31 Days of Horror
The Definitive Foreign Language Horror Films
English language film has long been a place for some of the greatest horror film directors of all time. All the way back to Alfred Hitchcock, we have seen the genre grow and develop sub-genres, thanks to the public’s ongoing thirst for fear and the possibility of danger around every turn. But, for every Saw or Hostel or terrible remake of classic English-language horror films, there are inventive, terrifying films made somewhere else that inspire and even outdo many of our best Western world horror films. This list will count down the fifty definitive horror films with a main language that isn’t English; some may have some English-language parts in them, but they are, for the most part, foreign. Enlighten yourself. Broaden your horizons. People can get murdered and tortured in every language.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published under our old brand, Sound On Sight.
50. Kuroneko (1968)
English Title: Black Cat
Directed by: Kaneto Shindo
Japanese for “Black Cat,” Kuroneko is set in a small village in medieval Japan, where a ghost is roaming the lands tearing out the throats of nomadic samurai. This comes after the destruction of a home in bamboo grove, where a woman named Yone (Nobuko Otowa) and her daughter-in-law Shige (Kiwako Taichi) live, left to die after they are raped and abused. They are, in fact, the ghosts who return, wreaking havoc as they enact revenge upon the soldiers of the land to make them pay for their deaths. In a twist of fate, the soldier sent to dispatch of the ghosts, Hachi (Nakamura Kichiemon II), is the son and husband of the women now raiding the countryside and taking vengeance. The film is quiet and eerie, with a chill that almost freezes the landscapes. Based on a Japanese supernatural folk story, Kuroneko is far from the graphic horror that has since overtaken the cinemas – a simple, haunting parable about loss and love.
49. Nochnoy Dozor (2004)
English Title: Night Watch
Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov
One half of a duology contrasting the day and night, Night Watch focuses on “Others,” a group of supernatural beings that live among humans in modern-day Moscow. As we are told in the prologue, each “other” must align itself with either the forces of light or the forces of dark, since the two groups have a long-running cease-fire. The “others” that side with the dark roam the streets at night as vampires, while a collection of their opposition keeps an eye on them – the title “Night Watch.” Among them is Anton (Konstantin Khabenskiy), a man forced into service with the “others,” learning he is, in fact, an “other” himself, with the ability to see glimpses of the future. Eventually, he is called to protect a young boy named Yegor, who is being called by the darkness because of his gift. Much less a horror film than it is a thriller, this epic tale of good and evil teetering back and forth is a fascinating discussion about right and wrong and the inconsistencies between them. It tends to fall into some vampire movie cliches at times, but the complex conceit of the film is enough to make it an enjoyable, supernaturally creepy watch. Night watch, of course.
48. Tutti i colori del buio (1972)
English Title: All the Colors of the Dark, Day of the Maniac, They’re Coming to Get You!
Directed by: Sergio Martino
It’s kind of like a mix between The Omen and The Brood, but nowhere near as sharp and clearly diagrammed. All the Colors of the Dark is an Italian horror film centered around Jane (Edwige Fenech), a normal woman living in London with her boyfriend. She is constantly plagued by nightmares (not so normal). Her mother was murdered when she was five (even less normal). She has lost a baby in a car accident (this woman can’t catch a break). Her boyfriend Richard (George Hilton) suggests that she start taking vitamins. Her sister wants her to go to therapy. Then, Jane meets a neighbor who suggests she participates in a Black Mass, where her fear will disappear (because that’s what you do – trust a stranger over your boyfriend and sister). But, after attending the ceremony, she finds her fears becoming all the more real. This movie is crazy. Fenech spends a good portion of the film in a stupor or completely nude and, while the concept of a devil-worshiping cult could present interesting returns, it ends up dragging a bit. Regardless, the insane nature of this movie is a good example of the Italian horror film genre when things aren’t entirely fleshed out, so to speak. It’s still a fun watch.
