10 Must-Watch Foreign Horror Films For Halloween

By @waytooindie
10 Must-Watch Foreign Horror Films For Halloween

There’s no translation needed for a scream. And when someone’s being attacked with a ridiculously large knife, their nationality doesn’t make the situation any less terrifying. Not to mention other countries seem to understand that real horror isn’t about the jump-scares or extreme gore (something we’re finally seeing a little less of in recent films like Goodnight Mommy, The Babadook, and It Follows). So we had no trouble curating this list of the best foreign horror films, except maybe in limiting ourselves to only ten. This Halloween, if you thought subtitles might distract from suspense, check out any of these titles and find yourself spookily proven wrong.

10 Must Watch Foreign Horror Films For Halloween

#10. Nosferatu (1922 – Germany)

Nosferatu 1922 horror movie

F.W. Murnau’s silent classic Nosferatu floods the mind with inky, dreamlike visions that never release their grip. The film haunts me to this day because the monster at its center isn’t treated as a movie monster at all, but a demon that lurks and stalks us from the shadows of our world. He’s embodied by German actor Max Schreck, whose performance is freaky as hell, not operatic and sexy (don’t call him Dracula). Our hero, Hutter (Alexander Granach), uncovers pieces of vampire lore via mysterious letters and occult symbols and barely evades the gangly Nosferatu himself as a wave of doom and dread rolls over us. The film’s most famous scene, involving a shocking coffin reveal, is as chilling as ever. Murnau’s film is now nearly 100 years old but is scary in a way that modern films can’t reproduce—with the absence of sound, Nosferatu‘s onscreen horrors appear all the more nightmarish, leaving a sonic vacuum in the air meant to be filled with our blood-curdling screams. [Bernard]

#9. Ringu (1998 – Japan)

Ringu 1998 horror

Based on a novel by Kôji Suzuki (Japan’s answer to Stephen King), Ringu, from director Hideo Nakata, is a chilling film made effective by its own simplicity, both in construct and in execution. The premise, in the form of an urban legend propagated by teens, is simple: watch a certain VHS tape, die seven days later. That’s it. This simplicity of fate is what makes the tale so effective. Unlike most “something is coming for you” horror films (think everything from classics like Halloween to indie sensations like It Follows), there is no boogeyman to run away from, no executioner to plead to for mercy, no chance of dodging demise—nobody can hide from time. When the reporter (Nanako Matsushima) investigating the legend watches the tape herself, the story shifts from “What will happen next?” to “Something will happen soon,” adding to the film’s already great tension. Then, the story doubles-down in the form of the reporter’s young son happening across the tape, thus starting his own clock, that tension exponentially increases. This is what makes the film work so well. Ringu is more terror than horror, like an old-time ghost story that relies very little on visual scares, instead captivating viewers with great suspense, overwhelming atmosphere, and unsettling anticipation. [Michael]

#8. [REC] (2007 – Spain)

REC horror film 2007

Before Paranormal Activity kicked off a found footage trend that we’re still going through, directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza cooked up this fun and chaotic zombie film (or is it?). Plucky reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) is following a group of firemen working the night shift for a TV show when there’s a call about a situation at an apartment building. Angela and her cameraman follow the firemen inside, only to discover that some sort of virus is spreading through the building, turning people into crazed cannibals (similar the rage virus from 28 Days Later). By the time they realize something’s wrong the government shows up to quarantine everyone inside the building, and from there it’s a battle for survival as each tenant either gets devoured or succumbs to the disease. Balaguero and Plaza waste no time getting to the good stuff; exposition is minimal, and within 15 minutes the blood starts flowing. The cramped setting of the building, combined with the fact that the protagonists are actually trapped (and it’s worth mentioning that [REC] gets bonus points for providing a legitimate reason why the camera needs to keep rolling), makes [REC] a nail biter, and the film is brilliantly structured in the way it escalates the tension at an exponential rate. And the finale, a shocking sequence that plays out in night vision, wouldn’t feel out of place in a list of the scariest scenes of all-time. [C.J.]

#7. Kwaidan (1964 – Japan)

Kwaidan horror film

There’s something to be said about the power of folktales. Unlike the bulk of modern horror that draws on certain influences, but ultimately strives for a wholly new mythology, the act of bringing ancient stories to the big screen carries the potential for a far more affecting experience. It’s about sharing lessons, fears and cautionary narratives that have endured for hundreds of years and if done right, the result can be deeply resonant. Kwaidan is just such a film. Masaki Kobayashi’s three-hour anthology tells four tales from Japanese folklore united by the common thread of ghostly encounters. A poor young swordsman makes an ill-fated bid for higher social status, a woodcutter holds a promise of dubious consequences to a wintry spirit, the ghosts of a royal family request the talents of a blind musician and a writer sees a grinning face in a cup of tea. All four stories unravel at an appropriately deliberate pace set against a background of vibrant artificial scenery and highly expressive sets. Rather than being a horror film fueled by big scares, Kwaidan impresses with its subtly chilling atmosphere and its evocative rendering of a delusive, spiritually rich world. [Byron]

#6. Eyes Without A Face (1960 – France)

