It’s important to branch outside of our comfort zone when we’re in search of something unsettling or frightening. That’s where foreign horror films come in. There’s a huge benefit to seeing horror films with unfamiliar accents or actors. They pull us further into the action by introducing us to a story that we don’t know with faces that we don’t recognize.
In general, there are so many amazing foreign horror films I could list here. Let’s start with some of the best ones that might actually be new to you.
Trollhunter was directed by André Øvredal, who recently went on to direct the highly regarded The Autopsy of Jane Doe. This is one of my all-time favorite foreign films, period. In another example of an excellent faux-documentary, it follows a group of students who decide to set their cameras on an unlicensed bear hunter.
As you may have guessed from the title, this man is not hunting bears. It’s clever, fun, and features some fantastic creature design. Have you ever seen those creepy troll dolls from Norway? Imagine that, but larger, scarier, and without the keen fashion sense.
In Housebound, Kylie has been sentenced to house arrest and must return home to live with her frustratingly quirky mother in her possibly haunted house. Rima Te Wiata stands out for her awkwardly hilarious performance as Kylie’s mother. If you’re looking for a foreign film with an excellent balance of humor, heart, mystery and horror, you can’t go wrong.
I first saw The Hallow at a film fesitval in 2015. It stuck with me to the point where I was regularly checking for DVD release dates.
Writer/Director Corin Hardy has warped traditional Irish folklore into something much more sinister. He took inspiration from legends of faeries, banshees and changelings, but followed the same rules that were outlined in the source material. The Hallow does not waste any time getting into the action of the film. Most importantly, it is full of dark and creepy imagery that sinks under your skin and winds through your head long after you’ve walked away.
The tension is so haute, you guys. High Tension is a sharp, brutal, dark, and twisted assault on your more delicate senses. This was the breakout film for Director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Horns, Mirrors) and was included in TIME Magazine’s 10 most ridiculously violent films. The ending is not flawless, however, if you’re looking for a white-knuckle thrill ride, this is a good one to go for.
In this Belgian horror, a group of cub scouts venture off for a camping trip. They come with their own baggage, but did not expect to encounter a feral child and vicious poacher. Cub was partially funded through an IndieGoGo campaign that allowed backers to “buy a trap, kill a cub”. The proceeds were used to build the gnarly traps and tricks that could have been conceived by Kevin McCallister on bath salts.
If you’ve ever felt ill-at-ease in your own home, this film will make you even more paranoid. In Sleep Tight, an apartment concierge works very hard to secretly make his affluent tenants miserable. He develops a disturbing obsession with one particularly optimistic tenant and goes to unnerving extremes to try and break her.
You may be familiar with director Jaume Balagueró from his other films (REC, REC 2). He demonstrates his range with this sleeper hit by building tension that is less frantic than his previous films, but equally effective.
Writer/Director Sean Byrne’s first feature-length film was a hit on the festival circuit. However, it took about 3 years before it received US distribution. It was well worth the wait. The Loved Ones is a terrifying look at what can happen when awkward young love turns into a horrible obsession.
This twisted abduction horror is graphic, feisty, shocking and uncomfortable. It has made Sean Byrne a filmmaker we should all be watching. I caught his second feature film, The Devil’s Candy, at TIFF and I absolutely cannot wait for its DVD release (set for March 2017).
Twin boys become suspicious of their mother after her cosmetic surgery. Her behavior is off and she has transformed into someone they do not recognize.
Let’s discuss the brilliant slow burn of Goodnight Mommy. The whole film is spectacularly eerie, devoid of any musical score, and beautifully shot. Writers/Directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz avoid fast cuts in favor of extended shots, framed mostly in medium or close-up. They force an intimacy that you cannot look away from. It’s full of trepidation, but the pressure builds to a fever pitch.
A suicidal washed-up actor moves into an apartment building infested with ghosts, vampires, and other supernatural creatures. While it sounds like the weirdest pitch to a sitcom you’ll ever hear, Rigor Mortis is a visually stunning thriller with brilliantly elaborate action sequences. Honestly, it’s just super cool to watch.
Takashi Miike is an absolute legend in the world of Asian genre films. Ichi the Killer, 13 Assassins, Three… Extremes, Sukiyaki Western Django, and Masters of Horror are a few of the films on his resume. Audition made Rolling Stone’s list of “20 Scariest Movies You’ve Never Seen”, and rightfully so.
It follows a widower who stages a film audition to hopefully find a new partner. The film shows a startling dichotomy between the charming courtship in the beginning and the vicious violence at the end. It’s widely praised by critics and is said to have influenced many directors, including Eli Roth and the Soska sisters. If you’re looking for a foreign director who really knows his shit, Miike will not let you down.