We are 10 in to the list of 20 modern day international horror films. What follows is the rest of the list. Will you agree with the top spot? What are you currently picking for the number one spot? Will it match up with my pick?
#10 The Babadook (2014) Australian
The Babadook represents a turning point in horror in the mid 2010’s. The first major “woke” horror film, aka horror films that are deeper than they appear, it represents grief in the form a single mother who must help her son with his fear of a monster in his house. Director Jennifer Kent’s only other feature film directing credit is The Nightingale in the 2018. Babadook-dook-dook!
#9: Dead Snow (2009) Norwegian
Død snø is Tommy Wirkola’s 2009 horror comedy masterpiece. The plot centers on a group of students who fight Nazi zombies in Norway. Initially envisioned as a ghost story mixed with Indiana Jones, it was followed by a sequel, 2014’s Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead, which improved upon the original, with an 83% Rotten Tomatoes vs. the 68% of the original. Wirkola also directed Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and 2022’s excellent film Violent Night.
#8: Cold Prey (2006) Norwegian
Fritt Vilt is an exceptional slasher film from director Roar Uthaug. It follows the story of a group of snowboarders who seek refuge in a ski lodge that just happens to have a killer inside. Cold Prey 2 followed in 2008 and a prequel, Cold Prey 3, followed in 2010. WWE Studios has bought the rights for a forthcoming English remake. Roar was not involved with the sequels, instead, directing such films as excellent The Wave (an excellent disaster film), Tomb Raider (the reboot based on the video game), and Netflix film Troll.
#7: One Missed Call (2003) Japanese
Takashi Miike directed this creep fest at the height of the J-Horror fad. One of my personal favorites, by one of my personal favorite directors, it tells the story of a group of people who get mysterious phone calls from the future that ends up killing them. The finale is utter craziness and numerous long haired ghosts appear in the film. It was followed by One Missed Call 2, One Missed Call: Final, a 10 episode TV series, and an English remake. To list the excellent films of Miike would take up too much space, just know that he is one of if not THE most influential directors to come from Japan. Fall down the rabbit hole with Ichi the Killer, Audition, Dead or Alive, or his segments in Three … Extremes or Masters of Horror.
#6: High Tension (2003) French
Haute Tension tells the story of two students who head out to the country to study and are stalked by a serial killer. Part of the resurgence of French horror in the mid 2000’s this seemingly was the most successful, launching its director, Alexandre Aja into the mainstream. He would go on to direct Pirahna 3D, The Hills Have Eyes, Horns, Maniac, Mirrors, and the surprisingly good alligator film Crawl. It also features the excellent Sonic Youth cover of “Superstar” by the Carpenters. Say what you will about the twist ending that seemingly doesn’t work, the ride to get there is fun.
#5: 28 Days Later (2002) British
First, it is not considered a zombie film, it’s an infected film. That being said, the iconic opening of Cillian Murphy wandering the deserted streets of London, is truly frightening. It boils down to humans are the real enemy, much like other films of its kind. But the running zombies are horrific. They run and bleed and are devastating. Director Danny Boyle. The surprisingly good 28 Weeks later was released in 2007 without Boyle directing, but he has interest in returning for a tentatively called 28 Months Later. Boyle would direct Trainspotting, Sunshine, Shallow Grave, Slumdog Millionaire, The Beach and many more.
#4: Ju-On: The Grudge (2002) Japanese
Another product of the J-Horror fad of the 2000’s, Takashi Shimizu scared audiences with its story of ghosts and tragic deaths that leave a curse where it occurred. While hard to describe, one must simply follow along and enjoy the creepy little kid, the long haired girls, and the non-linear story structure. The film features numerous sequels, a TV show, and an American remake with sequels, with almost all of them being directed by Shimizu.
#3: Train to Busan (2016) South Korean
Yeon Sang-Ho directed this fast moving zombie masterpiece. Its quite simply about a group of people on a train during a zombie outbreak. There are heartfelt moments, incredible action sequences, horrific kills, tons of gore, and twists and turns. It truly is one of the top zombie films of all time and one of the best horror films of the past 10 years. With a 2020 sequel called Peninsula (which closely mirrors the 2021 Zack Snyder Netflix film Army of the Dead) and a 2016 prequel cartoon called Seoul Station, both of which are directed by Sang-Ho.
#2: Ringu (1998) Japanese
Ringu was the first Japanese horror film I ever saw. I had ordered a bootleg copy of the DVD from ebay, for probably way too much money, and remember being a little bored with it. That is, until that ending when she comes out of the TV. The effect was so cool and the long haired Japanese girl was frightening. If you don’t know what the movie is about, you’ve been living under a rock. But I’m here for you. The story tells of a curse that if you watch a cursed videotape, in 7 days you will die. The franchise is so massive, that there are Korean remakes, American remakes with sequels, countless Japanese sequels, manga, TV series, video games and books. There are even crossovers with Ju-On: The Grudge!
#1: REC (2007) Spanish
Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza made this found footage zombie film in 2007 and reinvigorated the genre. Fast moving zombies, mixed with religious connotations (Rec 2) all mold this into one of the best zombie films of all time. People become trapped in an apartment building and one reporter, who is following around a fire department for a story, films the carnage as it unfolds. Rec 1 and 2 are both found footage, but 3 and 4 are not. Balaguero directed 4 by himself, and co-directed 1 and 2 with Plaza. Plaza then directed 3 by himself.
There we have it. 20 modern international horror films. How did I do? What did I forget? What would you change?