch? Eraserhead is pretty much atmosphere at the expense of everything else, but it's got it in spades. Blue Velvet is more of a "straightforward" movie, but very very unsettling.
posted by mkultra at 10:05 AM on March 3, 2009

The Orphanage++

So nice to see a horror/suspense movie that was an actual film and not just scary crap jumping out at you.
posted by mincus at 10:06 AM on March 3, 2009

For something unbelievably tense-making and suspenseful, watch Hard Candy. Only movie I've ever started again the moment it ended, because I just couldn't believe that I'd seen what I'd seen. Just try to avoid reading anything about it, as much as you can.
posted by amelioration at 10:09 AM on March 3, 2009

nthing Let the Right One In and The Others
posted by spec80 at 10:09 AM on March 3, 2009

Oh, and I might add Jacob's Ladder. Not exactly a horror film, but very moody, with some terrifying imagery and a distinctive visual style. Damn good film too.
posted by elendil71 at 10:10 AM on March 3, 2009

The Company of Wolves
posted by Ultra Laser at 10:11 AM on March 3, 2009

Nobody's recommended The Changeling yet? Absolutely fantastic zero-gore horror movie.
posted by Shepherd at 10:15 AM on March 3, 2009

I've been watching a lot of Asian horror films lately (thanks to this FPP, which is a good way to see all of the films I'm listing here for free), and a lot of those films are atmospheric and creepy rather than disturbing and gory. I tend to have a high tolerance for gore though so your mileage may vary.

Karaoke Terror
Two groups of karaoke enthusiasts (one consists of middle-aged women, the other is made up of young males) participate in a feud that doesn't end well. Not much gore at all, and also not very disturbing, at least in the normal horror movie sense. I would actually label it as more of a black comedy in the vein of Very Bad Things rather than a traditional horror film, and it features some odd social commentary about both groups.

Battle Royale
A class full of teenagers get sent to an island to fight it out Thunderdome style. I wouldn't have included this except that it seems that you only dislike disturbing realistic gore, and this film has tons of cartoony over-the-top violence. It also in my opinion has some very good characters and plot events that help it rise above being a pointless murderfest.

A group of South Korean soldiers investigate a distress call and end up setting up camp in a spooky abandoned mansion (which turns out to be a bad idea). Not much more gore than your average war movie. Although a lot of the aspects of the film are cliché (another ghost girl with long, black hair), it has a lot of genuinely creepy moments and an interesting set of characters.

Suicide Club
A detective tries to make sense of a strange suicide epidemic in Japan, which may have ties to a mysterious web site. There are a few disturbing gory scenes in the film, which might be enough for me to not actually recommend it to you, but I had to mention this film because of how strange and thought provoking it is. A lot of the film is social commentary about youth culture, and overall it feels more like a David Lynch film than a normal horror movie. Worth seeing just for the extremely creepy school rooftop scene, and the completely insane David Bowie-esque performance half-way through the film.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:37 AM on March 3, 2009

No one has mentioned The Machinist, which is an amazing suspense movie. The Descent was a bit more gory than you might like but it was very good. I loved Ils, btw.

You should go back and try some old Hitchcock too, I'm thinking you'd really enjoy Rebecca.

Jacobs Ladder sucked, and so did Let the Right One In and The Host, but Devils Backbone is incredible, and so is The Orphanage.

Kwaidan is a japanese classic. You might also enjoy the japanese grudge: Ju-On which scared the shit out of me but wasn't very gory.

Blue Velvet.
posted by Large Marge at 10:53 AM on March 3, 2009

Gadkie Lebedi (translated as The Ugly Swans, though I think The Disgusting Swans is a bit more accurate.)

No gore at all, but very very scary in a heartbreaking sort of way.
posted by lolichka at 11:11 AM on March 3, 2009

Don't Look Now with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, directed by N. Roeg.

If you can get past your expectations, the original Japanese release of "Gojira" (Godzilla to us) without Raymond Burr, is really creepy and sad.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 11:15 AM on March 3, 2009

Don't let its age fool you, the original Halloween is definitely worth a look. Where many of its sequels, the Friday the 13th movies, and subsequent franchises are gorefests, this one was definitely all about generating suspense.
posted by cali59 at 12:06 PM on March 3, 2009

Going to second/third/fourth a few films:

* Definitely Session 9. That movie was full of suspense through its entire length, and by the end I was so... squeezed like a sponge emotionally, would be the best way to put it, that I couldn't stop thinking about the film for a long time.

* [REC] was exhilirating, too. Not too much gore, but big on the scare factor - especially at the end. Ooooh man that was satisfyingly horrifying.

* The Orphanage was fantastic. The pace kept me consistently on the edge of my seat.

* Sunshine is really worth watching. Surprisingly good for a sci-fi thriller, with great acting.


* The Descent is set in an environment perfect for chills. Slight gore warning.

