The Best Foreign Horror Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen David Watson October 20, 2020 Editor's Choice, Features, Halloween 4033 So, it’s Halloween again (well, nearly). But you don’t just wanna watch Halloween again – or even give the latest Michael Myers outing a rewatch. The problem is horror is such an eco-friendly genre, the same ideas, the same images, recycled again and again. You want something fresh, something new. Or at least new to you. This year, you’re not going to be content with the gonzo-porn aesthetic of the found footage flick, Jigsaw’s ever more inventive games promise only tedium, the reboots of classics like Nightmare On Elm Street and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre deserve only the boot and his beloved killer clowns should probably hunt down and destroy Rob Zombie for what he did to Michael Myers. Maybe you’ll try something foreign, you think, but what’s the point? Haven’t all the best foreign horror films been remade in English anyway? I mean, really, is there that much difference between The Ring and Ringu? La casa muda and Silent House? Let The Right One In and Let Me In? And if you’ve seen the American Martyrs, you’ve seen the French one, right? Right? Sure you love Pan’s Labyrinth and have seen everything Guillermo del Toro’s done. And that New French Extremity movement’s really whetted your appetite for gore and ultra-violence. And J-horror and K-horror have made you terrified of creepy kids, showers and TV sets. But can you really be bothered with subtitles? It’s a lotta effort. Maybe you’d be better off reading a book? And what about foreign films like Possession or Santa Sangre that are in English. Though admittedly, much of Possession is Isabelle Adjani screaming hysterically. So here’s our list of foreign language films you probably haven’t seen and definitely should. These aren’t necessarily the best or most successful (well, financially successful anyway) foreign language horror films out there (though one or two might be) but you’ve all seen the likes of The Devil’s Backbone, Let The Right One In, Audition, etc. No, the following films are just some movies I don’t think get anywhere near enough love. Kontroll (Hungary, 2003) I’m not really sure if strictly speaking you can call Nimrod Antal’s debut film, Kontroll, a horror film but it’s almost impossible to call it anything else. A stylish, hyper-kinetic, fluorescent and neon-soaked ride through the Budapest subway system, with not a frame of natural light in the entire movie, Kontroll juggles the antics of a group of misfit ticket inspectors, their conflict with a rival group of inspectors, the hunt for a hooded serial killer shoving unwary travellers under trains and the troubled hero’s tentative romance with a fare-dodging girl dressed as a bear. And Hungarian auteur Bela Tarr plays a drunken train driver who’s also the hero’s mentor! Dark, hypnotic and shot through with a humour that’s blacker than a Budapest tunnel, Kontroll works both as a conventional horror/thriller and, on a deeper level, as a metaphysical battle between good and evil for possession of a man’s soul with the healing power of love as the redemptive force that tips the balance. The Fall Of The House Of Usher (France, 1928) Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s story and boasting a screenplay by Luis Buñuel, Surrealism, Impressionism and Expressionism collide in Jean Epstein’s phantasmagoric vision of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic story The Fall Of The House Of Usher. A brooding meditation on love, loss, death and madness, the film feels like a woozy, half-remembered nightmare and is one of the true classics of the silent era and gifted us many of the visual tropes still used by horror cinema today. Ok, yes, it is silent but it was made in France by a Pole so technically that makes it foreign, right? Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders (Czechoslovakia, 1970) Part horror, part fairy tale, with it’s vampires, pervy priests, carnivals, clowns people in animal costumes, old hags, dead dads and Freudian symbolism, Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders is a subversive, surrealist fever dream of burgeoning sexuality and coming of age that, even as you’re watching it, feels half-remembered. If you’re a fan of Angela Carter or Neil Jordan’s adaptation of her short stories The Company Of Wolves, give yourself up to this lyrical Gothic beauty. Black Sunday (Italy, 1960) C’mon, who hasn’t at some point had the piss scared out of them by just those stills from Mario Bava’s brilliant Black Sunday where Barbara Steele having that metal mask with the spikes on the inside hammered into the flesh of her face or her pitted, pock-marked skin afterwards? A witch (Barbara Steele) and her lover are convicted of sorcery and burned at the stake by her nobleman brother only to rise from the dead 200 years later and take vampiric revenge on her descendants… Atmospheric, unsettling and genuinely creepy, Black Sunday is arguably both Bava’s finest film and the best Italian Gothic Horror movie. Dellamorte Dellamore (Italian/French/German, 1994) Released in the US as Cemetery Man, Michele Soavi’s violent, erotic, cheerfully bonkers Dellamorte Dellamore sees Rupert Everett’s (yup, that Rupert Everett!) lovelorn cemetery caretaker forced to rekill the reanimated corpses of the recently dead who return as flesh-hungry zombies and becoming obsessed with the pneumatic charms of a young widow (Anna Falchi) while temporal and spatial events bleed into one another and reality blurs and resets. Try to imagine Alain Renais troughing a bag of psilocybins and making a horror-comedy full of guns, gore and tits and you’re halfway to the surreal joy that is Dellamorte Dellamore. Sleep Tight (Spain, 2012) The concierge of a shabby/chic Art Nouveau Barcelona apartment building, Cesar (Luis Tosar) is, frankly, an absolute bastard! Having ingratiated his way into the lives of the building’s tenants, spreading as much misery as he can in subtle and not-so-subtle ways (killing the plants he’s supposed to be watering, feeding laxatives to pets to induce diarrhoea) but his prime target is the cheery and attractive Clara (Marta Etura) who obsesses him and he is determined to destroy, sending her anonymous hate mail, breaking into her flat and sabotaging her toiletries with allergens, chloroforming and molesting her on a nightly basis… Creepy and atmospheric with a chilling performance from the ever-reliable Tosar, Sleep Tight will have you checking under the bed before you turn in for a sleepless night. Onibaba (Japan, 1964) A young widow and her mother-in-law in feudal Japan live a hand-to-mouth existence in a swamp where they murder samurai unlucky enough to be passing, selling their armour and weapons to a local trader. But when the young widow begins a relationship with a neighbour who has just returned from the war. Using a demon mask she’s looted from the body of a disfigured, possibly diseased, samurai she’s killed, the mother-in-law attempts to break up the lovers by scaring them away from each other with devastating results. Directed by Kaneto Shindo who also directed the wonderful Kuroneko, Onibaba is an eerily beautiful, weirdly erotic chiller that’s final images will haunt your dreams. Tattoo (Germany, 2002) When a psychopath starts skinning their victims, a veteran detective and a rookie cop find themselves sucked into a dark, nightmarish world of perverted fetishism where elaborate tattoos are traded and collected and all of the victims bore designs by a renowned Japanese artist. But the closer they get to the truth, the greater the price to be paid. A dark, gloomy psycho-thriller that’s more than just a Berlin-based Se7en rip-off, there’s something refreshingly icky about Tattoo that just gets under your skin. Baxter (France, 1989) You like dogs? You might not after you see Baxter. He makes Cujo look housebroken. This is a dog’s eye view of the search for the perfect master narrated by the titular bull terrier who’s not above murder to get his way. Rouge (Hong Kong, 1988) When a beautiful prostitute, Fleur (the gorgeous Anita Mui), and her wastrel playboy lover are prevented from marrying by his wealthy parents, they enter into a suicide pact, determined to be together in the afterlife. But after waiting 50 years for him in Hell, Fleur returns to modern Hong Kong determined to find him enlisting the aid of a young ad-man and his reporter girlfriend to discover the truth about her lost love. Beautifully shot and swooningly romantic, Rouge may not be a horror movie but it’s an ethereal, haunting ghost story.