Horror is a relatively underrated genre. More so, when mainstream media refuses to focus on anything outside the little dot that is Hollywood. This injustice puts countless truly petrifying horrors in the dark.
There have been countless non-English horror films that have monumentally revolutionized the genre. Be it the ghastly demonstration of savagery from the prominent Eyes Without a Face, or chilling cultural folklore at the forefront of every other Asian horror in existence, international horror films trumps generic media-vetted flicks any day. This Halloween season, trade the all-too-famous Conjuringseries for a journey around the world’s darkest hallows for a truly bloodcurdling night.
10/10 Train To Busan Colossally Reconstructed The Zombie Cinematic Landscape (Korean)
When spotlighting iconic haunts across the globe, why not begin with one of the most popular? Renowned director Yeon Sang Ho challenged the dying zombie premise with his unconventional masterpiece, Train to Busan. Workaholic, divorcé father, Seok Woo, travels from Seoul to Busan, daughter in hand. What was meant to be a quick trip on the bullet train turns into a deathly battle for survival.
Seok Woo’s pursuit of asylum from the walking dead goes far beyond the generic virus outbreak. Not only does Train to Busan promise a compelling drama splattered in blood, but being grounded on emotional carnage has the film highlighting the true horrors of life. Train to Busanis a cinematographic treasure that painfully emphasizes the importance of family and leans into the despair of inescapable death.
9/10 Eyes Without A Face Revolutionized The Slasher Sub-Genre (French)
The sinister Eyes Without a Face is a slow burn. George Franju takes a hideously gruesome yet poetic approach to vivid surrealism, criticizing unrealistic beauty standards imposed on women since the beginning of time. Distinguished surgeon Dr. Genessier dedicates his life to finding a new face for his daughter after the latter’s incessant begging.
Eyes Without a Face is a powerful social commentary on the objectifying notion that a woman’s worth is contingent on her beauty. The film uses grisly horror-thriller elements to quietly descend into insanity. Eyes Without a Face features everything from kidnapping and murder to obsession and a desperately degrading psyche. At its core, it also centers on the extent a father will go to put a smile on his daughter’s face.
8/10 The Medium Leverages Various Superstitions In The Thai Buddhist Culture (Thai)
From the director of Thai-horror legend Shutter, The Medium is a critically acclaimed blockbuster that is a must-watch for horror fans everywhere. The film follows the life of a medium living in Thailand’s largest remote region, Isaan. Horror is injected into Buddhist mysticism when Mink gets possessed by an evil spirit.
Plot-wise, the mockumentary slowly builds its suspense before unfurling one vicious ghost possession after another. The hand-held camera work adds some authenticity to the fiction, making it ten times scarier. It’s almost an immersive horror experience with the audience as the film’s additional main character.
7/10 Suicide Club Should Appeal To Jaded Gen Zs Obsessed With Dark Comedy (Japanese)
The comprehensive Asian horror filmography is in a league of its own. However, there’s a nihilistic theme across most, if not all, Japanese horror. Though Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-On: The Grudge deserves to be on every horror list ever written, what’s more sickeningly nihilistic than mass suicide?
Japan, a country with an infamous suicide forest, having a movie this disturbing is unsurprising. Suicide Club opens with 54 schoolgirls readying themselves to jump in front of an oncoming train. Sono adapts a sanguine tone to criticize the media for perpetuating toxic beliefs into young, susceptible minds. The uncanny mix of dark comedy and wicked gore-fest addresses a controversial-yet-pertinent enigma in Japanese culture.
6/10 Let The Right One In Is The Cure To The Deteriorated Vampire Sub-Genre (Swedish)
Directed by an ex-comedian and released in the same year as Twilight, Let the Right One in shouldn’t have stood a chance in the genre. Yet, instead of being pulled down by the notorious sparkling vampire saga, it soars above the wreckage in all its bloody glory.
Like a killer vampire film focusing on the life of two innocent-looking kids, the beautiful Scandanavian snow juxtaposes the grisly murders that ensue. Let the Right One in is much more nuanced than the average vampire movie. In every arc, each character alternate playing victim. It blurs the line between right and wrong, all while the audience is on the edge of their seat awaiting the vampire’s next vicious kill.