Eyes Without A Face film

If ever there was any doubt that Georges Franju’s 1960 bastion of plastic surgery was a legitimate horror film, just think of the title it premiered with in the States in 1962: The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus. Of course, it’s only today’s audience who’d look at a horror cult classic like Eyes Without A Face and question its legitimacy for scares. Never forget how desensitized we’ve become over the years, but even if the film doesn’t scare us today as it surely did audiences back in the ’60s, the creeps it exudes still raise hairs on the back of the neck. Pierre Brasseur plays the mad doctor who attempts to re-create the physical beauty of his once-beautiful daughter, Charlotte (Edith Scob, mostly covered in the iconic white mask but piercing with emotions through eyes you’ll drop into and a voice that’ll break the fall). A sickly atmosphere that festers in the imagination. The triptych of psychological, emotional, and physical terror. Overarching gothic overtones. Alida Valli’s cold-blooded assistant (the Igor to Brasseur’s Dr. Frankenstein), all exterior beauty and interior grotesquerie. All these elements conspire with Franju’s taut direction and Eugen Schüfftan’s vivid cinematography to make for, arguably, the most poetic (but no less haunting) of all horror films. In my opinion, the heterograft scene stands as one of the genre’s defining moments. [Nik]

#5. I Saw The Devil (2010 – South Korea)

I Saw The Devil movie

One of the greatest serial killer films ever made, Kim Jee-woon’s I Saw the Devil is a bonafide masterpiece. Mirroring what would happen if James Bond set his sights on Hannibal Lector, the film is a fast-paced epic that is filled with emotion and satisfying payoffs. Excellent performances from Choi Min-sik and Lee Byung-hun keep tensions high from start to finish, and some absolutely barbaric sequences of action and suspense raise the stakes in an honest and believable fashion. It’s the revenge element, though, is what truly propels I Saw the Devil to the next level. Soo-hyun (Byung-hun) is so personally invested in avenging the death of his murdered fiancée, who was killed by Kyung-chul (Min-sik), that the vengeance becomes his only motivation in life. Jee-woon and screenwriter Park Hoon-jung study the psyches of both the hero and the villain with equal interest, which makes I Saw the Devil one of the most character-driven tales of revenge ever made. [Blair]

#4. The Devil’s Backbone (2001 – Spain)

The Devil's Backbone film

Like a little history and a whole lot of atmosphere to go with your horror? There’s no greater director more masterful at combining all of the above than Guillermo del Toro. Set during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, The Devil’s Backbone follows a group of orphaned boys at a home in the country. One new boy, Carlos, starts to see the ghost of a boy in the orphanages dark stone passageways and does his best to uncover what the dead boy’s story is. Like many of del Toro’s best films (Pan’s Labyrinth being another great example), the supernatural elements of this world are almost never as scary as the ill intentions of the living. Carlos and his companions must face the war-torn reality of their world while finding a way to reconcile the last wishes of the dead. Del Toro’s signature attention to eery detail—not to mention his penchant for lingering on his creepy creations allowing each horrifying detail to sink in—and his ability to craft unrelentingly evil characters are what make The Devil’s Backbone a mood-filled and satisfying ghost story. [Ananda]

#3. Diabolique (1955- France)

Les Diabolique horror film

Diabolique is a classic of the horror genre which deserves its place alongside the likes of Psycho and The Exorcist. Gorgeously shot and incredibly tense throughout, Henri-Georges Clouzot crafts a horror film that is sure to sit with you for days. Following the story of a murder gone wrong, Christina (Vera Clouzot) and her husband’s mistress (Simone Signoret) conspire together to kill an abusive husband (Paul Meurisse), but once they do nothing is as it seems. Saying anything more about the story would spoil some of the most thrilling sequences ever put to film. It’s been said that Alfred Hitchcock lost out on the film rights to Diabolique by just a few hours, still it’s hard to imagine anyone, even the Master of Suspense himself, outdoing Clouzot here. [Ryan]

#2. Audition (1999 – Japan)

Audition horror film

Prolific Japanese filmmaker, Takashi Miike, who is known for his transgressive social commentaries and cartoonish violence, released in 1999 what might be the most graphic and frightening film about romantic relationships ever committed to celluloid. The plot of Audition focuses on a widow by the name of Shigeharu Aoyama who, with the help of a fellow film producer, arranges a faux-audition for a non-existent movie in order to find himself a prospective bride. Unfortunately, his gaze falls upon the wrong woman. Asami Yamazaki, the seemingly harmless apple of his eye, is (to say the least) not at all who she appears to be. With Audition, Miike shows more directorial restraint than usual, which might be the film’s most commendable attribute. The majority of the runtime is spent exploring the growing intimacy between Shigeharu and Asami, interspersed with abrupt and very brief sequences hinting at something sinister developing within Asami’s psyche. It isn’t until the latter half of the third act that the film shifts gears completely and erupts into a state of unexpectedly extreme mayhem. But in order to find out the specifics of what transpires, you’ll have to experience the film for yourself—just don’t say you weren’t warned. [Eli]

#1. Let The Right One In (2008 – Sweden)

Let The Right One In horror film

In the same year that obnoxiously popular teen vampire series kicked off (we won’t even mention its name), came a small film out of Sweden that turned the overplayed genre on its head. Beautifully shot, with a tender story and one hell of a mean streak, Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In is a special film. By creating its monster in the form of a little girl, the film is able to cleverly play with many of the most traditional vampire myths—especially the role of the human servant, which is the most tragic theme of the film. Alfredson is an incredibly patient filmmaker (something that works extraordinarily well in moody horror films), knowing just how much information, thematic and visual, to show the audience. His craft shows particularly well in the breathtaking final scene, one of the best staged horror sequences of all-time. While that mainstream vampire series was capturing young audiences with sparkly skin and sexual repression, Let the Right One In showed that vampires could still be cool while actually having a complex and resonant dramatic story. And it’s actually scary. Let the Right One In also has the distinction of inspiring an above-average American remake (which can’t be said for too many other films on this list), Let Me In from Cloverfield’s Matt Reeves. [Aaron]

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