47. Reazione a catena (1971)
English Title: A Bay of Blood, Twitch of the Death Nerve, Blood Bath
Directed by: Mario Bava
The first Mario Bava film on the list, but certainly not the last. The story begins with a wheelchair-bound heiress murdered by her husband, as he wants to inherit her fortune. He is then mysteriously murdered. Then, other family members decide the inheritance should be theirs, so they start killing each other, too. It all gets more cloudy when a group of teenagers camping out on the property also gets involved. With help from a team of writers, Bava creates a graphic killing spree, aided by special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi. Bava’s films are typically violent, but this one gets the award for the most intense and multi-faceted, as we see murder after murder without any respite in the plot at all. The 1970′s were the birth of the slasher film, with movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre hitting theaters, but there’s no denying the influence Mario Bava had on the genre, specifically this crazy hack-a-thon that has one of the greatest and simultaneously most disturbing endings on the list. Side note: Twitch of the Death Nerve is possibly the greatest English-language title of a foreign horror film ever.
46. Saam gaang yi (2004)
English Title: Three…Extremes
Directed by: Fruit Chan, Park Chan-wook, Takashi Miike
Put three of the most talented horror/thriller directors from East Asia together and you’re bound to have something interesting. The anthology film Three…Extremes is a collection of three short films, each directed by a master filmmaker. The first, Dumplings, is a Hong Kong film from Fruit Chan about an aging actress who begins to eat dumplings to reclaim her youth that turns out to have secret ingredients in them. The second is Cut, from Park Chan-wook, a South Korean short about a movie extra that kidnaps the director, only to torture him while holding his wife hostage. The final installment is a Japanese film titled Box, about a woman with recurring nightmares about being buried in a box, only to find they may be a vision of a distorted reality. As we move along the list, we’ll see other anthology films. But this one is a fascinating collaboration between three connected, but not necessarily collaborative directors from three separate nations. Dumplings was extracted from the group and made into a feature film, only to be released into British theaters, but the conceit of all three disconnected topics provides the right dose of paranoia and creepiness that you may not want to see anymore running time from any of the shorts.
45. Bakjwi (2009)
English Title: Thirst
Directed by: Park Chan-wook
He had a segment in Three…Extremes, but he is more skilled as a full-length director, especially in the thriller/horror genre. The man who gave the world the widely celebrated vengeance trilogy (specifically the original Oldboy) also directed this smaller vampire film that offers a deeper theme focusing on religion and the struggle with faith. Thirst is loosely based on Émile Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin, centering on a priest in love with his friend’s wife who, through a bizarre medical experiment, becomes a vampire. Beyond just a vampire horror film, Thirst comes layered with themes about faith and the difficulty of maintaining one’s devotion in the face of hardship, in addition to an honest love triangle that feels more realistic and understated than most horror films make room for. The film won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009 (not something horror films are known for), as well as boasting the first time a mainstream (keyword) Korean feature film has included full-frontal male nudity. In an era ripe with vampires that glitter, vampires that fight other vampires, and so on and so forth, Thirst was a different take on the genre that, for the most part, works.
44. Dèmoni (1985)
English Title: Demons
Directed by: Lamberto Bava
Give him credit for trying to step out of his father’s shadow; didn’t hurt that his producer/co-writer was horror master Dario Argento. Lamberto Bava had made films before and has made films since and, while none of them (including this one) are great, Demons is his most recognizable film. An odd Italian film that also includes English, is set Berlin, and features a largely English-language rock soundtrack (Billy Idol, Mötley Crüe, Rick Springfield), Demons centers on a student who is lured to a movie theater to watch a disturbing horror film with a bevy of other people, including prostitutes, a blind man, and couples of varying ages. After one of the prostitutes cuts her face, she transforms in a bloodthirsty demon who attacks her friends, which leads to them attacking others, and so on. It might be reaching for a “danger of the media” metaphor and, while Demons isn’t entirely successful, it’s claustrophobic take on the genre is an original play made by some interesting icons in the industry. Besides, a lot of the props in that theater are pretty crazy.
