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Foreign Film Friday: 10 horror films from around the world

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Sick of only finding the same ten titles when googling for a new horror to watch? We've got you covered. 

Take a break from all the sunshine, football and slow collapse of the UK government and sink your teeth into these chilling horror films from around the world. 

1. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) — Germany

Widely regarded as ‘the first true horror film’ and a precursor to arthouse cinema, this silent film from post-WW1 Germany tells the story of a hypnotist who uses a somnambulist named Cesare to commit a series of murders. Its striking cinematography and dark, psychological themes helped draw worldwide attention to German cinema, as well as a surge in interest in avant-garde and horror cinema across the world. 

2. Suspiria (1977) — Italy 

The remake starring Dakota Johnson is just around the corner, so what better time to revisit this classic supernatural horror from Dario Argento? Suspiria is considered one of the most influential Euro-horrors ever made and has since amassed a huge cult following, largely in part due to its artistic use of colour and unforgettable score. It follows an American student at a prestigious German ballet academy, who makes a sinister discovery about the school as students around her start dying grisly deaths. 

3. Audition (1999)  — Japan 

Audition is a slow burner, with the first eighty minutes or so playing out like a mystery drama surrounding a young woman named Asami. A widower, whose son suggests that he find a new wife, holds a series of fake auditions in order to meet a potential partner, wherein he meets Asami. They go on a series of dates which appear to go well, however Asami’s dark past soon starts to affect the relationship, leading to a truly stomach-churning final act. 

4. The Orphanage (2007) — Spain

The Orphanage received a 10 minute standing ovation when it premiered at Cannes, praised not only for its genuine creepiness in place of cheap scares, but also for its emotional gravitas. The plot centres on a woman named Laura, who, with her husband and adopted son Simón, returns to the orphanage where she spent her childhood with plans to turn it into a home for disabled children. Before long, Simón claims to have befriended a boy named Tomás, who is only ever seen wearing a sack mask. 

5. Let the Right One In (2008) — Sweden

Based on the 2004 Swedish novel of the same name, this dark vampire romance tells the story of a bullied 12-year-old boy who befriends a vampire child in early 1980s Stockholm. While much of the subject matter involves bloody violence, director Tomas Alfredson is notably restrained in his approach to it, instead preferring to focus on exploring the relationship between the two children. 

6. Dogtooth (2009) — Greece 

Fans of The Lobster and last year’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer will recognise the name Yorgos Lanthimos, whose second directorial feature Dogtooth launched him into international revere. Dogtooth perhaps plays more as a surreal drama (or comedy, depending who you ask) than a flat out horror, centring on three adult siblings who have been homeschooled by their parents and kept ignorant of the world beyond their garden fence. What it lacks in traditional scares, it more than makes up for with its disturbing ideas about family.  

7. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) — Iran 

Self-described as ‘the first Iranian vampire spaghetti western’, the debut feature from writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour attracted rave reviews following its premiere at Sundance. Set in the Iranian ghost town of Bad City, the film depicts a budding romance between a lonely vampire known only as The Girl and a young greaser who cares for his heroin-addicted father. The soundtrack is a particular highlight, including a stunning use of ‘Death’ by White Lies.

8. Goodnight Mommy (2014) – Austria

Bugs, masks, and a creepy gospel lullaby are the main ingredients in this dark indie horror from Austria. After moving to a new home following their mother’s cosmetic facial surgery, young twins Elias and Lukas aren’t altogether convinced the woman underneath the bandages is who she claims to be. Ambiguous and full of dread, the film went on to be selected as the Austrian entry for Best Foreign Language film at the 88th Academy Awards.

9. Raw (2016) — France/Belgium

Raw’s gory reputation preceded it months before its official release due to several viewers allegedly fainting during a festival screening. The plot follows a young vegetarian’s first year at a veterinary school where, after tasting meat for the first time, she develops an intense craving for flesh. Despite its graphic content, the film was lauded for its direction and themes, though one could argue it's worth it alone for the sucker punch ending dialogue. 

10. Train to Busan (2016) — South Korea

Train to Busan follows a group of passengers on a train from Seoul to Busan just as a zombie virus breaks out over South Korea, leaving them fighting to survive within the carriages. Among them are a working-class pregnant couple, a high school baseball team, a rich COO, two elderly sisters, a homeless man experiencing PTSD, and a workaholic father accompanying his young daughter to see her mother. The action sequences are stunning, yet underneath the zombie massacres boasts a surprising amount of emotion and social commentary.

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