Around this time every year, a significant proportion of the American public (and perhaps even the international community) undertakes the admirable task of scaring its pants off. From haunted houses, to ghost tours, and horror films, the Halloween season is teeming with intimidating entertainments. Now Playing usually highlights some of the best foreign films currently playing at the theater, but we thought it appropriate to dedicate a special late-October edition to the most frightful foreign language horror films of all time.
The movies on our list truly span the horror genre. You’ll be able to sample vampire epics from Russia, zombie thrillers from Spain, monster flicks from Korea, and much more. The films on our list are all accompanied by brief synopses and links to Netflix, where you can rent or stream almost all of our selections.
It’s safe to say that the following previews have been approved for RESTRICED AUDIENCES ONLY. If you’re under 17, squeamish, or part scaredy cat, you may not want to watch some of these trailers.
Enjoy the Halloween season!
20. Zombi 2 (1979)
Director: Lucio Fulci, Language: Italian (Note: Post-production dubbing into various languages)
After a New York harbor patrolman is murdered at the hands of a flesh-hungry ghoul aboard an abandoned yacht, Anne (Tisa Farrow) — the daughter of the ship’s missing owner — teams with a newspaper reporter (Ian McCulloch) for a private investigation. Clues eventually lead them to a Caribbean island where the dead refuse to stay dead. A voodoo curse is at work, and now a battle with the bloodthirsty zombies awaits. — © Netflix
Watch Zombi 2 via Netflix.
19. Dead Snow (2008)
Director: Tommy Wirkola, Language: Norwegian
A group of Norwegian friends get the scariest history lesson of their lives during a weekend getaway to the snowy town of Øksfjord, where the party is interrupted by throngs of Nazi zombies who once occupied the area. Armed with a machine-gun-equipped snowmobile, the gang fights for survival in director Tommy Wirkola’s quirky horror, shot on location in the mountains of Norway. The film had its U.S. premiere at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. — © Netflix
Watch Dead Snow via Netflix.
18. Faust (1994)
Director: Jan Svankmajer, Languages: Czech and Latin
As a nameless Czech everyman (Petr Cepek) exits a subway station, a stranger hands him a map that ultimately draws the man to his doom. The diagram leads to a nightmarish theater where he takes on the mantle of Faust. There, he unwittingly summons Mephistopheles and loses his soul in the bargain. Director Jan Svankmajer’s imaginative film employs stop-motion animation, special effects, Claymation and live action to achieve a surrealistic effect. — © Netflix
Watch Faust via Netflix.
17. Eyes Without a Face (1959)
Director: Georges Franju, Language: French
A plastic surgeon (Pierre Brasseur) becomes obsessed with making things right after his daughter Christiane’s (Edith Scob) face is terribly disfigured in a car accident that he caused. Overcome with guilt, Dr. Genessier and his vicious nurse, Louise (Alida Valli), concoct a plan to give Christiane her face back by kidnapping young girls and removing their faces … and then grafting them onto Christiane’s. — © Netflix
Watch Eye’s Without a Face via Netflix.
16. Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)
Director: Takashi Shimizu, Languages: Japanese
Before he crafted an American version starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, director Takashi Shimizu thrilled Japanese audiences with this story of a young nurse (Megumi Okina) who learns that the house she’s visiting is cursed by two brutal murders that happened there. Soon, she realizes that everyone who sets foot in the house, which is inhabited by vengeful spirits, meets a bloody and disturbing end, and she’s the next in line. — © Netflix
Watch Ju-on: The Grudge via Netflix.
15. Frostbitten (2006)
Director: Anders Banke, Language: Swedish and German
In the wake of a painful divorce, a doctor (Petra Nielsen) uproots to a small Lapland town and takes a job at the local hospital. But as the days go on, she can’t help but notice a series of strange “accidents” that seem almost otherworldly. Surrounded by seasonal darkness — and with dawn still a month away — can she learn the truth about the town’s evil aura? And, more importantly, can she stay alive? — © Netflix
Watch Frostbitten via Netflix.
14. Left Bank (2008)
Director: Pieter Van Hees, Language: Dutch
Ailing athlete Marie (Eline Kuppens) feels as if she’s found the perfect place to recuperate when she moves in with a new boyfriend (Matthias Schoenaerts) and takes up residence in the idyllic Left Bank. But a shocking discovery in the basement sends her spiraling into doubt and insanity. Suddenly, she can’t be sure whether her lover can be trusted — and she’s seeing things that can’t otherwise be explained. — © Netflix
Watch Left Bank via Netflix.
13. [REC] (2007)
Directors: Jaume Balagueó and Paco Plaza, Language: Spanish
Trapped in a quarantined Barcelona apartment building with residents, firefighters and a growing horde of ravenous zombies, television reporter Angela (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman, Pablo, record brutal deaths and terrifying events while trying to stay alive. Filmed entirely from unseen Pablo’s point of view, this tension-filled Spanish horror film thrills viewers with its aggressive action. Paco Plaza and Jaume Balagueró direct. — © Netflix
Watch [REC] via Netflix.
12. Ringu (1998)
Director: Hideo Nakata, Language: Japanese
Based on the book by Koji Suzuki, this earlier Japanese version of the hit American movie The Ring is creepy in the extreme. After watching a mysterious videotape, a group of teenagers die gruesomely. The video becomes an urban myth. But an insidious force points a deadly finger at unwary souls unable to resist their curiosity — people such as Reiko, a journalist who’s unwillingly drawn into a nightmare by the unseen threat. — © Netflix
Watch Ringu via Netflix.
