Sunday, May 3, 2009

Terror Overseas: Best Non-American Horror Movies

Yes, there are movies outside the US. No, they don't all speak "American". But some of them get away with a lot more than we can do over here, and a lot are more worthwhile than most of what gets released in our neck of the woods (maybe not all, but a fair amount) and many are inspiration for a lot of American horror movies and/or styles. Basically, foreign horror is often overlooked as it is, well, foreign. So sit down and let the Captain teach you a lesson in the many languages (or accents) of splatter.

Japan: Yes, we need to start with Japan. You don't even know scary until you've given Japan a good look (just see that Schwarzenegger commercial and you'll know what I'm talking about). Many have called Japan the birthplace of fear, so it gets its own section in this post.

Now, with that little note out of the way, let's get going and check out some of the best horror movies from around the globe:

Audition (Japan)- Jaw droppingly visceral and layers upon layers of frightening. This movie is so scary because it starts so peaceful. A man has lost his wife and is ready to move on, but he is nervous about meeting new people. So he and his friend host a fake movie audition so he can get to know new women. He meets the cutest, most innocent girl you've ever seen.... until you see that she isn't. From the point where we, the audience, figure out some of her habits, the movie dives into terror and does not let up for a moment.

Suspiria (Italy)- Perhaps the single most beautifully shot horror movie of all time, it earned director Dario Argento the title of master of horror, one he proudly holds to this day. The film really is fine art. It's powerful, it's beautiful, it's visceral, it is horror movie boiled down to everything that makes a horror movie, each singular aspect honed to perfection. Oop. I think there was drool there. Yeah, just see the movie.

The Descent (Scotland)- Neill Marshall proved himself as a first time director with Dog Soldiers (a very inventive and surprisingly good werewolf flick) but he became one of the greats with this outstanding horror film. The plot is simple, but the characters are real and human. Marshall's all female cast seems a risky idea, but it is done perfectly and seems quite natural. The creatures are never explained, and they don't need to be, they just are. The setting is also brilliant, and the fact that the film is set almost entirely in darkness really adds to the tension. Speaking of which...

High Tension (France)- Goddamn Sweet Jesusy Holy Shitting Brilliant. Unable to write full synopsis due to overload of awesome. Let's just say that it's powerful, character driven, unrelentingly violent and superbly written, a throwback to '70's revenge cinema. But above all, it's very, very angry.

Shaun of the Dead (UK)- What was expected to be a usual spoof was actually an amazingly well done, heartfelt homage to the heyday of George Romero. The comedy is not forced, and comes strictly out of the characters, and it is by no means an emotionless movie. Truly fantastic, and best summed up by its tagline: A romantic comedy. With Zombies.

Cannibal Holocaust (Italy)- Quite possibly the most disturbing film ever made. The violence is balanced by the statement the film is trying to make, but if you're interested in watching this one, consider yourself warned. This is not a friendly movie, this does not hold back at any point, but it is undeniably intelligent. It goes to lengths few films dare to, and says what it needs to say by any means necessary.

Zombie (Italy)-


The Devil's Backbone (Spain)- One of the scariest movies. Ever. Guillermo del Toro (brilliant director of Pan's Labyrinth) creates one of the most disturbing, well-paced and all around frightening ghost stories ever with this film, set against the equally disturbing backdrop of the Spanish Civil War.

Battle Royale (Japan)- What'd I say about Japan. This is not only a great horror movie, it may be one of the best movies ever made. There were attempts to ban it in many countries, including ours, but the film can still be seen. The plot is simple, and even the general idea is unnerving. A class of junior high students are sent to a desert island without their knowledge or consent, and forced to kill each other until only one remains. Friends, enemies, acquaintances, lovers... if you want to survive, you have to kill them all. What's scarier than that? How about the one guy who signed up for fun.

Nekromantik (Germany)- So grotesquely obscene, you'll either laugh or cry, but most likely you'll do both. For hours. Then you will froth at the mouth. There will possibly be some skin irritation and then you may find yourself wanting to paint clowns. That should wear off in a day or two...

Boy Eats Girl (Ireland)- It's kinda like if Shaun of the Dead were set in high school and written by someone with blatant mother issues. See the movie and you'll see what I mean.

28 Days Later- Best horror movie of the decade, so says the captain. Smart, deep, existential, human, full of emotion (rage in particular) it is the ultimate statement of humans destroying each other, and people clinging to each other when there's nothing left in the world to cling to.


  1. "Goddamn Sweet Jesusy Holy Shitting Brilliant".

    Hell yes.

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