43. Somos lo que hay (2010)
English Title: We Are What We Are
Directed by: Jorge Michel Grau
A theme not often found in English language horror films (at least, not successfully) is the concept of lifestyle creating horror out of everyday activities. In other words, a set of people don’t think what they are doing is abnormal, but society has real issues with it (think Dogtooth, but more horror-leaning). Such is the case with the Mexican horror film We Are What We Are, where a family is left without a father after his unexpected death and has to begin fending for themselves. Most importantly, that means carrying out an important tradition for the family: cannibalism. The ritualistic practices behind the cannibalism are not merely to find, kill, and feed. There is a process to maintain; quality control, if you will. Some family members feel prostitutes are off-limits. Others have problems with eating gay people. You know, regular family squabbles. It’s part horror film, part detective thriller, but it manages to take a common theme and turn it into something a little creepier, if only by applying it to family tradition. Sometimes, the horror is not in the act; it’s the reasoning behind the act. Parents pass on hobbies and tastes to their kids all the time – why not eating people?
42. Ils (2006)
English Title: Them
Directed by: David Moreau, Xavier Palud
Ils is a French-Romanian collaboration that claims it is “based on real events.” Clémentine (Olivia Bonamy) and Lucas (Michaël Cohen) live in the countryside, far from the hustle of bustle of city life. One evening, the night after a car crash neither of them is aware of, they are visited by shadowy figures who seem bent on killing them. From there, it is 74 minutes of high-level intensity, as we watch Clémentine and Lucas try desperately to escape a horrible fate, running through the woods, trying to get to safety. Two years later, director Bryan Bertino made The Strangers which, while eerily similar, is not technically a remake; it’s also nowhere near as intense and well-plotted. Moreau and Palud also wrote the film, focusing in on the constant fear of someone there in the dark, waiting for you, without any legitimate reason. There’s something to be said for a film that, while lacking backstory, can keep the dial of intensity up so high for the entire running time. The murderers in Ils certainly aren’t “typical,” but their motivation is nonetheless just as terrifying.
41. La piel que habito (2011)
English Title: The Skin I Live In
Directed by: Pedro Almodóvar
There’s no real effort to induce screaming, but Pedro Almodóvar’s Spanish psychological thriller still veers enough into body horror and mystique that it falls into the horror category, but just barely. Based on Thierry Jonquet’s novella Mygale, The Skin I Live In stars Antonio Banderas (his first collaboration with Almodóvar for 21 years) as a plastic surgeon who has been working with a prosthetic skin that helps resist insect bites and burns. When he confesses that he has done experimentation on humans, he is banned from his ongoing research. From that point on, he holds a woman named Vera (Elena Anaya) captive with the help of his servant but dismisses the rest of his employees after his research has been disallowed. From there, we learn the twists and turns of the doctor’s past – women he loved, men he killed, and, in particular, one incident that involved his daughter, an attacker, and the doctor’s warped journey for justice and punishment. After finding his daughter unconscious, he tracks down the man he feels is responsible and spends six years slowly transforming him into a woman to subject him to the pain of rape and abuse he feels has been put upon his daughter. It’s a dark, uncomfortable look at loneliness and sexual identity that veers around a few corners a little too sharply, but in the end, explodes on screen in a way that most viewers aren’t prepared for.
Horror is really the only genre that has entries that, while “good,” may not necessarily mean “recommended.” So, how does that affect what is “definitive?” A recent conversation brought up the nightmare of a movie A Serbian Film which, by all accounts, is a horror film. But, while everyone in film circles knows about the film (many have even seen it), I can’t imagine anyone actually recommending it. It’s made an impact, sure. But at what cost? The best horror films aren’t simply there to scare and disgust viewers. They’re there to serve as metaphors for other issues, however big or small. But the best ones are those that do it in a way that, while still may scare and disgust you, will also make you think and reevaluate your situation.