11. The Host (2006)
Director: Joon-ho Bong, Language: Korean
In Seoul’s River Han, a giant mutant creature has developed as a result of toxic chemical dumping. When the squidlike monster scoops up the teenage granddaughter of humble snack-bar owner Hie-bong (Hie-bong Byeon), he races to track down the murderous beast. With no help from the authorities, who are convinced the girl is already dead, Hie-bong and his family will have to band together to save her — and possibly the entire city — © Netflix
Watch The Host via Netflix.
10. Night Watch (2004)
Director: Timur Bekmambetov, Language: Russian
This first installment of the trilogy based on the best-selling science fiction novels by Russian writer Sergei Lukyanenko plays upon the tension between light and dark, pitting the superhuman Night Watch patrollers (known as the “Others”) against the shadowed forces of the night. But the biggest fear of all stems from the lines of an ancient prophecy, which warns of a renegade Other whose betrayal could bring chaos to the land. — © Netflix
Watch Night Watch via Netflix.
09. The Orphanage (2007)
Director: Juan Antonio Bayona, Language: Spanish
Fueled by fond memories from her childhood, Laura (Belén Rueda) persuades her husband (Fernando Cayo) to help her revamp a seaside orphanage into a facility for disabled children. But soon after the couple moves in, their son, Simón (Roger Príncep), begins exhibiting disturbing behavior. As Laura tries to understand Simón’s increasingly malevolent actions, she becomes drawn into the house’s terrifying secrets in this unnerving chiller. — © Netflix
Watch The Orphanage via Netflix.
08. Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1980)
Director: Werner Herzog, Languages: German and Romani
This German-language 1980 retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula follows the bloodthirsty, undead count (menacingly played by Klaus Kinski) as he takes over the German village of Virna and then tries to spread his bloodsucking ways throughout the world. All that stands in his path is the lovely, selfless Lucy Harker (Isabelle Adjani). Iconoclastic German director Werner Herzog blends dreamlike imagery and a languid pace to give the film an ethereal milieu. — © Netflix
Watch Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht via Netflix.
07. Kuroneko (1968)
Director: Kaneto Shindô, Language: Japanese
When the fearsome ghosts of a slain peasant woman (Nobuko Otowa) and her daughter (Kiwako Taichi) start exacting their bloody revenge on the arrogant samurai warriors who raped and killed them, a local lord sends out brave warrior Gintoki (Kichiemon Nakamura) to vanquish the menace. But Gintoki’s loyalties are torn when he discovers that the angry spirits are those of his own mother and wife. — © Netflix
Watch Kuroneko via Netflix.
06. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
Director: Ji-woon Kim, Language: Korean
Terrified sisters try to exorcise their home of two dark forces — their evil stepmother and a vengeful entity — in this ghostly tale. Hospitalized after their mother’s death, young Su-mi (Im Su-jeong) and Su-yeon (Mun Geun-yeong) return home to find a nasty new stepmother (Yeom Jeong-ah). The girls suffer terrifying events, but their father doesn’t care, even though evil lurks around every corner. Can the girls free their home from its demons? — © Netflix
Watch A Tale of Two Sisters via Netflix.
05. Haute Tension (aka: Switchblade Romance) (2003)
Director: Alexandre Aja, Language: French
Students Marie (Cécile de France) and Alex (Ma ïwenn Le Besco) have no idea of the horrors that await them when they head off to a remote country home to study for their upcoming exams and a psychopathic stranger attacks, tying up Alex and taking her away. It’s up to Marie to save her friend — but first, she must figure out what’s really going on. Philippe Nahon co-stars in this twisty-turny tale of terror. — © Netflix
Watch Haute Tension via Netflix.
04. Let the Right One In (2008)
Director: Tomas Alfredson, Language: Swedish
Twelve-year-old Oskar (Kâre Hedebrant), the constant target of bullies, spends his time plotting revenge and collecting news items about the grisly murders plaguing his town. But things change when he meets a new girl named Eli (Lina Leandersson), a misfit vampire who steals his heart. As a serial killer continues to prey on teen boys in their small Swedish village, Eli helps Oskar find the courage to stand up to his tormenters. — © Netflix
Watch Let the Right One In via Netflix.
03. The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
Director: Guillermo del Toro, Languages: Spanish
Twelve-year-old Carlos (Fernando Tielve) is the latest arrival at Santa Lucia School, an imposing stone building that shelters orphans of the Republican militia and politicians during the last days of the Spanish Civil War. Carlos gradually uncovers the dark ties that bind the inhabitants of the school: hidden riches, sexual intrigue and the restless ghost of a murdered student, who may be the only one to provide resolution. — © Netflix
Watch The Devil’s Backbone via Netflix.
02. Audition (1999)
Director: Takashi Miike, Language: Japanese
Director Takashi Miike fashions an explosive drama in Audition. Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) has lived as a widower for too long and decides it’s time to marry again. But how will he find a wife? When a friend suggests he hold a fake audition to pick the right woman, he takes him up on it — only to realize that his choice may be a better actress than he bargained for. — © Netflix
Watch Audition via Netflix.
01. Suspiria (1977)
Director: Dario Argento, Language: Italian (Note: Post-production dubbing into various languages)
This horror gem follows Susan (Jessica Harper), a naïve young American girl whose talents have brought her to an illustrious European ballet school. But once she gets there, she realizes there’s something strange going on as she’s faced with a cluster of freaky happenings, from a shower of maggots to poison in her food. What she soon learns is that the school has been a meeting place for witches for many years. — © Netflix
Watch Suspiria via Netflix.
Did we snub one of your favorite foreign language horror movies? Do you think some of these films should have been higher or lower on the list? Leave a comment… and have a Happy Halloween!
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