As English-speaking fans of Japanese horror have known for decades, the genre exports itself particularly well. Scary movies are often built on shocking visuals, which means when done well, horror loses little power when it travels. And, just as often, horrifying tales unique to the residents of a particular country are just nightmares the rest of us haven’t had yet. (Before The Grudge and The Ring made their way to America, I thought long, black, wet hair was terrifying only in the sense that it might clog my drains. Now, however…)
Horror movies remind us that no matter what language we speak or the country of our origin, we’re all the same on the inside: red, squishy, and oh so vulnerable. But if you’re looking to explore new types of terror, you may need to look outside your cultural experience. Here are 30 great horror movies that don’t happen to have been filmed in English.
Director Takashi Miike made a name for himself as one the 21st century’s foremost horror directors, and Audition offers a perfect example of his squirmy, deeply disturbing style. Here, he follows widower Shigeharu (Ryo Ishibashi, who later appeared in the first two American Grudge movies) as he re-enters the dating world by concocting a fake film production and setting up auditions for the role of his new flame. Hitting it off with the quiet Asami, he pursues a relationship. It doesn’t go very well for him. At all.
Where to stream: Tubi, Kanopy, Fandor, Arrow
Blending fantasy with horror, Mexican writer/director Issa López’s story of children displaced and orphaned by the Mexican Drug War deftly tells a story that’s heartbreakingly believable, even in our world, where the supernatural is less terrifying than the actions of greedy and heedless adults. Tenoch Huerta, soon appearing as Namor in Wakanda Forever, plays an insidious crime boss.
Where to stream: Shudder
Where to stream: Digital rental (via YouTube and Apple TV)