40. À l’intérieur (2007)
English Title: Inside
Directed by: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury
As my wife will tell you, pregnancy is scary on its own. It’s even scarier when someone you don’t know is trying to break into your house and steal your unborn child. Inside stars Alysson Paradis as an expectant mother who, with her husband, go through a terrible car accident. Her husband dies; months later, she is preparing for the baby’s birth, still suffering from the loss of her baby’s father. A woman (Béatrice Dalle) arrives at the door one day to borrow the phone, but Sarah (Paradis) refuses, leading to discovery that this woman has been stalking her. From there, this excellent example of French New Wave horror just turns up the dread. At a tight 82 minutes, Inside never lets up and refuses to limit the lengths it goes to in order to shock and terrify its audience. Hollywood has tried to gain the rights to remake the film, but the directors have turned it down. Somehow, the graphic nature and horrifying premise of Inside, even if remade well, may just be too much for English-speaking audiences.
39. Kairo (2001)
English Title: Pulse
Directed by: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
So, beyond all the pornography, popup ads, and malware, the Internet is also filled with ghosts that strongly suggest you commit suicide. Kairo is a deliberate attack on the world wide web, based on the novel of the same name, surrounding a webcam that invites visitors to talk to the dead. After a group of Japanese students watches their friend kill himself, they begin to feel like he is contacting them from beyond the grave. This leads to them investigating a website with a streaming camera that claims it allows users to interact with dead people. As fun as that sounds, the students begin to notice additional suicides that seem to be linked to this site. The film has two parallel storylines – one focused on investigation, the other more or less on discovery, involving a computer that seems to have a mind of its own. The metaphorical attempt to make a point about isolation and miscommunication from Kairo is a little heavy-handed and silly at times, but it was enough to spawn a Kristen Bell-starring American remake titled Pulse, which led to a few sequels, despite its incoherence. In the end, whether Kairo truly altered anyone’s perceptions about the dangers of the Internet is a mystery, but it was an important break in the world of technology-themed horror, where the unknown can be explored much deeper.
38. La Cité des enfants perdus (2005)
English Title: The City of Lost Children
Directed by: Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Another film that tows the line between horror and something much more mythical and whimsical, The City of Lost Children, like Caro and Jeunet’s previous film Delicatessen, counteracts the visual scares with a fairytale-style that seems to make it less a horror film than a sci-fi/fantasy film. But, it’s tough to not call a film with a talking brain in a tank a horror film. Krank (Daniel Emilfork) is an evil scientist, kidnapping children to steal dreams since he is unable to have his own. One of these children is the adopted brother of a carnival strongman named One (Ron Pearlman), who bands together a group of orphans to help him save his missing sibling. To further explains the bevy of characters and the plot would be a disservice – The City of Lost Children is a brilliant, twisted nightmare that provides less scares than it does deeper thought. Pearlman could not speak French, so his lines were fed to him phonetically; in a way, it made his performance more interesting. The score is composed by the great Angelo Badalamenti, better known for his frequent collaborations with David Lynch (he wrote the Twin Peaks theme). The imagery on screen – much like Caro and Jeunet’s other films, Amelie included – nearly overtakes any sense of plot, but that imagery and cinematography is what pushes the film closer and closer to horror. Besides, it has a video game for both the PC and the PlayStation.
37. Kwaidan (1964)
English Title: Ghost Stories
Directed by: Masaki Kobayashi
Another anthology film, this one entirely directed by one Masaki Kobayashi. Kwaidan is based on Lafcadio Hearn’s collection of Japanese folk stories and won the Special Jury Prize at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival. The first story (“The Black Hair”) tells the tale of a man who leaves his wife to marry up in class, only to eventually return home to a terrifying discovery. The second (“The Woman of the Snow”) tells the story of a man and his son who are near death in a storm when the son is rescued by a ghostly woman who tells him never to mention it again. Then, he meets a woman who looks eerily like the ghost, forcing him to break his promise. Story three (“Hoichi the Earless”) is about a blind musician invited to sing for the royal family, who suspect he is communicating with ghosts. The final (“In a Cup of Tea”) centers on a writer waiting for a publisher who keeps seeing faces in a cup of tea. The three-hour film has no gore – similar to many other Asian horror films of the era, it requires more imagination and plays out like a fantasy – moody and atmospheric. Kwaidan grabbed a deserved Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language film in 1965, only to lose to the Czech film The Shop on Main Street.
