I’m far too quick to tell people that Horror is among my least favorite movie genres. But that’s not entirely accurate, or at least doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s more that horror movies tend to be the ones that most frequently disappoint me, to the extent that I get annoyed and summarily impugn the entire genre. Call it a shortcoming, but I’m just the type who isn’t going to emotionally invest in and/or otherwise care about characters who make totally implausible and/or inexplicable decisions repeatedly over 90 minutes in the name of suspense, nor be spooked by “shock-and-awe” set-ups I can see coming from a mile away . . . which are primary features of all but the very best of the horror movie bunch.
Yes, there’s the occasional “so bad it’s good,” to go along with the rare “really well done.” horror flicks. But if you ask me, the rest of it . . . most of it . . . is crap. So why in the world would I think I’m qualified to share an opinion on good horror movies, when I admittedly don’t regularly watch a lot of horror movies, and have a pretty dim view of the genre as a whole? One, because the fact that liking a horror film is such a rarity for me, they really stand out. Two, because it’s late October, the patron month of scary movies. And of course three, because Rudy foolishly gave me Admin privileges and I can.
So rather than offering up the usual suspects of well-done horror (Texas Chainsaw, Psycho, Rosemary’s Baby, Exorcist, Halloween, Shining, etc., etc.), here’s my not-a-horror-guy’s list of eight well-worthwhile international horror films that you might not know unless you’re a horror aficionado (in which case I expect there to be debate and/or derision coming my way):
One of my favorite things about this Japanese movie is that it begins in such a fashion that if you didn’t know ahead of time, you might not realize it was going to be a horror film. By the time you do, it’s far too late to turn away, because the movie is just that immersive, and its femme fatale just that good!
I didn’t realize until I finished that Italian director Dario Argento makes my list twice, but I couldn’t drop this or Deep Red from the list. The best phrase I’ve seen used to describe Susperia is “disconcertingly beautiful,” that while true, also falls short of conveying just how violent and brutal the death scenes are in this masterwork of supernatural suspense and mystery.
One of the earlier films made with the Internet playing a central role, this Japanese techno-horror film nevertheless stands the test of time for not only it’s terrifying ghosts, but for putting forth the truly scary concept that “ideas” cannot be exorcised, and for being the kind of film that affects you in ways you don’t anticipate.
Deep Red (1975)
Not the scariest movie on this list, but a great twisting and turning Italian gaillo style murder mystery horror-thriller, with over-the-top death scenes, and an ending that makes you question your own perceptions and perspectives on what you just witnessed.
The Wicker Man (1973)
Certainly a “slow-burn” horror movie, and much more suspenseful if you’ve been fortunate enough not to have seen the terrible Nicholas Cage remake, but the truly disturbing payoff is there in the United Kingdom original, if you hang in and pay attention.
I Saw The Devil (2011)
If you like your excessively excessive violence and horror with just a dash of humor tossed in, this Korean film about a homicide detective tracking a serial killer, who starts emulating the insane monster he’s chasing, does not disappoint.
The Vanishing (1988)
Also known by its original Dutch title Sporloos, this visceral and upsetting missing person psychological thriller has a climax that continues, decades later, to be considered by many as one of the scariest movie endings of all time.
This ferocious home-invasion thriller arguably sits atop the “French new-wave” horror field, and delivers a powerful and intense cat-and-mouse game, made even more “squirm in your seat worthy” by virtue of the very pregnant protagonist.
Oh balls! How could I possibly forget?
Train to Busan (2016)
Almost made the inexcusable mistake of leaving this brilliant Korean film off the list, which would have truly been a horror of horrors, and quite possibly could have gotten me kicked out of the Misfits! In my defense, this film resides in my head as an unparalleled, favorite zombie-action movie, but unquestionably delivers in the horror and thriller movie categories as well.
Phew! What an unexpected and frightening close call!
OK horrorphiles and scare-aholics, where did I swing and miss, or what did I miss?