Halloween is coming, so here are a few of my favourite horror movies from the past dozen years that don't have sexual violence in them.
Edit: I removed Let the Right One In from the list, and replaced it with The Others.
(G) - Gore.
(FS) - Foreign language/Subtitled.
(SA) - Stupid but awesome anyway.
(?) A caution.
1. The Others
It is perfect in almost every way, and builds atmosphere and tension as much through character as through setting and circumstance. It is creepy as fuck, and has a twist at the end that not only makes perfect sense, but which only makes the movie more interesting and satisfying to watch. I watch this movie at least once a year. It is a haunted house movie that understands why haunted house movies are scary. And it understands that sadness can be so much more chilling than gore.
2. The Ring
I love The Ring. I like it better than the original Japanese version, Ringu. Don't get me wrong - Ringu is an amazing movie, and it is not often that I like a remake better than the original film, but The Ring is so much fun. It keeps the creepy elements of the original while abandoning that film's slow tension in favor of a more streamlined thriller. It then wraps this all up in a nice mix of rural America and modern day city life, gives us characters we grow to like, and balances the jump scares with some really unnervingly strange images. This movie led to a whole slew of terrible immitators and other less competent attempts to bring J-Horror to American audiences, but don't hold that against it.
3. INSIDE (G) (FS)
This movie is MESSED UP and horrifying. Two women are locked together in a house. The first is a pregnant woman who survived a recent car crash, and the second woman is trying to take the first's unborn baby from her with a pair of scissors. If you want an insane French bloodfest, look no further.
This is a zombie movie where most of the violence and action takes place in the viewer's imagination. It is shot almost entirely in a radio station, where the people trapped inside are trying to make sense of the reports they're getting from the outside world. Zombies do show up, and they're pretty gross, but they don't pass the virus on by biting people. This is a zombie virus passed on mimetically through language! This movie is a lot of fun, as long as you can look past the strange b-movie final scenes.
5. [REC] (G)(FS)
The best of the "found footage" horror movies. [REC] follows a news reporter and her cameraman on a job-shadowing assignment with some firemen. Before long they are all quarantined in an apartment complex with a quickly dwindling group of tennants. Some GREAT scares in this one. If you don't enjoy subtitles, you should check out QUARANTINE, the American remake. It is a very faithful remake, and just as good as the original I think. [REC] 2 is also well worth your time.
6. Wake Wood
This is almost more of a drama than a horror, though it is a very creepy and supernatural drama. It surprised me, because I thought I knew what kind of movie it was going to be from the synopsis. But, while it is a movie about how far two parents are willing to go to be reunited with their dead daughter, it is a much subtler take on it than Pet Semetary's theme of "Sometimes, dead is better."
7. Altered (G)
A straight-to-DVD horror movie that deserved a theatrical release, I think. It's about a group of men who were abducted when they were younger, and who have now captured one of the aliens and are trying to figure out what to do with it. It's funny and often charming and it has some good tense scenes where they struggle with their need for revenge and the knowledge of what that revenge will cost them.
8. Shaun of the Dead (G)
Good natured horror comedy about a well-meaning but selfish jerk trying to save his loved ones from an unexpected zombie apocalypse. Super fun, and often very gross. Lots of clever references both to other movies, and to other scenes within the movie itself. Fun forshadowing and visual echoing.
9. Splinter (G)
Another straight-to-DVD horror movie. Splinter takes place entirely in a gas station convenience store, where the characters find themselves trapped by some pretty insane looking monsters. The practical special effects in this movie are awesome, and it is plenty gross. I really enjoyed it.
10. Ruins (G) (SA)
Ruins was much more interesting and intelligent and CREEPY than I expected. And even when it starts getting stupider in the final 3rd of the movie, it's still a heck of a ride!
11. Thir13en Ghosts (G) (SA) (?)
Thirteen Ghosts is a movie in the true spirit of the William Castle original. It's totally more of a ride than a story. The big crazy mechanical house is a mechanism for moving the characters from one encounter to the next, and it moves us along with it. The alive people on screen are almost exclusively boring and obnoxious (with the exception of Matthew Lillard who is perfectly in his element here as a scenery chewing depraved psychic ghost hunting pillhead), but the ghosts are wonderful. The filmmakers put every bit of their love and care into the set design and the monster design, and as a showcase for those the movie is perfect. It's like a really interesting silent movie with the music replaced by idiotic dialogue. (?) The nude female ghost is implied to have killed herself, and cutting is almost implied - but in the most ridiculous cartoony way imaginable.
12. Amityville Horror (remake) (SA)
I should say first that I found the original Amityville Horror kind of stupid and boring. I really enjoyed this remake, even though it isn't really anything to write home about. It was well made, and Ryan Reynolds is charming and unexpectedly effective when he turns that charm off. There are also some great popcorn-horror weird scary scenes.
13. Behind the Mask: the rise of Leslie Vernon (G)
This was a fun faux-documentary style movie that turns into a more genuine horror movie at the end (which is the weakest part, I think.) The idea of ambitious journalists who are unsure how far to go in search of their story about a real life slasher is an interesting one. The killer himself is charming and candid in the behind the scenes parts, complaining about how much cardio he has to do and things. It's fun.