36. Profondo Rosso (1975)
English Title: Deep Red, The Hatchet Murders
Directed by: Dario Argento
Argento again, this time with the story of a killer who has taken the life of a famous psychic, but with one witness: a music teacher (David Hemmings) who begins to notice clues connected to the killer as he tries to prevent future murders, not realizing the killer is following him, too. Argento uses a heavy dose of musical and child imagery in the film, as the killer’s trademark is a silly, whimsical child’s tune that always prefaces the murders. Eventually, this leads Marcus (Hemmings) down a rabbit hole of folklore, researching the origin of the tune itself. One of Argento’s less financially successful films, it still found great critical acclaim, functioning as a dual horror and detective film. Argento, while always a recognized master of the horror craft, tends to struggle at times with functional story and plot, caving to the side of beautiful, haunting imagery instead. Deep Red is one of his stronger stories and one of his better twist endings, weaving a textured thread that finishes nicely. Weird trivia: this film actually sits in the public domain; it can be shown anywhere without paying royalties. And look at that freaking screengrab.
35. Misterios de ultratumba (1961)
English Title: The Black Pit of Dr. M
Directed by: Fernando Méndez
Mexican gothic filmmaking at its most impressive, The Black Pit of Dr. M is a little-seen gem from Fernando Méndez about the line between life and death. Dr. Mazali (Rafael Bertrand) is a mild-mannered, mad scientist who runs an insane asylum. His former partner Dr. Adelman (Jacinto Aldama) was put to death for crimes he did not commit; Mazali has since struggled with the loss of his partner and friend and aches to speak with him again. He looks to a psychic to help him communicate with his dead friend, only to release the soul upon the living, bringing his corpse back to life. From there, it’s a zombie film, but unlike anything else, the public may have seen. It’s a difficult movie to follow; it runs back and forth and shifts without explanation at moments, but Méndez has seen his style of filmmaking parodied and paid tribute to multiple times. One could argue the films of Bava and Argento are greatly influenced by Méndez. The Mexican gothic horror genre is a strange one, and Méndez is one of the greats, despite his typically lackluster critical acclaim.
34. Goemul (2006)
English Title: The Host
Directed by: Bong Joon-ho
Long before this year’s crowdpleaser Snowpiercer, director Bong Joon-ho gave the world one of the best modern horror/monster movies with The Host, its subject an amphibious, gigantic creature living in Korea’s Han River. Centrally, the film is seen through the eyes of Park Hee-bong (Hie-bong Byeon), an elderly snack bar owner whose family is a bit of a disappointment. When the monster takes his granddaughter, the family mourns, only to learn she is still alive. At that point, the film shifts to focus more on the son and father of the taken girl, Park Gang-Doo (Kang-ho Song), and his race to rescue his daughter from the terror that inhabits the waterway. Part monster movie, part horror thriller, part medical outbreak film, The Host takes on plenty of themes, most centrally the theme of survival and strength in the face of certain doom. Up to this point, Park Gang-Doo was, at best, a failure in his father’s eyes. In his quest to save his daughter, he finds unexpected strength. The special effects are incredible, the story is exciting, and, despite being less atmospheric than most horror films, it still stands up against some of the movie monster classics of old.
33. I tre volti della paura (1963)
English Title: Black Sabbath
Directed by: Mario Bava
Another anthology film, this one features three stories, all directed by Mario Bava. The first, “The Telephone,” is a similar plot to When a Stranger Calls, where a woman keeps receiving threatening phone calls. The second, “The Wurdulak,” is about a man who returns to his family, claiming to have killed a creature who kills the beings it once loved. Finally, “The Drop of Water” tells the story of a woman who steals a corpse’s ring, only to be haunted by the original owner upon her return home. Black Sabbath was an early example of what would happen if Bava (or any other international director) would cave at all to American demands. The production company hacked up the script, removed scenes of violence, and created an English-dubbed version to satisfy their target audience. Of the changes, it shifted the story of “The Telephone” to focus on its mysterious, fantastical nature, rather than original themes of prostitution and lesbianism. The international cast gave Black Sabbath some success, almost specifically because of the involvement of Boris Karloff, who plays the protagonist in “The Wurdulak.”
