In the public consciousness, horror movies and gore go hand in hand. But despite that, some of the most beloved genre films of all time are virtually bloodless. Nobody has ever accused Poltergeist of being excessively gory. Yet the horror genre is persistently synonymous with blood and guts. Don’t get me wrong, gore can be wonderful and many, many movies have delivered a solid story while being a total bloodbath at the same time.
What we will be looking at today are those horror movies that everyone just assumes are gory, even when that’s not really the case. Whether the title suggests something sinister or the film itself became notorious for sparking controversy, these are the films that people insist are the goriest horror movies ever made. But are they really? Let’s find out.
Silence of the Lambs may be one of the all-time great movies, but it’s also pretty disturbing. There are things that still stick with us after over twenty years. Then you have Hannibal, a movie that is much more disturbing for the sake of being disturbing. The Hannibal franchise is violent down to its core and has contained some incredibly shocking scenes. Even the Hannibal TV series continues to push the envelope for what can be shown on the small screen. Yet the movie that kicked off the whole thing on screen, Manhunter, is almost completely bloodless. It doesn’t tone anything down, necessarily, but it also doesn’t really show any details of what the Tooth Fairy or even Hannibal actually do. We get what they’re capable of through their intensity, and for this particular film it works. But in spite of the fact that the film is quite reserved by comparison, people remain certain that the film is much gorier than it actually is.
Halloween kicked off the slasher craze of the early 1980’s, and so all the bloodshed of Friday the 13th, The Burning and their ilk are still associated with Halloween in the public consciousness. While many of the early slashers were great, none of them really understood that the amount of restraint shown by Halloween was precisely why it worked. All of the kills are satisfying and yet most of the blood is off-screen, it shows you just enough to have the desired effect which is a hard balance to maintain. Halloween pulled it off better than almost anything to come in its wake.
Even more than Halloween, Psycho has a reputation for being terribly disturbing. When it was released in 1960 people thought it was much, much bloodier than it was. They called it one of the most violent movies ever made but even by the standards of that time, it wasn’t. While the film is not gory compared to a lot of what we seen on the screen now, it was nonetheless incredibly controversial for quite a long time. There’s a reason that the shower scene is one of the most infamous in movie history, and a lot of it had to do with the backlash against its obscenely violent nature. In reality, the shower scene may be terrifying, but you don’t once seen the knife make contact with the skin.
At just over ten years old, Saw is a pretty recent addition to the list. But it didn’t take terribly long for this one to gain a reputation bigger than the movie itself. While it was driven into the ground over the course of seven movies, the original remains a pretty well made psychological thriller that mostly deserves credit for still being engaging when it’s mostly just two people in one room. Like Halloween, this one draws comparisons with its much more recent imitators and people just assume that if Hostel is a gore fest, Saw must be just as bad.
It is frequently hailed as one of the goriest horror movies ever made. People are sure that they see virtually everything there is to see when they watch it. Fans still go up to the cast and crew at conventions and complement them for the incredible gore effects, when there aren’t any. You don’t see anything happen in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but your brain convinces you that just about anything you can imagine is in there. That’s the brilliance of the movie, that’s a large part of why it is still going strong after forty years and why it remains one of the most compelling horror films ever made.