Scott’s list of five films for Halloween got me thinking about some of the terrific foreign horror movies out there. Here’s my list of five movies from five different countries that make for Halloween chills.
1. Shivers – Canada (aka They Came From Within)
David Cronenberg’s first feature film, it’s basically a zombie picture. But since it’s Cronenberg the zombie-ism is of a decidedly sexual nature and spread via a parasite that looks like a cross between a turd and a penis. Worth watching for the sexy Lynn Lowry (who was also in George Romero’s The Crazies and Radley Metzger’s arty bisexual sexploitation flick Score), the great Joe Silver and the legendary Barbara Steele, who threatens to get topless but doesn’t quite deliver. Also, Allan Kolman as one of the infected looks just like a 70’s-hairy Justin Long.
2. Tombs of the Blind Dead – Spain
Long before the Templars caused all that trouble for Tom Hanks they were riding around the Spanish countryside on horseback, chasing bearded Spaniards and hot senoritas. The Templars are undead and also blind on account of the crows pecking their eyes out. The blind gimmick is used to good effect as there are several scenes where the victims try to evade the Templars by keeping silent. The slow motion scenes of the Templars on horseback are creepy as hell and have inspired more than a few nightmares.
3. House – Japan (aka Hausu)
Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi (the man who brought us the awesome Charles Bronson Mandom commercials), House tells a very simple story of seven girls staying in a house in the woods. They’re killed off one by one in ways only the Japanese could think of (killed by a flying lampshade?) in a style that’s been described as Beetlejuice directed by Dario Argento, only better. It really reminds me of Sam Raimi turned up to 11, with cute Japanese girls. House has just been released as part of the Criterion Collection with their usual care and extras so there’s no excuse for missing out on the fun.
4. Suspiria – Italy
Speaking of Dario Argento, Suspiria is generally considered his masterpiece and I won’t argue. Jessica Harper plays a ballerina who joins a ballet school that seems to be a secret coven for witches. Whatever is going on it involves some really horrific and creative murders, beautifully shot by Argento with a creepy intense score by Goblin. This is another one that will give you nightmares for a long time.
5. Horror of Dracula – Great Britain
Christopher Lee revitalized the role of Dracula and Peter Cushing is still the best Van Helsing of all time. This one launched a slew of remakes and started Hammer on the road to being the world leader in horror during the 1960’s. Lee brings a sophistication and more believable sexuality to the role than Lugosi’s iconic portrayal, updating it for modern times. His athletic leap over the table serves notice that this isn’t the moldy old Transylvanian Twist, there’s no “Bleh, I vant to drink your blood” here. This Dracula will beat your ass and steal your women, just because he can.