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12 Essential Foreign Horror Films

12 Essential Foreign Horror Films

Horror films have been around for more than a century. Contrary to popular belief, many of the best horror films weren’t made in the good ole’ US of A. There are quite a few foreign horror films that you need to see if you like thrills, chills and scares, but we selected our twelve favorites that we consider to be Essential Foreign Horror Films. The list is by no means comprehensive, but it’s a good place to start.

Black Sunday

La maschera del demonio

This 1960s Italian Gothic horror classic is about a high priestess of Satan who is executed via spiked mask to the face, but not before she vows to come back and exact her revenge! She returns centuries later to possess her look-alike descendant and exact her revenge. There are aspects of the film that leave something to be desired (acting, dialog, dubbing), but this black and white creeper gave birth to one of Italy’s most iconic horror masters, Mario Bava, through its atmosphere and direction. Amazon iTunes


The number of people reading this that aren’t familiar with the premise of this movie is probably pretty close to the number of people that still have a VCR in their living room they could actually put the tape in. The remake, The Ring, is a good movie with special effects that make the video itself more terrifying, but the overall creepiness that leaves you freaked out hours after watching the original isn’t lost in translation. Amazon


Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens

There were a few films that came before it, but Nosferatu is arguably the birth of horror cinema as a whole. It’s one of the first vampire movies ever made and such a faithful recreation (read: unlicensed adaptation) of Bram Stoker’s Dracula that his estate sued and won. Yes, it’s old. Yes, it’s silent. Yes, it requires reading. No, it won’t make you jump out of your seat. Even with all of that, Schreck’s performance as Count Orlok (names were changed for copyright reasons) and F.W. Murnau’s direction make Nosferatu a classic. Amazon iTunes

The Devil’s Backbone

El espinazo del diablo

Guillermo del Toro knows a thing or two about the worlds of fantasy and horror seem completely believable. When del Toro lent his talents to The Devil’s Backbone he delivered a creepy ghost story about an orphan uncovering the dark, haunted past of his new home that will leave you at the edge of your seat from start to finish–while simultaneously hitting you right in the feels, making you question your humanity and playing armchair detective. Amazon iTunes

Let the Right One In

Låt den rätte komma in

Let The Right One In has an adjusted score of over 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s “Certified Fresh” at 98% and ranked higher than Aliens. Let all that sink in for a moment. There’s no reason anyone reading this hasn’t already seen this dark tale about young love… and vampires. It’s not just about the violence and bloodshed that go hand in hand with any good vampire flick, it’s about the story, the emotion and ambiance. Amazon iTunes

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari

The plot of Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari starts simply enough. Diabolical Doctor Caligari uses hypnosis to control a sleepwalker and displays it as a carnival attraction. Two friends competing for one woman’s hand in marriage visit the carnival. One ends up dead the next day. The other begins investigating the death. The movie was a cinematic first for a lot of reasons, but we’re not going to ruin what Roger Ebert describes as “the first true horror film” and the #1 Horror Movie on Rotten Tomatoes with spoilers. Amazon iTunes



Catholic priest ministers to patients at a hospital. He volunteers for an experiment designed to find a vaccine for the Emmanuel Virus. Experiment is a complete failure and turns priest into a vampire. Helmed by acclaimed Oldboy director Chan-wook Par, Thirst is brutal, shocking, erotic and darkly comedic all at once. You could, in theory, call it “vampire romance,” but it’s completely different than anything else in that genre. It’s a vampire flick “with bite.” (Yeah, we went there.) Amazon iTunes

Eyes Without A Face

Les yeux sans visage

There’s something about genius doctors that makes them the linchpin of a good horror flick, and Les Yeux Sans Visage is no different. Dr. Génessier was responsible for an accident that left his daughter so horribly disfigured she’s forced to wear a mask at all times. What’s a brilliant surgeon to do? Kidnap young girls, put them under the knife and try to transplant their features onto his daughter. It’s horrific, disturbing and haunting (audiences apparently fainted during screenings), yet somehow still manages to be poetic. Amazon iTunes


Do you remember the US film Quarantine starring Dexter Morgan’s sister? Of course not, and that’s a good thing. The original, Spanish horror flick [Rec], is better in every way. [Rec] is a found footage / shaky cam odyssey about a news crew embedded with local firefighters for a reality show segment. They go on a routine call to rescue an old lady who’s locked in her apartment, but end up discovering something terrifying and ultimately getting quarantined in the building with the “things” (we’re not gonna ruin it for you). It’s a genuinely frightening flick. Amazon iTunes

Julia’s Eyes

Los ojos de Julia

Two sisters, Julia and Sara, both have a medical condition that slowly makes them blind. Sara supposedly commits suicide, but Julia doesn’t buy it. Julia begins investigating her sister’s death and uncovers clues that suggest her sister was murdered by the invisible man… and she’s next. As she unravels the mystery she realizes no one involved is above reproach for what happened to her sister.  Produced, in part, by Guillermo del Toro, Julia’s Eyes is a dark, unsettling film that will leave you questioning the dark for days after you’ve seen it. Amazon iTunes

The Host


The Host opens with an American doctor forcing his Korean assistant to dump over 200 bottles of formaldehyde into the Han River. Six years later, a monstrous (kind of like a rideable dinosaur from Golden Axe bathed in toxic chemicals) rises from the Han River, eats a bunch of people (including the main character Park Gang-du’s daughter), and disappears. After being quarantined by the U.S. government because the creature carries a deadly virus, Park Gang-du finds out his daughter is alive when she calls him. The entire family bands together to find the missing girl… whatever it takes. Netflix Amazon iTunes

Hour of the Wolf


The troubled artist Johan is plagued with haunting memories of the past. His pregnant wife Alma begins to experience the same delusions that Johan is experiencing. They’re visited by a Baron from a nearby castle who invites them over for a party (why do people in horror movies never learn?). One party turns into two, turns into demon guests, past lovers and emotional breakdowns. Ingmar Berdman’s 1968 classic is gorgeous to behold while still being creepy as hell. Amazon