Nerdoween is near, and what better way to celebrate than with a list foreign film favorites in the horror genre. If you’re searching for an escape from the predictably safe selections of Hollywood horror, look no further. I’ve selected five must-see features that are sure to leave you with your lights on all night. Let’s dig in!
Ah Dumplings. I’ve been scrolling past this title for years and only recently gave it a try. This Hong Kong horror flick was directed by Fruit Chan and stars Miriam Yeung and Bai Ling. The plot centers around former television star Mrs. Li (Yeung) who, like many aging starlets, longs to look young again. Luckily for her, she comes into contact with ex-surgeon turned black market chef by the name of Aunt Mei (Ling) who has just the recipe she’s looking for. Now if you get queasy easy, you may want to skip this one, because Mei’s answer to youthful rejuvenation involves preparing human fetus-filled dumplings for the protagonist. Don’t worry, that wasn’t a spoiler. The special ingredient is revealed before the intro credits finish and leaves the rest of the film to gross you out even more.
One of the best things about this film, aside from the great cinematography by the incomparable Christopher Doyle, is Bai Ling’s overtly sexual performance. She steers the film down interesting political avenues that will shock you to your core. Also, though the film is 10 years old, it stands the test of time due to the subject matter’s eternal relevance. If you’re brave enough to stomach this freaky feature, I’m sure you won’t be ordering dumplings for quite some time.
Let the Right One In (2008)
Though Let the Right One In–based on the John Ajvide Lindqvist novel by the same name–spawned a successful American remake, the Swedish original reigns supreme. This quieter version of arguably one of the best vampire stories ever written features a screenplay by Lindqvist himself and is directed by Tomas Alfredson. The romantic horror pick tells the tale of 12 year old Oskar who finds solace from the terrors of bullying in his friendship with a vampire named Eli. The two leads are played by Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson respectively.
Though it sits in the horror genre, the film focuses more on the relationship between the characters than on gore or shock value–although some scenes are truly horrifying. In comparison to the American version directed by Matt Reeves, the Swedish version creeps along in a more linear fashion and reveals the startling truth about Eli to both the viewer and Oskar at the same time. If you’re looking for a bizarre film without a sparkle in sight, check out this masterpiece.
[Rec], which also has a pretty decent American remake, is surprisingly the only film on this list that I’ve gone out of my way to re-watch. The first version I viewed–and actually the only one that seems available for purchase on sites like Amazon and iTunes–was the English dub. Though the dubbing was terrible, I still really enjoyed the film. Years later, after watching the Spanish language original, the movie skyrocketed to the top of my favorite horror movies of all time list. It was co-written and directed by Spanish newcomers Jaume Belagueró and Paco Plaza and stars Manuela Velasco as Angela, a reporter who follows a couple of firefighters into a quarantined apartment complex.
This experimental take on the found footage and zombie genres accurately addresses the fears of being confined, cut-off, and infected by an unavoidable virus. What could have been a terribly played out premise luckily turned into one of the most unique ideas I’ve heard in a long time (due to plot points I won’t spoil for obvious reasons). If you like this one, prepare yourself because there are two sequels with a fourth installment releasing Halloween 2014.
If you’re interested in watching Shutter, make sure to get your hands on the Thai version and not the awful American re-make by the same name. The original, directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom, stars Ananda Everingham and Natthaweeranuch Thongmee as Tun, a photographer, and his girlfriend Jane. After hitting a woman with their car at the beginning of the film, the couple begins to experience paranormal activity via ghostly apparitions in Tun’s photographs. (Get it? Shutter.)
Don’t be fooled by the conventional ghost story set up. This is one of those films that successfully keeps you guessing until the very last shot. My advice on this one is to avoid looking anything up about it before giving it a look. Also, if you’ve already seen the re-make, I wouldn’t worry too much. Although you may know where it is going, the ride there won’t disappoint.
A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
Now for one of my favorites of the bunch: A Tale of Two Sisters. Aside from Japanese favorites Ju-on and Ringu, this Korean psychological horror flick is what officially put foreign horror on my radar. The film, directed by Kim Jee-won, stars Im Soo-jung as Su-mi and Moon Geun-young as her younger sister Su-yeon. Frightening things begin happening to the girls after Su-mi returns from a psychiatric hospital at the beginning of the tale.
The only other thing I’ll mention about the plot is that it’s surprising and has an ending that’s likely to keep you thinking about the movie for quite some time. Truth be told I still think about it every once in a while and will probably go back for a second viewing before Halloween arrives.
A few honorable mentions that could have easily fit on this list are: The Orphanage, Ju-on, Nosferatu, and the 1977 Italian classic Suspiria. If you have any foreign horror suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below or shoot them over to me on twitter @sam3214!