In the past two decades, the U.S reign over horror films has been usurped by several countries around the world that have given us innovative, deeply disturbing, frightening, psychological, beautiful and wildly gory films that engage both the intellect and our brain’s fear-ruling amygdala.
Countries of the old world, including the U.K., Spain, Russia and Japan have a tradition of horror going back centuries and based on a myriad of seminal folk tales. At often a fraction of the cost of a U.S. film, the rest of the world has pushed the envelope beyond remake, blockbuster, retread and slasher to bring us twisted, witty, unsettling, visually spectacular, horrific, intelligent and truly scary work that has been transforming the genre and elevating it to its most potent level. In horror’s best tradition, they innovatively mine our deepest fears and make us a take a new look at the human condition.
Here are some of the better, fairly recent foreign horror films that it is worthwhile for you to seek out (noting that many are not for the faint hearted):
The Eye (2002) – donor transplant gone wrong (remade in the U.S. as The Eye)
Ils: Them (2006) – A couple chased by an unseen force in their country house (remade in the U.S. as The Strangers)
The Horde (2009) – French cops battle gangsters in apartment building hideout…then come the zombies
Ringu (1998) – Cursed videotape (remade in the U.S. as The Ring)
Audition (1999) – Sadistic cult favorite
Ju-on (2002) – Vengeful spirits (remade in U.S. as The Grudge)
Kanen: Infection (2004) – Hospital horror
A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) – Creepy stepmom; psychological horror
R-Point (2004) – Soldiers respond to strange distress call
The Host (2006) – Big monster + little girl + brave family = great indie film
I Saw the Devil (2011) – Secret agent seeks brutal revenge on a serial killer
Let the Right One In (2008) – A bullied boy meets an very unique girl (remade in the U.S. as Let Me In)
Dead Snow (2009) – Med students on vacation battle Nazi zombies
Troll Hunter (2011) – In search of…in Norway
The Devil’s Backbone (2001) – Stunning little ghost story
The Others (2001) – Brilliant horror thriller, Spanish director
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – Fascist Spain and magical realism
Rec (2007) – Quarantined apartment building (remade in the U.S. as Quarantine)
El Orfanato: The Orphanage (2007) – Creepy and moving ghost story
28 Weeks Later (2007) – The sequel, still harrowing, Spanish Director
Timecrimes (2007) – A man, a time machine and terrible consequences
Shiver (2008) – A teen who can’t stand sunlight, is blamed for a murder
Night Watch and Day Watch (2005 and 2006) – First 2 films in a trilogy. Fun, innovative, wild take on the forces of dark and light who get into a hell of a fight
28 Days Later (2002) – Entire city infected by virus. Scary. Run.
Dog Soldiers (2002) – Soldiers and the full moon
Shaun of the Dead (2004) – Hilarious zombie comedy
The Descent (2005) – Women spelunkers learn they are not alone in that cave
Attack the Block (2011) – Sci Fi Horror. Teens battle alien invasion.
Some of these films may not be easy to find, but Netflix and Amazon are your best bets. Happy (horror) viewing!