You might have to squint a bit to read the subtitles, but these dreadfully delightful Foreign Flicks are sure to give your goosebumps goosebumps in any language! Here are My 10 Favourite International Horror Films of the 21st Century (So Far…)
1. MARTYRS (2008)* — FRANCE
Directed by: Pascal Laugier
Produced by: Richard Grandpierre, Simon Trottier
Written by: Pascal Laugier
Starring: Morjana Alaoui, Mylène Jampanoï
Released: September 2008 (France)
In 1971, a 10 year old girl named Lucie escapes being imprisoned and found wandering in the streets, badly beaten and bloodied. Lucie does not say who did these horrible acts on her nor does she elaborate as to what happened to her. Lucie is placed in a hospital where she meets Anna, another young girl who had been abused. The two become inseparable friends. Fifteen years later, Lucie believes she has found her attackers after seeing their picture in the local newspaper. With Anna’s help, Lucie sets out to get revenge on the people who tortured her all of those years ago. The horror begins the moment her accused attackers answer the door. What ensues is indescribable.
Faithful reader, by now you have been following my Horror film posts and get a sense of what I’m all about. I post movie reviews on here all the time. But I’m going on record here directly by saying that this movie, Martyrs (2008), is the most intense, jaw dropping, chills inducing, gross out, terrifying film I have seen since I started the blog. I have seen hundreds of horror movies in my life – studied them – write about them – but I have yet to experience a film that has left me as tripped out and speechless as this French film has after it ended. I realize I’m building a hype, but Martyrs was just such an insane fright, that I’m so enthusiastic about being legitimately spooked for the first time in a very long time!
Between Martyrs, Ils (2006), Inside (2008) and High Tension (2008) – the French have definitely demonstrated that they are sick Mofo’s when it comes to horror, and that period from 2003 to 2010 produced some pretty intense films and great horror film directors like Pascal Laugier, David Moreau, and Alexandre Aja.
If you have a very strong stomach, are fairly desensitized to gore, and an unwavering resolve, give Martyrs a viewing. If not, have someone who has seen it tell you what it’s about, and you will still freak out!
Whew. That was intense.
2. HIGH TENSION (2003)* — FRANCE
3. DOG SOLDIERS (2002)* — SCOTLAND
Directed by: Neil Marshall
Produced by: Brian Patrick O’Toole, Christopher Figg, Tom Reeve, David E. Allen
Written by: Neil Marshall
Starring: Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Liam Cunningham
Released: May 2002
This film was lent to me, and recommended, by my late stepfather Jim. It sat on my DVD shelf for months before I finally threw it in the machine and watched it. I wish I had seen it sooner because it was amazing! This Scottish export is a great werewolf movie! Along with the Howling and American Werewolf in London, this film could very well be one of my favorite werewolf movies ever! The monsters are hulking beasts and they rip their prey to shreds. Set in the Scottish highland, dog soldiers follows a group of army guys on a drill weekend in the forest that are thrust into a manic struggle for survival! Some of the interplay between characters makes for a bit of tongue and cheek laughs too, but don’t get too comfortable with the laughs because the frights pop up when you least expect it!
4. I SAW THE DEVIL (2010)* — SOUTH KOREA
5. THE ORPHANAGE (2007)* — SPAIN
Directed By: J.A. Bayona
Produced By: Guillermo Del Toro
Written By: Sergio G. Sánchez
Starring: Belén Rueda; Fernando Cayo; Roger Príncep; Geraldine Chaplin
Released: October 2007
SPANISH: FANTASMA FANTASTICO!
The Orphanage (El Orfanato) is a 2007 Spanish horror film and the debut feature of Spanish filmmaker J.A. Bayona and produced by Guillermo del Toro. The movie centres on Laura and her little family. Laura purchases the orphanage that she grew up in, with her husband Carlos and their young adopted son Simón. Laura hopes to turn the building into a permanent residence for handicapped and disabled people. As the weeks go by, Laura notices that Simón is acting strangely – drawing pictures of a strange figure with a burlap sack mask over its head. Laura becomes concerned when she and Carlos realize that Simón believes he has a masked friend named Tomás with whom he says he will run away with.