I didn't like Let The Right One In. I felt like it was a little pretentious, and frankly I didn't feel frightened or pumped up at any point during the movie. It plays more like a drama than a horror, so maybe I was watching it with the wrong mentality/expectations. My friends rave about it, but it's definitely not a scary movie. The presence of vampires does not a horror make. (However, 30 Days Of Night is my favorite vampire movie ever - it has that satisfying-adrenaline-holy-crap-I'm-scared value. Stuck in a tiny Alaskan town without daylight for 30 days? Hell yeah. Though there might be too much gore for what you're searching for, I'd still recommend it for the atmosphere.)
posted by Bakuun at 12:23 PM on March 3, 2009

The Innocents and The Haunting (the original version) are two awesome B&W films which give me chills just thinking about...
posted by Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific at 12:27 PM on March 3, 2009

Yes, The Abandoned. Great little movie and very creepy. Add my vote too for The Orphanage, [REC] (skip the fucking awful remake, ugh), Sunshine, The Host, The Others, In the Mouth of Madness.

Other movies you may enjoy:
- Frailty
- The Forgotten
- Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
- The Descent
- Day Watch and Night Watch
- Cronos
- Dark Water
- The Devil's Chair
- several episodes of the TV series Masters of Horror are pretty good, in Particular John Carpenter's Cigarrette Burns is the best thing he did since ItMoM. Another curiosity there is Dreams in the Witch House, probably the best filmed adaptation of HP Lovecraft to date IMHO, and a very bleak and crushing The Damned Thing.
posted by Iosephus at 12:45 PM on March 3, 2009

French thriller: With a Friend Like Harry. Creepy.
posted by cachondeo45 at 2:14 PM on March 3, 2009

I also like suspenseful and atmospheric horror, and can't stand 'gorno' or anything icky really. This thread has so many good suggestions already, and has given me a lot to add to my own list!

I won't repeat anything but will add A Tale of Two Sisters/Janghwa, Hongryeon

...and don't forget Hitchcock (they don't call him 'the master of suspense' for nothing) and Cronenberg! Cronenberg tends to have 'body horror' stuff which I thought I'd be really squicked by (I look away at those scenes in Pan's Labyrinth, too) but it's less torture, more mutation, if that makes sense.
posted by lhall at 3:28 PM on March 3, 2009

[REC] has been recommended by a lot of you, and it's been on my "to watch" list for a long time. It never came to a nearby theater, and Netflix does not have a release date for it. How did y'all see it?
posted by Four-Eyed Girl at 4:07 PM on March 3, 2009

Four-Eyed Girl: here in Argentina it got a normal theater release, though I think it didn't last long. Unsurprisingly for our local market being a Spanish speaking country, even small Spanish movies tend to get released here regularly.
posted by Iosephus at 4:52 PM on March 3, 2009

A few more that haven't been mentioned yet-

Stir of Echoes

The Eye (Hong Kong original, I haven't seen the American remake)

Save the Green Planet! - a really brilliant Korean detective-thriller-meets-Misery story. (warning: contains torture scenes that aren't especially graphic but are nonetheless very painful to watch)
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:56 PM on March 3, 2009

M directed by Fritz Lang. Peter Lorre as a child murderer on the run from both the cops AND the criminal underworld. No gore to speak of, but very creepy.
posted by Commander Rachek at 7:08 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Cluzot's Les Diaboliques is Hitchcockian.. only better! It's all atmosphere, no gore. Be careful about spoilers, though, if you've never seen it.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:52 PM on March 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm gonna go a bit out on a limb here and recommend Hostel: Part II. The first one is great, but quite gory and not what you're looking for. The sequel, however, only has four discrete acts of violence, two of which are highly comedic, though one of which is quite graphic and OMGWOWDIDTHATJUSTHAPPEN, but it's very brief. And a great punchline. Anyway, there's a lot of smart and interesting stuff going on (half the movie is dedicated to the rich people who pay to torture unwitting tourists) regarding class and gender, and it's consistently unsettling in that way that European directors capture so well.
posted by mkultra at 9:08 PM on March 3, 2009

I'd suggest High Tension, Haute Tension in the French, because I felt that Ils was trying to be this film, and not getting anywhere near it. (Not that HT doesn't have some major flaws.)
posted by galaksit at 9:38 PM on March 3, 2009

There is a scene with a lobotomy pic that is pretty intense but that's it in terms of gore.

There's also a dude who gets his eyes gouged, IIRC. I am squeamish like the OP and I really didn't like seeing that.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:46 AM on March 4, 2009

nthing Funny Games (possibly most tense move i've ever seen) and The Strangers.
posted by theDrizzle at 11:10 AM on March 4, 2009

nthing Funny Games (possibly most tense movie i've ever seen) and The Strangers.
posted by theDrizzle at 11:10 AM on March 4, 2009

I'd recomend Brotherhood of the Wolf, but then, I'm always looking for an excuse to recomend that movie
posted by Redhush at 1:11 PM on March 4, 2009

First thing that came to mind was: Audition. I thought it was pretty scary, particularly the end sequence, just freaky. It's also pretty absurd, which it seems like to might be into (I certainly am)
posted by codybaldwin at 6:01 AM on March 6, 2009

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