8 Mild Horror Films With Great Stories And Less Jump Scares
Horror films aren’t for everyone, it’s safe to say. Those that enjoy them do so passionately, but they are an acquired taste, as being afraid is not something every moviegoer wants to experience when they sit down in a theatre or in their home room.
As a result, the eight films that follow can be classified as “light horror.” They either incorporate horror aspects into other, less horrific genres, or have a comic tone that makes the terror more bearable. Some may not consider any of these films to be horror, and seasoned horror enthusiasts may scoff at the thought that any of them are even remotely linked to horror… but this list isn’t for them. If you’re easily terrified or despise horror films but still want a taste of what they’re about, the following films could provide satisfying (and only mildly unsettling) viewing experiences.
Beetlejuice can’t help but be spooky because it was directed by Tim Burton. It’s a strange story about two newly-created ghosts who go to great efforts to frighten a living family out of their old house, which they want to live in peacefully even after death.
While this film is about ghosts, death, the afterlife, and being haunted, it is comparatively lightly disturbing images. It contains exactly the appropriate amount of light scares for anyone who prefers their horror light, and it focuses on comedy, which Beetlejuice undoubtedly belongs to – certainly more so than horror.
‘Braindead’/Dead Alive’ (1992)
Peter Jackson’s debut film, Braindead (also known as Dead Alive), was released years before the blockbusters of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. It’s a notably graphic zombie film about a small New Zealand town infected with a virus that turns the residents into flesh-eating zombies, and one man’s desperate fight for survival.
Thankfully, the graphic violence and gallons of blood are all presented in a lighthearted manner. It’s still a little gross in places (one scene in particular may make you never want to eat custard again), but the gore is more funny than gratuitous. Braindead isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s a wonderful viewing for anyone looking for a light-hearted zombie film.
‘Evil Dead II’ (1987)
For horror lovers, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films comprise a famous trilogy. While the first is a truly tense and unexpectedly non-goofy horror film, and the third is a terrific slapstick medieval fantasy/comedy with little to no horror components, Evil Dead II brilliantly straddles the horror-comedy divide. It’s also one of the few sequels to a horror film that’s on par with the original.
As a result, it’s an excellent film for someone terrified of… well, being terrified. The ratio of goofy physical comedy/one-liners to over-the-top, gruesome horror is about 50/50, and the comedy serves to make the horror elements far more digestible for anyone sensitive to on-screen fright.
Even by today’s standards, Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous film (well, maybe before one of his films dethroned Citizen Kane in the prestigious Sight & Sound Poll back in 2012) is still very scary. It has a scary atmosphere and several disturbing situations, and it stars Norman Bates, one of the most famous and unsettling villains of all time.
What makes you think it’ll be okay for those who don’t like horror? More violent films have followed in its footsteps, and many of the film’s most iconic and horrifying scenes have become so well-known that they no longer shock or surprise. That may be a little harsh on Psycho, but that’s what happens when a film’s name precedes it…
Saw is a tense film that definitely qualifies as a horror flick. It may not be ideal watching for all horror fans who prefer their scares to be light, but there are a few key reasons why it’s less full-on and perhaps even a touch less awful than some reluctant moviegoers may believe.
It’s not quite as brutal or repulsive as its sequels, which are bloodbaths that squeamish viewers should avoid at all costs. Due to cost constraints, the first Saw is more concerned with being psychologically tense than graphically horrific. It also has aspects of the crime and thriller genres, and most of it is structured like a police procedural, with the Jigsaw Killer as the main character. This first installment could be a good watch for folks who don’t enjoy gruesome, ultra violent horror flicks if the sequels are avoided.
‘The Invisible Man’ (1933)
The Invisible Man is one of the most fun (and admittedly least scary) characters of all the legendary Universal Monsters. After an experiment gone bad, the invisible person embarks on a chaotic adventure to figure out how to make himself visible again, with the side effects of his invisibility driving his mind and psychological well-being more into disarray.
The Invisible Man is just entertaining to watch, with a concentration on science fiction (and possibly comedy) rather than terror. Still, it has the feel of classic black-and-white horror pictures from the 1930s, with a slightly lighter tone and a faster pace (in comparison to many other Universal Monster films), all of which add up to good entertainment.
‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (1991)
The Silence of the Lambs is a modern classic that focuses on the uneasy relationship between legendary serial murderer Hannibal Lecter and FBI agent Clarice Starling, who needs Lecter’s help in tracking down another serial killer at large nicknamed Buffalo Bill, 30 years after its release.
Yes, The Silence of the Lambs is arguably more of a criminal thriller than a horror film, but it does deal with some gruesome themes, and two of its key characters might feature in their own slasher movie. It does, however, ramp up the horror in the second half, with sequences like Lecter’s attempted escape and Clarice Starling encountering Buffalo Bill. For those who aren’t huge on horror, it’s the right blend of thrills and scares.
‘Young Frankenstein’ (1974)
Young Frankenstein is a lighthearted take/spoof on the well-known Frankenstein myth, as well as the famous Universal Monster pictures of the 1930s and 1940s, and is one of Mel Brooks’ most well-known films. The plot revolves around Dr. Frankenstein’s son and his efforts (and ultimately failure) to disassociate himself from his father’s infamous heritage.
Young Frankenstein faithfully recreates the look and feel of the classic Frankenstein films, but as a Mel Brooks film, the emphasis is firmly on the comedy. It’s a nice watch for anyone who doesn’t like their movies making them sleep with the lights on because it seems like a regular horror picture without necessarily being terrifying like a regular horror film.