Who the heck told you there was only one good time a year to watch horror films? Huh? Where are they? Let me at ‘em! *dances around with her fists in the air like an idiot*
I’m here to give you another delicious list of fabulous films to excite you and also quench my undying thirst for spreading bloody gore as far and wide as I possibly can, you know, in the name of film education. Today, I’m listing 10 international horrors that will scare the pants off you and haunt your dreams.
Now, I don’t know how many of you dear readers actually watch or enjoy foreign films. Let this be a nice, frightening step in the right direction for you. Lately, foreign films have gained more notoriety in Hollywood as being not only the inspiration for some of our biggest blockbusters, but also, more recently, foreign language films have even been getting huge cinematic releases in English-speaking countries right alongside the other cinematic treasures in our mother tongue. Heck yes to broadening our horizons! Heck yes to exploring different cultures! Heck yes to a whole new world of urban myths and ghost stories! So, without further ado, let’s open Pandora’s box, shall we?
Don’t worry, having to read subtitles won’t make some of these films any less scary. In fact, more often than not you’ll find that not being able to understand someone’s blood-curdling screams is even more unsettling.
[Rec] (2007) — Spain
A young news reporter and her team, who are covering the night shift at the Barcelona Fire Department, get swept up in a horrific fight for their lives after the team responds to a call from an elderly woman trapped in her apartment. This whole film is seen through the news camera; we are basically watching every horrific thing play out in real time through the eyes of the cameraman, and this is what makes [Rec] so utterly terrifying.
If you’re into horror movies at all, there’s a high chance you’ve seen this one, or at least heard of it. Hollywood produced an incredibly mediocre remake called Quarantine, which I absolutely do not recommend, but [Rec] is the “found footage” — or, rather, “first-person footage” horror film we were all waiting for and is yet to be topped. Jump scares are aplenty, so grab yourself a spare pair of pants and make sure there’s nothing breakable within arms’ reach. (A glass of wine made contact with my elbow whilst watching this film… so…)
Audition (1999) — Japan
Japan: a country infamously renowned for its brutally warped depiction of its citizens darkest fears like Ringu (The Ring), Ju-on (The Grudge), Dark Water, Pulse, Suicide Club… seriously, I could go on. Most of these have impacted horror in such a way that Hollywood couldn’t help snatching up those shiver triggers and remoulding them for an English-speaking audience. Luckily, Audition has yet to be touched by a western hand — and thank God for that. This film is a slow burner with one hell of a rollercoaster ride of torture and gore in the third act. It’s about an elderly widower who decides to start dating again. With the help of his filmmaker friend, they hold auditions, under the disguise of a fake production, to find him his perfect companion. That’s all I’m really going to tell you; this film is excellently paced and beautifully composed, like a piece of classical music that you definitely need to go in blind to fully enjoy.
Dream Home (2010) — Hong Kong
OK, so in my family, this film is notoriously yet somehow fondly remembered. My brothers, my father, and I are all deeply into horror films and constantly seek out the best new and disturbing films to show each other on movie nights. One night, real casually, my father said to us, “Hey, I’ve got this great film to show you guys! Wanna watch it?” Obviously, we were all for it and sat down to experience one of the most disturbing and horrifying couple of hours of my life. How dare you, Papa Ralph! It’s become such a story in our family that my brother (@louiis.r on Instagram!) even drew this comic strip for my dad’s birthday in lieu of a gift because this moment was significantly more meaningful than some socks or a tie.
This film is seriously not for the faint of heart, but I have to recommend it because, despite some of the more gag-worthy moments, it’s also just a brilliant film. Desperate to keep her home as real estate prices rise uncontrollably, a young professional decides that murder is a reasonable solution. Of course, it is.
Livide (2011) — France
An old decrepit mansion. A bed-bound and dying heiress. Whispers of a hidden fortune. An old urban myth about what the town believes happened in that house. A couple of dumbass kids getting themselves into some mischief for a few bucks and ending up in their own personal hell. Sound like fun? Try Livide. Since the film employs almost every creepy horror trope one could think of, you’d be forgiven for thinking it might be a huge pile of shit. But if you did, you’d be very, very wrong.
The French aren’t necessarily widely known for their horrors, but you’ll notice there are two entries from France (well, the second one is French-Canadian) on my list and, in my experience, the French are every bit as fucked up as the Koreans and the Japanese, so give this one a go! If you want more French horrors to try, check out L’interieur for incredible and senseless gore, or Les Yeux sans Visage for a truly disturbing black-and-white classic.
The Orphanage (2007) — Spain
A cheeky bit of Guillermo Del Toro for you now! A woman convinces her husband to buy the old orphanage where she grew up, of which she has fond memories, in order to turn it into a hospital for sick children. While there, her own son goes missing and is presumed dead, until lots of weird and strange things start happening.