32. Phenomena (1985)
English Title: Creepers
Directed by: Dario Argento
A mostly foreign-language film with recognizable North American actors, Phenomena starred a young Jennifer Connelly as Jennifer, a girl who attends a Swiss boarding school in the middle of nowhere. There, she witnesses the murder of a classmate and, through a turn of events involving sleepwalking, she realizes she has the power to communicate and control insects. She gets ridiculed for her gift and finds herself at risk of being transferred to an insane asylum when she escapes the school and stays with an entomologist named McGregor (Donald Pleasence). Oh, and he has a chimpanzee named Inga. The premise sounds silly, but the pacing and the performances are effective enough to overlay the somewhat ridiculous concept. The American release cuts almost 30 minutes off (including a moment where Jennifer explains that her mother left her family on Christmas; a truth from Argento’s own life), toning down the murder scenes and renaming the film Creepers. The film has a bevy of soundtracks, due to its multiple versions, but includes a heavy focus on rock music, with original music from the progressive rock band Goblin, who Argento worked with regularly.
31. Operazione paura (1966)
English Title: Curse of the Dead, Curse of the Living Dead, Don’t Walk in the Park, Kill, Baby… Kill!, Operation Fear
Directed by: Mario Bava
More Mario Bava, this time at a smaller scale. Set in a small town, Kill, Baby…Kill! follows a coroner as he examines a maid’s corpse, only to discover a silver coin in her heart. Apparently, the town is cursed and anyone who brings it up meets their end with this trademark talisman embedded in his/her chest. One of Bava’s first color films, Kill, Baby…Kill! is quite a bit more ethereal than the movies that would follow in his career, creating a sort of dreamworld that escapes from reality a few more times than usual. Bava work has influenced many, but this specific film clearly served as a resource for Argento, as well as David Lynch, who delivered a near-perfect shot-for-shot version of a scene from this film in the final episode of “Twin Peaks.” It’s an interesting, methodical horror mystery that shows a lot of promise beyond just blood and guts from a well-established horror auteur.
What is it about foreign horror films that makes them more interesting than so many English language horror films? You would have to think that the language barrier makes it more terrifying; people screaming is already difficult, but speaking a language you don’t understand can only make it worse. So, why are the remakes typically so bad? On this portion of the list, we are treated to a few of the more upsetting films in the canon – one movie I wouldn’t wish for anyone to see, a few that blazed the trail for many more, and one that I would elevate above the horror genre into its own little super-genre.
30. Janghwa, Hongryeon (2003)
English Title: A Tale of Two Sisters
Directed by: Kim Ji-woon
Another excellent Korean horror film America had to remake to lesser results. 2003′s A Tale of Two Sisters is just one of many film adaptations of the folktale, involving two sisters who return home from a mental hospital and begin going through strange experiences with their stepmother. Birds die, people aren’t who you expect, and ghosts appear, all taking their cues from the broken relationship between the girls – Su-Mi and Su-Yeon – and their seemingly wicked stepmother. This highest-grossing Korean horror film of all time is also the first to be screened in American theaters, grossing just under $75,000 in limited release. The film was remade in 2009 as The Uninvited, a film that lacked the twisted, surreal nature of the original. The major strength of A Tale of Two Sisters is the unexpected, somewhat unintelligible shifts of perspective, moving between typical shock horror and psychological horror seamlessly. Of the late 90′s/early 00′s Asian horror film boom, A Tale of Two Sisters stands out as an example of how to turn what could have been a ridiculous film into a true thriller.
