10 Horror Movies That Use Your Imagination Against You

Jaws proved that it's often what you don't see that scares you the most.

The Conjuring
Warner Bros.

In a genre swarming with nightmarish creatures and all kinds of visceral grotesquery, there’s plenty of horrific imagery in horror cinema for audiences to lose sleep over. From intensely sickening body horror to a collection of chillingly imaginative stories, there’s no shortage of iconic and frightening moments to be found in this genre.

When it comes to crafting the most terror, sometimes showing less (or even nothing at all) can be vastly more effective than any amount of blood can achieve.

A large part of the tension that makes films scary is rooted in the unknown. It’s not knowing where the ghost is hiding in the darkness or - arguably even scarier - not even understanding what exactly the threat is.

Typically, these moments of suspense are eventually resolved – often with a jump scare – before moving on to the next scary scene. However, it’s frequently the questions that are left unresolved that stick with viewers longer.

With no other choice but to let our imaginations fill in the blanks, these are the horrors that let us picture the terror for ourselves.

10. Jaws (1975)

The Conjuring
Universal Pictures

Nothing has the power to ruin the terror of a creature feature more than the reveal of a poorly designed monster. Whether that be wonky CGI or noticeably bad effects, when the illusion is shattered and the monster is no longer seen as a threat, all of the suspense is instantly drained from the film.

No filmmaker understood this better than Steven Spielberg when he made mammoth blockbuster Jaws – and it was all a matter of circumstance.

Originally, the mechanical shark was supposed to be a prominent presence in his film, but due to a slew of production problems as well as the rubber shark not being very intimidating, Spielberg was forced to keep the aquatic predator unseen.

Consequently, the opening scene in which we see a midnight swimmer dragged to their doom has become ingrained in the memories of everyone who’s seen this film and the reason for making many petrified of the ocean.

As we see the doomed teen violently thrashed around, all we can think about is the size and strength of whatever toothy terror has grabbed hold of them or what happened during the moments they were pulled under for the last time.


Glasgow-based cinephile who earned a Master's degree in film studies to spend their time writing about cinema, video games, and horror.