Around the World in 12 Horror Movies – Part One

***Originally appeared at www.audienceseverywhere.net. Go there for more features, reviews and general awesomeness***

One of the great things about watching movies is seeing how other countries view a genre. What do the French find funny? Or what tickles the Germans? What constitutes romance in Korea or Peru? What scares people? What makes the people sitting in Thai cinemas hide behind their fingers or jump out of their skin? What movies do Mexican teenagers dare each other to watch at sleepovers?

For this trilogy of articles I watched 12 horror movies from around the world. I explored different sub-genres within the horror genre and found some supernatural romance, found footage, torture porn, blood-soaked rom-coms, possession movies, slasher flicks, monster flicks, and discovered an unalterable fact about foreign horror films: When you need to read subtitles you can’t look away or hide behind the sofa.

 PART ONE

 

Let the right one inLet the Right on In / Låt den Rätte Komma In (Sweden 2008)

An almost sweet, occasionally horrific, coming of age movie in which one of the characters does not age. I tried to avoid movies that had had a Hollywood remake for this feature, in the hopes of giving the readers something they may not have any knowledge of. However, when I asked some friends (namely Mr Google and Ms IMDB…I’m so lonely) this movie kept coming back as a favourite foreign film for both fans and haters of horror. After watching it I understood why. This movie maintains the structure of a standard coming of age story with the main character, Oscar, being a lonely, bullied outsider with divorced parents and no real friends. It has the usual narrative beats of him meeting a pretty girl, standing up to bullies, having his first kiss, and protecting the pretty girl when it becomes apparent that she is a vampire who has straight up murdered a bunch of dudes. One of those narrative beats is not like the other.

Keeping the story focused on Oscar and his cold, corduroy trouser-wearing life, while keeping the supernatural elements at arm’s length (until the bloody marvelous finale) makes this a compelling film by itself, even before the beautifully shot snowscapes are covered in blood.

 

Theater of BloodTheatre of Blood (England 1973)

By no means the best horror that England has to offer, Theatre of Blood is one of those guilty pleasures that I would love for more people to have seen. It’s gory, cheesy, and brilliant. Vincent Price chews through his Shakespeare recitals as he visits Shakespearean fates upon the critics who derided his acting and ruined his career years before. As a fan of Vincent Price and Shakespeare (and 60s era Diana Rigg) this film is catnip for me.

People get drowned in vats of wine, fed their own pet dogs, tricked into killing their spouse, stabbed on the 15th of March, and electrocuted with hair rollers (it’s a reference to Joan of Arc’s death in Henry IV part one and involves Vincent Price pretending to be an effeminate hair dresser in a blonde afro wig. It’s amazing.) It’s ridiculous, ludicrous, and thoroughly enjoyable.

 

Dog soldiersDog Soldiers (Scotland 2002)

Werewolves versus soldiers in the forests of Scotland. Do I need to write more? Oh, apparently I do. This is one of my favourite horror movies. I just love how much fun everyone’s having as its clear everyone knows they are in a midnight monster movie, albeit a very well made one. Neil Marshall chucks just about every film reference he can think of at the screen, and even though some are awkward (“There is no spoon” probably hasn’t aged well) it doesn’t matter because the action moves along so quickly you barely have time to care before the next set piece begins. Closer to horror comedy than straight horror there are some great lines in this movie as well as some genuine scares. Much like the last werewolf movie I wrote about, Marshall manages to straddle the line between comedy and horror, giving fans of each something to really enjoy.

 

RWWMHarpoon – Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre (Iceland – 2009):

I have never really understood the attraction of torture porn as a genre of horror. It always feels pointless and gratuitous (and for some reason usually centred around tourists getting brutalised by locals). I’m not really squeamish when it comes to gore, but gore for gore’s sake is just lazy. I went into Harpoon expecting this type of movie and was pleasantly surprised to find that amidst the violence (and two completely pointless, ill-conceived sexual assaults) there was a rich seam of self-awareness. A self-awareness that was never more pronounced than when the rude Japanese tourist tried to swim for safety and got shot with a giant harpoon gun. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a good movie, it is very much an exploitation movie (Icelandic for exploitation: nýting – Fun fact) with paper thin characters, broadly drawn villains, and possibly a message about the horrors of whaling. I did like the idea of essentially transporting Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Gunnar Hansen is in this movie!) out to the cold, dark, open waters of Iceland, and replacing hillbillies with fishbillies, though this movie would have benefitted from a Leatherface-esque character to really cement its place as a B-movie horror.

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