29. La maschera del demonio (1960)
English Title: Black Sunday, The Mask of Satan, Revenge of the Vampire
Directed by: Mario Bava
Hey – it’s Mario Bava again. This time, it’s his directorial debut (or, the first one that put his name on it). Black Sunday was incredibly gruesome for its day and age, receiving a ban in the UK until 1968. In the 1600′s, a witch named Asa (Barbara Steele) and her lover are put to death by Asa’s brother, but not before Asa puts a curse on her brother’s descendants. 200 years later, Asa is revived thanks to some stray blood – mayhem ensues. Steele also plays a young woman named Katia that Asa (also Steele ) is trying to take life/youth from, which makes for a nice dichotomy. The eventual American version cut all the fun stuff out: a mask of nails hammered into Asa’s face, an “S” being branded into her, an eyeball impalement, and burning flesh being peeled off. It’s a clear influence on directors from Tim Burton to Francis Ford Coppola and serves as one of the original films to make its imagery as horrifying as it’s unseen moments.
28. Tetsuo (1989)
English Title: Tetsuo: The Iron Man
Directed by: Shinya Tsukamoto
It’s the gold (steel?) standard of Japan’s underground cyberpunk movement of the 1980′s, delivering industry-fueled visuals and a narrative structure that makes little sense. Tetsuo starts with a bang – a man (he’s never named) cuts his leg open and shoved metal wiring into the open wound. Naturally, the wound gets infected, causing the man (Tomorowo Taguchi) to freak out and get hit by a car. The driver and his girlfriend dumped his body in a ravine, only resulting in the driver to morph into a weird human/scrap metal combination. Meanwhile, the Metal Fetishist (Taguchi) starts inhabiting bodies and appearing to the driver through various means. This movie is bonkers. It’s less horror than it is a crazy technology thriller, but the underlying theme of body horror makes the film feel like a low-cost Cronenberg picture. Clocking in at just over an hour, Tetsuo never turns down the intensity and manages to twist the genre on its head.
27. Nekromantik (1987)
English Title: NEKRomantik
Directed by: Jörg Buttgereit
Warning: This description may cause bodily harm. Jörg Buttgereit’s controversial West German film took on most of the film taboos that had yet to be approached. Nekromantik centers on Rob (Dakarti Lorenz), a clean-up specialist for fatal accidents. It’s a perfect gig, Rob being a necrophiliac and all. He and his girlfriend Betty (Beatrice Manowski) have Ana apartment filled with blood, body parts, and various other traditional decor. This eventually leads to him bringing a whole corpse home, allowing he and Betty to engage in some three-way fun. But, just like every other film involving an open relationship, Betty begins to prefer the company of the outlier (so cliche). So, she leaves with the corpse to start a happier life with him. From there, Rob is a broken man – sex in a graveyard can’t even cheer him up. So, in the strict West German state of the mid-80′s, this tiny film with no budget, untrained actors, and terrible special effects, caused a bit of a stir. Buttgereit didn’t submit it for review, attempting to show it in only adult theaters on his own. It’s a freaking mess. It really is. But it’s also a benchmark of foreign independent cinema, a proud member of the cult canon of the last 30 years, and a horrifying precursor to the torture porn and even more sadistic sub-genres of today. Forgive me – I’m off to shower.
26. Cronos (1993)
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
The modern Mexican horror master Guillermo del Toro has improved his craft since, but his first groundbreaking work came with 1993′s Cronos, the story of a device that gives eternal life (with a few side effects). Of course, it’s resurfacing brings with it great power, leading to a dying millionaire to search for it, sending his nephew Angel (Ron Pearlman) to find it, bringing him to shop owner Jesus (Frederico Luppi), who after his death at the hands of Angel, activates the device’s power. He finds his youth returning, only to find with it a new thirst for blood. Del Toro has shown brilliance in his methods of bringing what can be defined as “adult fairy tales” to life – those fantastical stories with a strong moral message but littered with plenty of sadness, pain, and death. Cronos is no exception – an early look at a filmmaker that had yet to meet his full potential. It was enough to get his next project funded – the English language suspense film Mimic, which del Toro was unhappy with, since his directorial cut was not the released version. Still, Cronos is a good first effort from a man who would only get better, as you’ll see later on this list.
- Written by Joshua Gaul