A more traditional ghostly-haunted-house-type-campfire-bed-time-story, here, but when told through the eyes of someone such as Guillermo del Toro, you are in for a spine-tingling treat! In terms of brutality, this one is probably one of the lowest on this list, but for those of you who love a good spookin’ as opposed to a gag fest, then this one is for you. Beautifully designed and costumed (as always from del Toro), this film features clever usage of CGI and camera tricks, all of which go a long way.
Suspiria (1977) — Italy
AAAHHHhhhhhh, bring the holy water! This one is a knock-out classic. Dubbed the most beautiful horror film ever made by critics around the world, Suspiria is Dario Argento’s seminal groundbreaking Italian masterpiece. If you’ve ever studied film, been to film school, taken a night class, or have any mild interest in cinema whatsoever, I bet you’ve heard of this one.
This stunning film washed in bright cyans and magentas trickles its plot slowly across your skin, much like the pacing in Rosemary’s Baby or The Omen.
A young girl travels to Germany to attend a prestigious ballet school where nothing is as it seems. From the moment she arrives, she is pulled into a mysterious series of events that eventually lead to a shocking end.
Martyrs (2008) — French/Canadian Co-Production
Martyrs is definitely not for everyone. The movie is disturbing for sure. For those that like to have their notions about the world challenged, this is a film that accomplishes just that. However, the world you are introduced to is one that, by the end of the film, gets you questioning whether you were better off knowing or not. Martyrs divides viewers straight down the middle. It is by no means the goriest film you’ll ever see, but the mood, acting, context, and events surrounding the scenes of violence and gore make it some of the hardest-to-watch cinema I’ve ever encountered. IMDb describes the plot as follows: “A young woman’s quest for revenge against the people who kidnapped and tormented her as a child leads her and a friend, who is also a victim of child abuse, on a terrifying journey into a living hell of depravity.” Honestly, that’s all you really need to know. This film will never leave you and will absolutely 100% come back in your dreams. Be warned. Enjoy!
Goodnight Mommy (2015) — Austria
I caught the trailer for this by accident whilst scrolling Youtube one day and stumbling on it in my “suggested videos” section. Little did I know that this was going to be a great surprise find! Looking up the trailer again so that I could link to it in this article, I discovered that there are hundreds of reaction videos to it. I mean, I get it. The trailer is one of the best and most gripping advertisements for a horror film I’ve seen in ages, and it’s hard not to want to see the film once you watch it. Hell, that’s what made me seek it out in the first place!
In Goodnight Mommy, twin boys move to a new home with their mother after she has face changing cosmetic surgery. But under her bandages is someone the children don’t recognise. Really, at the end of the day, watch the trailer and just know that the film doesn’t let you down. It’s gonna get you!
Baskin (2016) — Turkey
What the absolute fluff am I going to tell you to get you to watch this film? Well… if you like surrealist hyper-gore, then you’ve found the right film. A squad of unsuspecting cops goes through a trapdoor to Hell when they stumble upon a Black Mass in an abandoned building.
Baskin takes goresploitation to the next level — no, to the TOP level, actually. It is gross and weird and confusing and completely terrifying. I haven’t got anything else to say except this: Turkey, you crazy!
A Tale of Two Sisters (2002) — South Korea
Here we are. Our final recommendation. And who would I be if I didn’t throw a South Korean classic your way? Huh? I certainly wouldn’t be me, that’s for sure.
A Tale of Two Sisters was on the curriculum of my “Shocking Cinema” course during Film Studies at college (“college” being the UK’s version of the last two years of high school where you narrow your subjects down to just four electives, not university, which came later… anyway, that’s not important…)
At the tender age of seventeen, little confused and awkward Mickey sat down in a half-empty lecture hall to watch this brilliant East Asian horror for the first time. Hell yeah, she was hooked from the minute it started!
After being institutionalised in a mental hospital, a young girl reunites with her beloved sister and they return to live at their country home. But, with their father’s new wife giving them the heebie-jeebies, things get a lot more complicated, and the family starts to become plagued by mysterious events that all build up to one shocking conclusion. Get ready for plot twists, get ready for some breath holding, and get ready for tapping and spooks and blood. This is a dang good place to start if you haven’t already delved into Korean horrors. But if you’ve given this a go already and are hungry for more, then take a look at my list of South Korean thriller/mysteries film recs to keep yourself topped up!
There you have it. Another scary list from Mickey for you to sink your teeth into. You have no excuse to sit in front of your telly or computer now and say, “There’s nothing to watch!” Seriously, give these films a go. I’ll be back again soon with more film recommendations; maybe next time I’ll give another genre a try, aye? How does that sound?
Which of these films have you seen? Are you going to give any of them a go now that you’ve been briefed? Tweet me @mickeyralph and tell me all about it. Also, feel free to recommend me things right back — I’m always looking for new things to watch, and not just scary things, either!