5/10 Dumplings May Turn You Off From Dumplings For Life (Chinese)
Expanded from an equally gut-wrenching anthology, Three… Extremes, Dumplings stars a washed-up actress obsessed with retaining her youth. Searching for magic itself, she stumbles upon Aunt Mei’s magnificent age-defying dumplings. The catch is, each mouth-watering dumpling is stuffed with aborted fetuses instead of pork and veggies.
Christopher Doyle’s cinematography elevates a basic cannibalism story to a dignified classic for the horror silver screens. Towards the end, Dumplings includes vivid images of fetuses glistening in crimson. It’s a sickening horror that’s infinitely more mortifying than any supernatural jump scares in the game. No matter how nauseating the film gets, the death-grip Dumplings has on its audience is bewitching in the worst way possible.
4/10 Goodnight Mommy Puts All ‘Creepy Children’ Horror To Shame (Austrian)
Twins have always been a pronounced horror trope. In fact, any horror flick that includes a set of twins anywhere in its cast almost always guarantees a frightening experience, especially if they speak in unison.
Despite being twins, its an utter sin to simply categorize Lukas and Elias into a box. The two boys are far eviler than anyone could imagine. The deeply disturbed psychological horror follows Lukas and Elias in their abominable journey of torturing their mother within an inch of her life. Though the twins’ deranged nature is enough to scare anyone out of their wits, the dark ending is far more brutal than their torturous savagery.
3/10 A Mother’s Love Humanizes An Age-Old Ghost Tale (Indonesian)
Wewe Gombel is a nefarious ghost woman so maternally desperate she kidnaps children to make them her own. Acclaimed filmmaker, Joko Anwar, utilizes this mortality to appeal to the audience’s humanity. However, true to Anwar’s movies, the somewhat-moving premise is sullied by Wewe manifesting into the foreboding phantasm she is.
Anwar is a visionary. Known for Satan’s Slave, Anwar extorts beauty from every demonic entity in Indonesian mythology. His movies are always cinematographically grand. Anwar’s movies are never simply jump scares and demonic possessions. Underneath every grotesque form of horror, Anwar highlights the true horrors of the mortal world. From generational trauma to the sheer fragility of the human mind, Anwar lets the audience decide whether the true horrors of life lie deep in the shadows or guilelessly live within.
2/10 Suspiria Is A Fairy-Tale (Italian)
Dario Argento creates one of the most beautiful horror movies to ever exist by combining ethereal fairy-tale elements into gaudy, gut-churning gore. From the daintily elegant theatre sets to the psychedelic gothic home, Suspiria is exquisitely ostentatious – a masterpiece, indeed.
True horrors lie beneath Suspiria’s pretty-pink surface. With maggots raining down from ceilings and bodies hanging from skylights, this 1977 classic is not for the faint of heart. Even its much tamer 2018 remake reportedly scarred Dakota Johnson so bad she required therapy soon after shoots concluded. The juxtaposing beauty and horror run deep in Suspiria. The way its soundtrack perfectly compliments every contrasting facet is dreadfully divine.
1/10 The Orphanage Has Some Of The Best Jump-Scares Of The Decade (Spanish)
If The Platform is anything to go by, Spanish horror films don’t hold back. Whether it’s ugly, mind-boggling criticism on capitalism or creepy kids scaring the life out of any adult who watches, Spanish horror is top-tier.
The Orphanage follows a woman making the absolute worst decision of her life by purchasing the orphanage she grew up in. Hoping to restore it to its former glory, she turns it into a sick home to accommodate her son. When her son disappears into thin air, she turns to the spirits that haunt the walls of her childhood home. The desperation of a mother’s love manifests into something quite unnerving to watch. Jump scares aside, the film is incredibly poignant and an amazing addition to everyone’s Halloween movie marathon.
NEXT: 10 Best Slasher Movies To Watch Before Halloween