Every True Horror Buff Should Watch These 11 Foreign Horror Films – The Mary Sue

There are many American horror films we love. But to call yourself a true horror buff, you have to also explore the stellar foreign catalog of horror that exists—because if you’re just watching horror through the narrow American lens, you’re missing out! Yes, many have subtitles, which some people aren’t a huge fan of. But think of it this way, subtitles make you actually pay attention. You can’t be half-watching while scrolling on your phone. They force you to immerse yourself in the terror.
So, if you’re a horror fan and want to expand your palette, these are some of my favorites. Whether it be a New French Extremity film or something from the vast Asian horror catalog, the following horror has quite a diverse range of both subject matter and origin. There should be something for everybody!
Let me know what I missed (or need to put on my own watch-list)!
Country: Japan
Alternatively known by its Japanese title, Hausu, this film is without a doubt one of the most fun, experimental horror movies you’ll ever watch. It’s very weird, obscure, and yet, utterly captivating. The visuals are nothing you’ve ever seen before. And it’s also quite funny intentionally.
The film follows Gorgeous (Kimiko Ikegami), and her weird friends, who take a trip to Gorgeous’ aunt’s house. Though they have no clue supernatural occurrences are afoot in the house—which wants to devour the crew (yes, I said devour). It’s as bizarre as I just described and I love it.
Country: Italy
Dario Argento genuinely gave us a classic (it was later remade in 2018—but you’ve got to start with the O.G.). Suspiria (1977) exists in the supernatural horror subgenre and is about a dance academy (that’s not remotely what it seems, of course). Suzy Bannon (Jessica Harper) is one of those final girls who isn’t as discussed as she should be. But she contributes massively to the iconic status this film holds. Especially in Italian horror cinema—even while being an American actress! It’s a must-watch—the colors, score, and the very giallo moments, will have you remembering this film for a very long time.
Country: Austria
This absolutely belongs in the category of disturbing horror films. It even earned a spot on the banned list in Europe the year it was released. Not only that, but a real-life mass murderer (named Werner Kniesek) inspired this film. Basically, Angst (1983) is about a deranged serial killer (Erwin Leder) who is (unwisely) released from prison. And this man begins killing again, of course, because he just can’t help himself. The events that follow are really graphic—this one isn’t for people who find themselves really sensitive to such subject matter. But the performances feel eerily believable and the incredible cinematography is also worth noting.
Country: France
This New French Extremity film is still controversial to this day! For the queer community, many find this film problematic. Believe me, we don’t all love this film, even if Marie (Cecile De France) is badass in certain moments throughout. The film is about Marie and Alex (Maïwenn), best friends, who are attacked at Alex’s parents’ farmhouse during a weekend visit. And there’s a lot of murder. The ultraviolence in this film is memorable. Especially that decapitation scene (if you’ve watched then you know). But at the root of the film is a shitty twist that leaves you feeling frustrated. The ending ruins the movie for many of us, but despite the problematic aspects of this film, it’s still regarded as iconic as far as foreign horror goes.
Country: Australia
It’s very hard to get this film out of your mind after you watch it. There’s a cruel nature to it and that’s mostly due to Mick Taylor (John Jarratt). He’s absolutely sadistic. The film focuses on some poor backpackers who think Mick is a cool guy until they are kidnapped, hunted, and tortured by him. The film is really brutal in its violence and doesn’t hold back regarding the twisted nature of Mick. Disturbingly, the movie is inspired by a real Australian serial killer (now deceased) named Ivan Milat. This film has the same flavor as much of the horror coming out at this time. And that’s part of its disturbing magic. These characters may make horrible decisions, but they don’t deserve to be hunted by a maniac.
Country: France
This is one of the most bonkers and bloody horror movies you will ever watch. It’s part of the New French Extremity and it didn’t hold back on the gore or disturbing moments. This relentless and bleak film focuses on a pregnant woman named Sarah (Alysson Paradis), who is under attack in her own home by a mysterious woman (Beatrice Dalle) who wants her unborn baby. The performances and (somewhat) realistic portrayal of violence will stick with you long after the movie is over. It’s a film that any horror fan who can stomach extreme gore should watch at least once.
Country: France/Switzerland
There’s almost nothing quite like this New French Extremity gem. The film focuses on a group of youths trying to escape the right-wing extremism rising in Paris. Unfortunately for them they find themselves staying at an inn run by cannibalistic neo-Nazis. Everything that unfolds for the characters is so deranged and will make your stomach curl. But damn is it ever an effective movie and it’s still lingering in my mind after my first watch.
Country: France
Disturbingly beautiful is an oxymoron that fits this movie. Not only is it one of the best horror movies of all time (I said what I said), it’s one of the most notable in the New French Extremity movement. The movie follows Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï) and abuse survivor Anna (Morjana Alaoui), with the former having escaped a wealthy cult/society. Lucie’s (understandable) desire for revenge sends them both down a path they can’t come back from. Everything about this movie is drenched in tragedy and misery. Both of them are consistently tortured by the abuse they’ve suffered. Lucie sees a demonic, violent, and disfigured woman from childhood to adulthood because she’s wracked with guilt. And when I tell you the figure is horrifying to look at—I mean it.
Country: Australia
As far as villainous girls go, Lola (Robin McLeavy) gets her slice of cake. This is a horror movie that you want to turn away from, yet you keep looking. The Loved Ones (2009) focuses on Brent who politely rejects his disturbed classmate. And then finds himself kidnapped as well as tortured because of it. Lola and her dad (there’s incestuous stuff going on by the way) find enjoyment in torturing him, too. And make the ordeal into a party rather than a kidnapping. It’s no joke when I say the torture is brutal and that there are some disturbing reveals. Though the ending is quite satisfying and Robin McLeavy delivers a chaotic performance that’s fun to watch.
Country: South Korea
The zombie subgenre in horror has a lot of films to choose from. Not all of them are incredible but they’re at least enjoyable. Train to Busan (2016) is an action horror film with zombies that is very violent. It’s also a film that causes you to become invested in the characters. You actually give a shit if they survive or not—not every horror film can say the same. This film follows a lackluster father who is taking his daughter to visit her mother. Only to come to the realization a zombie outbreak is happening while they are on a train. There are almost no moments to breathe and that’s exhilarating. And the emotional investment makes the ending that much more heartbreaking.
Country: France
Depriving yourself of the experience of watching this film would be a mistake. Revenge (2017) is a fantastic depiction of survival and reclaiming power. The film focuses on Jen (Matilda Lutz)’s quest of revenge after being raped and almost killed. There’s a lot of ultraviolence, bright colors, and badass moments on Jen’s part throughout the film. She survives horrific ordeals and manages to take back power by exacting violence on those who wronged her. This isn’t a story that’s new, but the way it’s told certainly is. With a woman as a director and writer of the film, there’s an added dimension. Anybody can be a survivor of sexual violence; gender identity doesn’t matter. But rape and revenge films don’t always land because of the sexualization of the violence. Matilda Lutz’ performance is phenomenal and the direction very powerful.
More films to consider:
(featured image: La Fabrique de Films)
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Vanessa Maki is a writer, visual artist & blk feminist. Her work has appeared in Pink Advocate, The Gay Gaze, & many others. For more, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @theblackbuffy.
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