Everyone does two things around Halloween. They party with their friends and try desperately to find that one movie out there that’s going to actually scare them. There’s a problem lying there though and it lies on our own hands. The truth is that it’s damned hard to find a decently made American horror film. This isn’t to say they don’t exist, after all we made the classics like The Exorcist and Poltergeist, but as far as modern, visceral horror films go, America doesn’t get much farther than the teen slasher. I can only watch a topless teenager get killed so many times before I begin to look elsewhere for my thrills. So, I’ve compiled a list that I guarantee will scare. Each one of them I’ve watched multiple times and even own some of them. Foreign horror is truly “where its at”. In no particular order and for your enjoyment:
10. Haute Tension (High Tension) – a French film where two young friends leave for Northern France to visit one of their parents. When they stop at a gas station, one of them is kidnapped. The film moves on to a few brutal scenes in the country and lands with an amazing psychological twist that you’ll never see coming!
9. Frontieres (Frontiers) – Similar to the build of our famous American Texas Chainsaw series, four friends are escaping the chaos of a revolution in the streets of Paris and flee to a hotel in the country. What they don’t question is the motives of the family who owns the small bed and breakfast. This one escalates to a visceral scene of escape after the dark recesses of the host family are revealed.
8. El Orfanato (The Orphanage) – a mass achievement at the Cannes film festival and the sophomore release from the legendary imagination of Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), enter into a woman’s new home and the scariest rendition of a ghost story that I’ve seen in years.
7. Martyrs – another French selection, this film centers around two young women who try to unveil an underground torturing ring in the suburbs. In a bloody battle against the limits of their own bodies and their eventual captors, this gory film ends in some surreal imagery and makes you question what it is to be human.
6. A L’Interieur (Inside) – viewer beware, this film is stunningly visceral and achieves an amazing tension while most of the film takes place in a single bathroom. Also of French origin, it details what happens when intruder wants inside your house and inside you.
5. Anatomie (Anatomy) – this German pick follows a group of medical students that enroll under a prestigious doctor. There are a series of disappearances and eventually the students become the project. From the classroom to the surgical table, this thriller literally shows what’s inside us all.
4. Audition – lastly, we venture into the masterful world of Japanese horror and the crazily controversial work of Takashi Miike. In this film, we are introduced to a lonely man who seeks the company of a silent young Japanese woman. To his horror, she’s a medical student and he’s just been served a paralysis serum. I couldn’t turn away from this one, especially considering the shocking conclusion.
3. Suicide Club – another amazingly freaky film that left me with so many questions lends to an overarching theme of random suicide in the Japanese public. When detectives begin to look into the growing number of people killing themselves publicly, they’re led to a single house and something way darker than they originally thought. Terrifying and utterly disturbing, this is one of those films where your stunned into silence.
2. Let the Right One In – from Sweden comes this edge of your seat thriller where a twelve-year-old boy befriends a small girl. To his dismay, as well as the dismay of anyone that should negatively come into contact with him, the girl is a centuries-old vampire. From house fires to the small dark corners where one never cares to venture, these amazingly stylistic piece rivals the incantations of The Exorcist and Children of the Corn.
1. Thirst – when a priest receives a blood transfusion, he wakes up to find that he has a thirst for blood. Now a vampire, he attempts to deal with his thirst but ends up falling in love with a woman of faith. This brutal romance from China won several awards at the Cannes festival, easily the must-see to round out my list.