When you think of horror films, classics such as The Shining, The Exorcist and Halloween are likely to spring to mind. The eighth instalment of the Saw franchise was recently released, films centring around 2013’s The Conjuring continue to be churned out, as do countless teen horrors such as Unfriended and Happy Death Day; indeed, mainstream horror is dominated by the US. But outside of America’s contributions to the genre, are a wealth of horror films that are less likely to have crossed your radar. So here are five frightening foreign films for your consideration this Halloween.
Suspiria (1977) – Italian
The film centres around Suzy Bannion, a ballet student from the US, who transfers to a respected dance academy in Germany. Following her arrival, the grisly murder of a student is committed. As numerous bizarre events continue to take place, it becomes apparent to Suzy that the academy is hiding a dark secret. Dario Argento’s masterful directing, paired with the menacing score from progressive rock band Goblin, successfully creates an ominous sense of foreboding which slowly builds from the very first scene, until it reaches a deafening crescendo in the final act. The use of vibrant colours and harsh sounds throughout the film attack your senses, making Suspiria an arresting and memorable watch.
Pulse (2001) – Japanese
When it comes to Japanese horror, Ringu (The Ring) and Ju-On: The Grudge are probably the most well-known, but they’ve created other gems such as this one, Pulse. Michi visits her friend Taguchi, to chase him up on a computer disc he’s been working on for a project, she is horrified when he hangs himself within minutes of her arrival. She flees with the disc, containing a seemingly deadly computer virus. The number of mysterious deaths rises, as do the number ghosts haunting computer screens and the inexplicable rooms sealed with red tape. The film’s growing sense of dread renders it a highly creepy and uncomfortable watch. It may at times feel slow and sparse in its pacing, but that only contributes to its feeling of solitude and menace. The director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, fashions a bleak landscape and expertly conveys a feeling of crushing loneliness in an overcrowded world.
The Orphanage (2007) – Spanish
Laura, along with her husband Carlos and their adopted son Simón, returns to the house which once had been her home, an old orphanage. Her plans to make the house into a home for disabled children are soon put on hold after Simón goes missing. Before his disappearance, Simón spoke of familiar imaginary friends and as she begins to become desperate, Laura believes she must communicate with the supernatural in order to find her son. The film does not rely on cheap scares and manages to invoke dread and sorrow in its story telling. Belén Rueda as Laura, is undoubtedly the star of this film, she makes Laura’s grief palpable and it is her love for Simón which drives the film. The Orphanage may not make you scream, but it’s likely to bring a tear to your eye.
A bunch of medical students venture to a cabin in the snowy mountains of Norway, but their fun is interrupted by an army of undead Nazis. The gore is plentiful and the action playful. Dead Snow doesn’t bring anything new to the horde of zombie movies, but much like Wes Craven’s Scream and the many meta horror films that followed, it acknowledges the clichés of the genre. Indeed, as the characters make their way to their wooden cabin, the token movie geek – complete with his Braindead t-shirt – lists the numerous horror films which take place in a secluded cabin. Whilst this might not excuse the film’s lack of ingenuity, it makes it clear that it’s not to be taken seriously and is simply meant be enjoyed. It certainly is a lot of fun.
Train to Busan (2016) – South Korean
We’ve had zombies on a plane (Quarantine 2: Terminal), even snakes on a plane, so it was only a matter of time until we got zombies on a train. Seok-woo, a workaholic, takes time out of his busy schedule to accompany his daughter, Soo-an, on the train to Busan to visit her mother. Unfortunately, as a zombie apocalypse breaks out, their journey is disrupted by an infected passenger. This film is a refreshing addition to the bloated zombie genre, using it’s setting not as a gimmick, but as a means to create a claustrophobic atmosphere and subtly explore the theme of class warfare. Though the action is brilliantly choreographed, it is the fully realised characters at the heart of the film which makes this movie so engrossing.