A woman named Benigna Escobeda, a social worker that Simón had recently started seeing, is a strange woman that starts snooping around the property and digging into their coal shed. When confronted, Laura banishes her from the property and from seeing Simón ever again.
Then one day, after an emotional and heated argument, Laura is unable to find Simón anywhere. A massive search is conducted for Simón but he is not found. As the weeks go by after the disappearance, Laura senses strange energies in the house and witnesses phantom-like spirits periodically throughout the home. Months pass with no further clues as to the disappearance of her son. Laura’s marriage falls apart and Carlos leaves as he is unable to cope with everything.
As the film progresses, more secrets are revealed and Laura and Simón’s final fates are heart-wrenching and jaw dropping. The Orphange is a slower paced but powerful haunted house horror story. The film opened at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2007 and it garnered a lot of critical acclaim from audiences in Spain, and it won seven coveted Goya Awards. When it was released in North America, it was praised by English critics and New Line Cinema has reportedly purchased the rights to make an American remake.
6. WOLF CREEK (2005)* — AUSTRALIA
7. BATTLE ROYALE (2000)* — JAPAN
Directed by: Kinji Fukasaku
Produced by: Masao Sato, Masumi Okada, Teruo Kamaya, Tetsu Kayama
Screenplay by: Kenta Fukasaku
Based on: “Battle Royale” by Koushun Takami
Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto, Masanobu Ando, Kou Shibasaki, Chiaki Kuriyama, Takeshi Kitano
Released: December 16 2000
I first caught this cult Japanese teenage slaughter film, Battle Royale (2000) at a Film Festival Midnight Madness Event the year it was released. It’s essential the Japanese R-Rated version of The Hunger Games. But on a little bit of Heisenberg’s blue meth. It’s ultra-violent, bloody, and is considered one of Japan’s top films…ever !
Thirty unsuspecting teen students that think they are headed on a field trip, are gassed unconscious and abducted by the government. They awaken in a strange location on remote island, and are fitted with an explosive collar that explodes if they go past the automation to an isolated location where they must battle each other to the death until only one has remained standing. This is some bizarre form of truancy control mandated by the government after an incident in years prior that had 800,000 students simultaneous walk out of school. Every cycle, a random class is selected to compete. The group is given their instructions that they have just three days to kill each other until only one remains. If they do not comply then the explosive collars will kill any of the students that refuse co-operate. It becomes class rivals against each other, love interests pick up arms against one another, and some are just bloodthirsty enough to kill them all!
When the movie was released in 2000, it was wildly criticized by critics and other interest groups, and the movie was banned in several countries. But the film was also applauded by critics and audiences alike, and has also grown into a huge international fan film. Battle Royale (2000) is a great presentation of the man vs man — us vs them — man vs the elements horror dichotomy.
8. REC (2007)* — SPAIN
9. 28 DAYS LATER (2002)* — UNITED KINGDOM
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Produced by: Andrew Macdonald
Written by: Alex Garland
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Megan Burns, Brendan Gleeson
Released: November 2002
Two things I have to state before we go further. One – I absolutely f*^king love zombie movies! Two – I absolutely f*^king love director Danny Boyle (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, The Beach, Slumdog Millionaire). So you can only imagine what my opinion of what 28 Days Later might be! The movie is a unique twist on the zombie genre in that those that become infected are not dead — they are entirely consumed by a rage virus that makes living people bloodthirsty monsters. One drop of blood from the infected will turn anyone into one of them in a matter of seconds! The movie is pulse-pounding, it’s frightening, and seems all too plausible!
The infected can run at top speeds, jump to maximum height, and have become the most terrifying of predators. Lock the doors. Watch with a friend, and make sure you each have your own popcorn — just to be on the safe side!
10. THE DESCENT (2005)* — UNITED KINGDOM