The horror genre has been undergoing quite a bit of a renaissance in the past few years. While American horror has been stuck in a cycle of remakes and teen slasher films for some time, international horror has routinely moved beyond the familiar and into some genuinely unique and terrifying corners of the imagination. The best works of art always speak to the human condition beyond the mediums that they are created in; these films are no different. As a result, if you are looking for mindless slashing and gore, these may not be the films for you (even though the gore level in most is unbelievably high). Be warned though: these films do not shy away from uncomfortable subject matter and some extreme violence. There is minimal cheesiness, and some are among the most disturbing films I have ever seen. Here are five great international horror films of the past decade to keep you awake on All Hallow’s Eve, and beyond.
“Martyrs” is a film about limits. The limits of humanity, the limits of faith, the limits of suffering, and the place where the three intersect. The film begins with the image of a young child, possibly in her early teens, running away from an industrial park. She is bruised and battered, barely clothed, and clearly traumatized. From this opening scene, the film takes us into a world of madness and violence that is profoundly effective. Since the creation of the “Saw” films, the torture-porn sub-genre of horror has been populated by knock-offs that are little more than an excuse to show young pretty women get mutilated. Martyrs takes a modern horror trope and applies a very French philosophical and political edge to it that makes it much more disturbing. Not for the faint of heart or children, both it’s violence and it’s themes are amazingly intense. Martyrs just might be one of the best genre films, period, I’ve ever seen.
Zombies are never NOT popular it seems. They have often served as the violent threat in allegorical films about larger social issues. The French film “The Horde” is no different. Violent and darkly comic, “The Horde” deals with the issue of xenophobia in a creative and interesting way. The moral lead of the film is charismatic and surprising, especially considering that, in many ways, all the humans are generally bad people with bad intentions.
I Saw The Devil
A Korean serial killer thriller, “I Saw The Devil” is a story about revenge gone haywire. A woman is abducted and murdered by a psychopath. It just so happens that the her fiancee is also a police special forces officer. His quest for revenge takes him, the killer, and anyone who happen to be nearby into some dark and brutal territory. Not for the faint of heart, “I Saw The Devil” will pull the rug out from under you repeatedly during viewing.