Horror Movies From All Over the World￼
There’s no denial that Halloween is one of the most famous and beloved holidays that has centuries long traditions and celebrations. Everyone is familiar with trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins, dressing up for costume parties and eating piles of candy. A tradition that has recently gained in popularity is watching horror movies and cult classics during the month of October. Fans of horror films spend the spooky month watching marathons of well-known horror franchises. Even though the US is the most successful country when it comes to this genre of movies, international cinema brings something fresh and never seen before to the audience. With so many different directing styles, stories, messages, and most importantly, scary monsters and creatures, international movies deserve more spotlight than they’re given. Here is my list of some of the best, underrated, scary and gory horror films that come from all over the globe.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
“You’re getting older, and you’ll see that life isn’t like your fairy tales. The world is a cruel place. And you’ll learn that, even if it hurts.”
Pan’s Labyrinth is an essential piece from Spanish cinematography and one of Guillermo del Toro’s best works. According to the themes and messages it handles, it’s primarily a mixture of fantasy and war genre. The movie follows a young girl Ophelia (Ivana Baquero) who, alongside her mother, escapes to a place where the opponents of the Spanish Civil War are being hunted down and tortured. In the need of escaping the real world, she discovers a labyrinth and its keeper, a horned creature Faun (Doug Jones), where she needs to solve three tasks in order to return to a place she actually belongs to. Even though the movie has many metaphors for politics, human morality and death, it also deals with realistic problems such as war and consequences it leaves. Pan’s Labyrinth is mostly classified as dark fantasy, however it contains elements that easily fit horror standards. Some of them are mythological creatures like a scary looking Faun, atypical fairies, giant toads, and a grotesque pale monster, the Pale Man (Doug Jones). For a director famous for his scary creatures, the Pale Man is certainly del Toro’s scariest creation. Its outside appearance, which was done by using practical effects instead of CGI, isn’t the only scary thing about it. In the only scene where he appears, also the most popular scene in the movie, the Pale Man finds Ophelia eating his food which results in him chasing her down a long chamber. That is when you fully experience the horror of the movie’s setting. It has been said that Stephen King, the most popular master of horror, got scared watching the creature on the screen. This is why it is believed that Pan’s Labyrinth could easily fit under a horror category.
Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)
“All my dreams have come to nothing.”
This very unusual, but quite beloved, Czechoslovak movie doesn’t fit under your normal perception of horror. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders has been praised for its stunning aesthetic, costume designs and heavenly cinematography. But the themes the movie handles are quite shocking and appalling enough to make the viewers uncomfortable. It’s known for its controversial topics like incest, paedophilia, sexual assault etc. Valerie, played by then 13-year-old Jaroslava Schallerová, is a young and cheerful girl who finds herself in a series of bizarre events. As she is so young and pure, she becomes a target of her grandmother, a priest and other adults, as well as the town’s vampires, who want to hurt and use her for their own needs. The symbolism of innocence is prominent throughout the storyline, especially the contrast between innocent Valerie and the cruel society she’s surrounded by. Despite covering themes that don’t stray away much from the real world, the storyline feels more like a sequence of dreams, all lined one after another, and overall, not making much sense. This nonsensical storyline greatly helps with the surreal tone of the movie.
“In other words: “Quandum ubique, quandum semper, quandum ad omnibus creditur est”, which means that magic is everywhere, and all over the world, it’s a recognized fact.”
A bit more famous on this list is a 1997 Italian film Suspiria which is also on the list of classical beloved horror movies people pick to watch. It stands out because of its gorgeous retro aesthetic made of vibrant colours and enchanting cinematography, mixed with a great and unsettling soundtrack. It’s quite abstract and definitely not a typical horror story. The plot revolves around Suzy (Jessica Harper) who has just enrolled into a ballet dance academy where eerie events and murders start to occur. As the students deal with discomfort and dangers at their school, Suzy’s suspicion grows and she tries to discover who stands behind these events and further investigate the school’s professors who are secretly witches. Suspiria falls under a category of gory horror films since it isn’t afraid to show brutal deaths of characters in graphic scenes. It was remade in 2018 and, even though the newer version offers more graphic scenes, scarier themes and even more confusing storyline, 1977’s Suspiria is fans favourite and a cult classic that’s worthwhile watching any time of the year.
Train to Busan (2016)
“Good riddance. Always giving to others instead of to yourself. Why did you live like that? What was the point?”
