In an era simply stuffed with inept studio horror – laden with empty jump-scares and peppered with recycled characters – it can be easy to forget how it really feels to be truly frightened by a motion picture.
However the art of terror lives on outside of the English language, as fellow countries across the globe have been creating simply chilling stories for many, many years. The horror genre is drastically expanded here; conveying deeper, darker themes, and presenting imagery so striking it’ll stain the fringes of your psyche.
Foreign auteurs beautifully blur the lines between psychological thrills, gallons of gore, and razored social commentary to provide a screen nightmare experience like no other.
With Halloween just around the corner, and to celebrate the highly-anticipated UK release of Korean zombie flick Train
10. Frontiers (2007)
Post-2000 French horror has been quite frankly tremendous, and Frontiers is one of the many fine offerings. This brutally violent renaissance piece is somewhat an ode to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but the sense of palpable dread and ferocious shocks are cranked all the way up to eleven.
Fleeing from protest riots in the city, four friends reunite at a quaint country farmhouse unfortunately ran by a clan of foul neo-Nazis. Body parts fly and claret coats walls as the gang fight for their survival, armed with an array of power tools; the usage of such items will make you wince.
Despite the insanity and unflinching chaos which commands the frame, Frontiers has a remarkable discipline. It somehow manages to maintain a patina of social commentary and even gallows humour amid all the airborne entrails and spew. There is no denying that this is extreme viewing – relentless, gruesome and uncompromising – but those brave enough to take up residence in the secluded countryside will have a whale of a time.
9. Goodnight Mommy (2014)
The latest film of this list is also one of the most spine-tingling. Goodnight Mommy beautifully juxtaposes the clichés of the ‘creepy kid’ movie and projects a taut, almost sickeningly frightful slow-burner.
Terror and a grueling atmosphere are sown into space and silence, making the spectator both long for and indeed loathe what’s around the corner. This Austrian offering follows two twin boys whose mother returns home heavily bandaged after cosmetic surgery. As the film progresses, the boys’ scepticism about the lady behind the mask of cotton becomes all-consuming. Soon they start to believe that she isn’t their mother at all; rather an imposter.
Packed with smart and intricate twists, and a profound sense of melancholy (the undeniable link between fear and sorrow is irrevocably explored), Goodnight Mommy keeps the audience guessing and captivated.
It is a distinctly European horror film in terms of its aesthetic; share, crisp direction, clinical modernised sets, but it pays warm homage to many tales of past terrors, and is surprisingly accessible, too. Upon initial release, the film garnered viral social media attention when sources reported it had the scariest theatrical trailer of all time. Trust us when we say the film itself is far scarier….
8. [REC] (2007)
Found footage horror films have sadly become a parody of themselves for the most part. The precision and control of the new sub-genre has been largely diminished, and many newer titles are tainting the memory of what was once an arresting, muscular form of storytelling. The oldies however remain potent and downright terrifying, and few can match the Spanish rollercoaster of terror, [REC].
The film follows a late-night news reporter who tags along with the local fire department as they visit a nearby apartment block. It soon becomes apparent that the residents here aren’t quite feeling themselves, and it isn’t long before the building is sealed; trapping everyone inside with a plethora of rabid, infected zombies.
The zombie genre has seen its fair share of mediocrity and repetition over the years, but the exhilarating visual format of found-footage here, paired with the insatiable mania of the undead sends the viewer right into the dizzying heart of the horror. [REC] is breathless and frantic cinema; a onslaught of relentless thrills, chills and quilting tension. Like those trapped inside the hellish hallways, you’ll be fighting to survive.