You don't need blood to produce a sense of dread and gut-wrenching tension. The increasing amount of gore and reliance on torture porn to instill a sense of horror in horror movies has not made them scarier, just more disgusting. Three movies produced by Val Lewton contain three scenes that reveal the simple reality that dread and tension can be created and maintained without so much as a drop of blood, much less an exploding body. And each of the scenes revolve around nothing more out of the ordinary than women walking.
One woman is creepy and European and exotic and can probably turn into a raging feline and the other is cornfed All-American. America's sweetheart just wants to get to the bus stop but gets the feeling that she is being followed. Val Lewton made his mark in horror with "Cat People" and one of the most famous scenes of bloodless horror requires nothing more than an obvious set, carefully place lighting, effective use of shadows, perfect editing, the sound effects of high heels and great acting. And to top it off the big scare arrives not with torn flesh or gore, but the sound of a growling cat turning out to be…well, watch for yourself.
I Walked with a Zombie
A nurse arrives to care for a woman who may or may not have been turned into a zombie. Believing that zombification has taken place, the nurse arranges for a late night getaway to the voodoo high and mightiest on the island who are said to have the ability to dezombify. The section of the film that gives "I Walked with a Zombie" its name is not particularly terrifying, but it shows how lighting, a few sound effects and the peculiar dread instilled by tribal drums can create more tension than obvious set-ups leading to a boo-gotcha moment.
The Leopard Man
The third Val Lewton horror/thriller/suspense film to derive dread and create tension merely through the act of locomotion is "The Leopard Man." And the best is saved for last. "The Leopard Man" is a misleading title: it's really about an escaped leopard creating panic in a small Mexican town. The section involving nothing more mundane than a young woman walking home in a village known to be at risk for a leopard attack could not be brilliantly pulled off. Unlike "Cat People" where the beat is never actually revealed, the big cat at the heart of the matter is not only revealed, but in a spectacular manner.