Horror movies are a perfect fit for this time of year. The fall weather is taking hold just as the little trick-or-treaters are out in masses, shuffling and soliciting treats door-to-door, with those handing out sugar filled delights are serenaded with “trick-or-treat” banter over and over, and over, again. Aside from those of you who will be busily attending the great holiday ghoul festivities, the rest of us are staying indoors this Halloween season and watch a few scary movies get us through the night–hopefully in one piece. Here are the ‘top 5’ foreign horror films–well, mostly horror-thrillers per se, I recommend for the ‘Halloween‘ season.
I. THE ORPHANAGE (El orfanato) 2007
THE ORPHANAGE, directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, is based on the screenplay by Sergio G. Sánchez with Guillermo del Toro as producer. The film stars Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, and Roger Prínce, and is about a mother, Laura (Belén Rueda), who buys her childhood orphanage with dreams of restoring, and then reopening, the abandoned facility as a home for disabled children. She soon discovers that her family’s new home awakens her son’s imagination; however, the ongoing fantasy games he plays with an invisible friend quickly turn into something more disturbing. Upon seeing her family increasingly threatened by the strange occurrences in the house, Laura looks to a group of parapsychologists for help in unraveling the horrible mystery that has taken over the place. The film is eerie, sad, and beautiful.
A tale of love. A story of horror
II. PAN’S LABYRINTH (El laberinto del fauno) 2006
Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, the film stars Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, and Sergi López. The film, set in 1944 fascist Spain, is about a young girl, Ofelia (Icana Baquero) who is fascinated by her books of fairy tales. Her mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil), is engaged to a tyrannical Captain Vidal (Sergi López), an officer of Francisco Franco’s army, who is trying to remove a small group of guerrilla rebels from the wilderness. When Ofelia and her mother arrive at Captain Vidal’s camp–Ofelia begins an adventure of her own. The actual, underlying story of this film is in the fantastical world Ofelia finds. She finds an ancient stone labyrinth in the nearby woods. She is warned to stay away, but what child listens to the advice of an adult. Late one night she is visited by a large insect, she found at the stone labyrinth—which turns into a fairy and escorts Ofelia to the labyrinth where she meets a faun (Doug Jones), half man, half goat, who tells Ofelia that she is a princess. She is given an ancient book with instructions to follow to return home to her father’s kingdom, and she will have to perform three essential tasks to prove that she is the real princess.
An imaginative Gothic fairytale for adults set in Spain during WW II.
III. THE LAST CIRCUS (Balada triste de trumpet) 2010
THE LAST CIRCUS is a particular comedy/drama/war film written and directed by Álex de la Iglesia and stars Carlos Areces, Antonio de la Torre, and Carolina Bang. The film follows a second-generation clown, Javier, who has seen just about enough tragedy and suffering in his life. It is 1937, and Spain is in the midst of a brutal war. Thousands of citizens were killed as Gen. Franco’s men moved in to purge occupied territories and consolidate his future regime. The resistance was low on fighters and recruited by the militia from wherever extra soldiers could be found—even if that eventually included hiring clown actors from a circus. A surreal viewing experience, The Last Circus is an attractive, sexy, and intense romance, and in between all the spun sugar and candied apples, it is also a mesmerizing tragedy sadly reflective of the lives of these circus misfits who, in the end, truly need each other.
IV. DUMPLINGS (Gaau ji ) 2004
DUMPLINGS are one of three films are featured in the South Korean horror collection The Three Extremes. Dumplings, directed by Fruit Chan and written by Pik Wah Li and stars Pauline Lau, Tony Leung Ka Fai, and Bai Ling. In the film, a woman who’s husband is having an affair with his younger assistant, so Mrs. Li (Miriam Yeung Chin Wah) decides to seek out a woman known for her rejuvenation dumplings. Mei (Bai Ling) tells Mrs. Li that after she eats her dumplings, her husband will notice that she has become more youthful, beautiful, and will never leave her again. Alas, what is truly horrifying is the dumplings ingredients. This film will leave a tremendously dissatisfyingly ‘taste’ in your mouth, once the secret to these rejuvenation dumplings are revealed.
V. I SAW THE DEVIL (Akmareul boatda) 2010
I SAW THE DEVIL is another thriller out of South Korea that I am more than excited to tell you about. The film is directed by Jee-woon Kim based on a screenplay by Hoon-jung Park. The film stars OLDBOY‘s Min-sik Choi, Gook-hwan Jeon, and Byung-hun Lee. When Kim Soo-hyeon’s (Lee) fiancé becomes the latest victim of Kyung-chul (Choi Min-Sik), a sick and dangerous criminal psychopath who only kills for pleasure—Kyung-chul is obsessed with catching and punishing the criminal himself–even if that means he would have to become the devil himself.
Evil lives inside.