South Korea has recently gained popularity in pop culture with its many successful movies and series. By now everyone would be able to name at least one Korean film or series, but one of the most popular mentions would be a film Train to Busan. Internationally known and critically acclaimed movie Train to Busan is an action filled zombie thriller with an intense storyline, outstanding acting performances, well-written and a climax that breaks the audience’s hearts. It impresses, scares, and makes the watchers feel a variety of emotions in barely 2 hours running time. The movie follows a divorced businessman Seok Woo (Gong Yoo) and his daughter Soo-an (Kim Su-an) who travel to Busan just as the zombie outbreak is occurring in South Korea. A zombie infection starts spreading on the train our protagonists are travelling by and alongside with other passengers try to survive as long as they can and save their loved ones. Some of the movie’s main assets are the relationships that characters build. There is a bond between a father and a daughter that hardens throughout the film, a tragic relationship between a protecting husband and his pregnant wife and partnership between strangers that occurs because of empathy and need of survival. Despite zombies looking like their biggest threat, there’s a dynamic between righteous and selfish people whose will to preserve themselves causes tragic deaths of others. Great performances are surely the highlight of this movie and the ending is so unexpected and shocking it leaves the watchers in tears. In the end, the relationship strangers create to help each other out in dangerous situations really shows how important empathy is in times of panic and danger.
The Babadook (2014)
“If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook.”
The Babadook is an Australian psychological horror film that hasn’t gained as much attention as it should. On the surface it might look like a typical story of a mysterious monster terrorizing an innocent family. But once you try to detect the meaning and metaphors behind it, it’s clear how well-made it is. It has standard horror elements like an eerie atmosphere, a scary and dark monster followed by an even scarier story. Yet, it manages to use these elements for constructing a metaphor for grief, depression and the loss of a loved one. Amelia (Essie Davis), in grief for her dead husband, is trying to navigate through motherhood as she handles her rebellious son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Her life is thrown out of balance when a supernatural creature, the Babadook, starts disturbing their lives and causing serious trauma and change in their behaviour. Amelia needs to figure out how to keep this monster under control so that it doesn’t hurt her son or affect their lives. The Babadook is a clear portrayal of grief and the difficulty of letting go of the past. It shows the viewers how denial and unstable emotions can easily break family bonds in difficult situations.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
“Don’t count the things you’ve lost. Count what’s still left.”
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is an Iranian movie not many have heard of, but which deserves our attention. If you like slow-paced movies with film directing similar to David Lynch’s, then this movie is for you. The movie mostly revolves around a boy named Arash (Arash Marandi) who struggles with money trying to support his father. It also revolves around an unnamed girl (Sheila Vand), who is secretly a vampire that goes around their small town punishing and feasting on men who harmed women and treated them wrong. These two eventually meet and develop a friendship which later develops into a love story. The movie is visually pleasing, fully filmed in black and white, but the key element the movie relies on is soundtrack. Scenes with little or no dialogue are accompanied by music which can create a great horror atmosphere and sometimes a romantic one as well. A motif that’s obvious throughout the movie is feminism since our unnamed protagonist acts like a protector of women, lurking during the nights and observing any dangerous or suspicious behaviour coming from men. Even though it may not be so popular in the horror community, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is an original romance, horror and western movie combined in one and it deserves more recognition.
“I hope your kids have bad influences and develop a bad personality.”
One of the strangest movies out there, a Greek film Dogtooth is a surreal story composed of bizarre events and themes. It follows a wealthy family with three children, a younger daughter (Mary Tsoni), an older daughter (Angeliki Papoulia) and a son (Christos Passalis), completely isolated and shielded from the outside world. Even though they’re home-schooled, their parents haven’t taught them about life outside of their house in order to control them more easily. The movie doesn’t include much action and the pacing is slow for the most part. But the way the children are being mistreated, brain-washed and locked away from the real world with little to no knowledge about it is itself quite terrifying. Unexpected series of events that occur in less than 100 minute running time help in setting the creepy tone of the movie, with an unhealthy family dynamic and violence being the primary issue. Dogtooth might not be a movie for everyone, especially for those with a weaker stomach, because it has enough creepy situations and disturbing scenes to leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.
The Host (2006)
“Have any of you heard it? The heartbreak of a parent who’s lost a child… When a parent’s heart breaks, the sound can travel for miles.”
Another typical monster movie, but with a humorous twist, South Korean film The Host explores important themes such as family relationships and bonds. The director Bong Joon-ho, now an internationally known director because of its well-praised movie Parasite, took an interesting turn on the story and transformed it into a comic action horror film. The movie follows Park Gang- Doo (Song Kang-Ho), a slow-witted owner of a snack-bar whose daughter Park Nam-Joo (Bae Doona) gets kidnapped by a new monster Gwoemul. She’s taken to a sewer where she tries to survive and escape from, as her family struggles to keep together and rescue her. Because it involves a bit of comedy, the movie’s scariest element is the fish-like monster itself. It was chemically created in the sewers, which is why its abilities aren’t limited to land only. The mutated monster is quite scary looking, and despite the fact that the film was made in the early 2000s, special effects are quite good and intimidating. The story is suspenseful but occasionally funny, the characters are well imagined and acted out, and it’s a classic monster movie that will amuse and terrify the viewers.
Written by Nola Kolarek