I write horror novels, horror stories, dark literature, and thrillers for a living. And I like American-made horror films as much as the next guy, but to tell the truth, we put out a good one about every two years—and they’re usually based on a film that’s already been done by another country. Why? Because Hollywood is all about money. They figure, “Hey—Spain did this movie and people loved it—let’s do our own version, but not as good—nobody’ll ever know and by the time they figure it out, we’re on the way to the bank.”
If you’re one of those people who don’t like subtitles, swallow your prejudice and give foreign films a chance. That old saying your grandfather used to hammer into you all the time was, “You don’t know what you’re missing.” And when it comes to foreign horror films, truer words were never spoken through falser teeth.
Somebody at Netflix has the impression that horror movies are meant to be shown only during the month of October, so if you’re a full-time fan and not just somebody jumping on the bandwagon for Halloween, you’ll be hard pressed finding foreign horror films on Netflix.
Fear not. I did the hard work for you. Here are a few you’ve probably never heard of—all streaming now on Netflix.
Oh, you’ve heard of the Hollywood re-make, Let Me In. (We’re apparently too lazy for a five word title so they shortened it). And the re-make was pretty decent, too. But if you want to see the better version, check out the Swedish original Let The Right One In, available for streaming on Netflix. It’s dark, it’s twisted, and it’s gory—after you see it, you’ll forget all about the American version.
I have to admit the US remake with Josh Brolin was good—really good. But the South Korean original may be one of the top 10 Asian films ever made—at least CNN voters think so because that’s how they voted. Choi Min-sik plays Oldboy with such gut-wrenching angst that you find yourself wanting to jump into the screen and give him a hand. Do yourself a favor, watch Oldboy in the original, currently streaming on Netflix.
Whew… When it comes to horror movies, you simply cannot beat the Koreans. That’d be the South Koreans—the North Koreans actually live in a horror movie thanks to that tubby little shit with the bad haircut, Kim Jong-un. This film has it all—revenge, bone-crunching, limb-tearing, flesh-rendering… Censors claimed it was offensive to human dignity. I can’t think of a better recommendation. In fact, browse to “International Movies” and choose “Korean Movies.” There’s not a clinker in the lot.
The new nanny shows up and when she finds out the kid is her own age and has some interesting ideas about playing games, the fun begins. Especially if your idea of fun is psychosis and murder. Truly creepy and only 73 minutes, start to finish. Sometimes, short is good.
They call this a drama and I call bullshit on that. If this thing isn’t a horror movie, Dracula was a cartoon with Tom Hanks’ voice as Van Helsing. Mads Mikkelsen (come on—it’s Hannibal!!) is a teacher in a small town who’s falsely accused of being a pedophile. When you see how he’s treated and what he has to go through to get his reputation back, you’ll be horrified beyond belief. And then there’s that ending. No kidding—you’ve got to watch this one.
Remember Cat People with Malcolm McDowell and Nastassja Kinski? Remember Cat People with Simone Simon? Remember The Wolfman with Lon Chaney, Jr.? Remember The Wolfman with Benicio Del Toro? Okay, if you don’t, then watch them when you get a chance. If you do, bundle them up in your head and inject the typical Danish creepiness together with a long, isolated, dark commercial fishing boat ride. How could you go wrong?
Dulce is a young mother who starts seeing things in her house. I can’t do the spoiler thing—just can’t do it—but she ends up in jail after being convicted of killing her son and her husband. Thirty years later, because NOBODY would ever agree to do this, the Venezuelan government releases her, but she has to return to the house. I jumped out of the chair twice watching this thing.
Technically, this isn’t a foreign horror film and anybody who tells you differently is nuts. It was filmed in California. However, it’s about an Iranian ghost-town called Bad City being stalked by a vampire and it’s in a foreign language. I think it’s Fārsī—but I wouldn’t know Fārsī from Esperanto. That’s what subtitles are for. If ever a film deserved to be called “camp,” this is the one. It was like watching Let The Right One In directed by Fellini. A must see.
When I first got serious about collecting horror films, this was on my list for a “gotta have.” I didn’t know why, but something about it made me think it would be worth watching. And I’ve probably watched it a dozen times. It’s a silent film and they’re not something I’m particularly fond of, but if you can put yourself in the mindset of a very early film audience, the intellectual terror of this movie will have you hooked inside of 10 minutes. Nothing in this movie is square, plumb or straight. All the doors are crooked, all the streets are cock-eyed, windows are curved, there are shadows all over the place, and the actors are right out of Edvard Munch’s painting, “The Scream.” If you don’t like this one, you’re not a horror movie fan.
I feel like an idiot recommending this movie, but once you figure out that it’s a Norwegian horror-comedy based on the legend of trolls, you’ll have a fine time. It’s filmed in the “mockumentary” style and I honestly didn’t expect much, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. It’s about a guy who hunts trolls. Take it from there.
The way to tell a really great foreign horror film is to check the American remakes. Sadly, you’ll have to wait until next Halloween for Netflix to offer the foreign originals of The Vanishing, Nightwatch, Dark Water, [REC], Ringu, Funny Games, or Ju-on.
That’s just the way they roll.
Don Gillette is a novelist, poet, and journalist. His latest book, Old Leather, is available in both paperback and ebook format.