Foreign Horror Films Worth Finding Part 1

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It's no secret around HM.ca that I am a bit of a foreign horror movie junkie.  For some reason I have always enjoyed a fair amount of foreign films and I love sharing little known films with others.  A LONG time ago, I did an editorial called Top Ten Asian Horror Films You've Never Heard Of and it got pretty good feedback and spread the word on some films outside of the typical popular Asian Horror titles.  I've decided that there is a wealth of foreign horror movies that people have never heard of or given a chance, so recently I figured why not turn it into a series of articles?  So thats the plan with this first installment of Foreign Horror Films Worth Finding.  Some of these may be pretty obscure and difficult to find and others may be a little easier to locate but all in all they are solid foreign horror films that are worth trying to find and give a chance.  I plan for this to span a wide spectrum of countries and time frames so it should make for some interesting titles.  So without any more yammering on, here are 5 foreign horror films worth hunting down and giving a chance

Long Weekend (Australia, 1978):
  I put this on the list because I felt the need to raise awareness about Long Weekend for two reasons.  First, this film is 30 years old and I think is often forgotten anywhere thats not down under and I think even Aussie's dont give it the credit it deserves.  Secondly, this film has been in the process of being remade for quite some time.  The remake has been renamed with the goofy title Nature'S Grave, was slapped with a terrible DVD cover, and is finally set for release on August 4th of this year.  Before the remake comes out, I highly recommend everyone hunt down their own copy of the original film Long Weekend and check out what may be one of the most merciless man vs mother nature flicks ever.

The story follows Peter & Marcia, an ordinary middle-class couple with a bit of a rocky marriage as they go camping.  Marcia wants nothing more to stay in a resort but Peter is having a lot of fun shooting at things with his rifle and acting like a little kid at times.  But soon as Peter begins to sort of disrespect his surroundings, Mother Nature decides she is going to bite back, both literally and figuratively.  It is one of those films that is a slow burn but with equal parts drama and nature's revenge, this film is one that you need to see to just remind you as to how we humans fit in this crazy mixed up world

This is definately the easiest film to find on the list but seeing as it often goes forgotten if you havent seen it, find it and give Long Weekend a chance today before the upcoming remake hits shelves

Sigaw aka The Echo (Philippines, 2004):  I would like to tell you that the only reason this film is on the list is because it's remake is finally on the verge of release, but thats not the only reason.  This is a Pinoy (Fillipino) horror film and an excellent one at that.  Most horror films I have ever seen from the Philippines were very campy and very bad but Sigaw concentrates on exactly what it wants to do: create tension and suspense to keep the audience on their toes.  This film actually falls into the category of one of my favorite Asian horror films from the last several years, it's that good.  Director Yam Laranas should be proud of it, which may be why he is also helming the remake and trying to make it more accessible to American audiences.

The story is not entirely deep; it follows a man who moves into a new apartment building that just isnt what he hoped.  First he has to deal with abusive neighbor and wife fighting constantly but he soon must also deal with hearing strange voices in the hallways and having creepy visions in his apartment.  He soon realize he got himself into more than he can handle at his new apartment and he may not be able to escape it alive.  The whole film has a very claustrophobic vibe and provides scares without having to rely on cheap tactics or heavy special effects. Sure it may be a tad predictable and slow to get going but in the end I feel this feel rewards with some great chills and atmospheric tension that makes this a tense, must see Asian horror film.

Dont wait for Yam Laranas' to get the remake out to see The Echo.   Hunt down a copy of Sigaw (which I believe is out of print but is available on Netflix) and see that the Philippines can actually crank out a tense horror. 

EM-Embalming (Japan, 1999):  This film is an interesting one because it came out in Japan after many of the ghost films that were prevalent during the Japanese supernatural boom.  It is it’s own film but you can also tell that it pokes fun at those other films in a satirical way.  Despite the obvious jabs at films like Ringu and Ju-on, it does something that those films didn’t do that much of: throw lots of blood at the audience.  While other films around that time were straight forward thrillers, it took things to a whole new level by being a completely of the wall insane with dismemberments and gore galore all while providing a very artsy thriller type essence.  But don’t let the inclusion of gore fool you, it’s not a silly Japanese splatter type film like Versus or Machine Girl.  No, EM-Embalming is very artistic and in some ways and has an extremely great body “restoration” scene that will leave most viewers squirming.

The story follows Miyako, who took a strange fascination with how life like her mother’s corpse looked and decided to get into the world of embalming.  Miyako gets called in by the police to restore a mangled corpse in a high profile case but soon finds out there is a lot more crazy intrigue in the business as the body becomes a target for a group of organ harvesters.  The head is stolen off the high-profile body she is restoring and Miyako soon finds herself trying to find the head in a world of evil doctors, missing surgeons, and lots of lies and deception.

Equal parts medical-thriller and straight out artsy gore fest, EM-Embalming might be a little too artistic for everyone to enjoy but is a film worth checking out looking for some good autopsy's with a dose of weird.

Hellphone (France, 2007):  Recently the French have put themselves on the map because of their "new wave" of gore filled horror films.  However, I bet many people out there didnt know they do something else well:  teen targeted horror.  But dont let that fool you because despite being a definite film geared towards teen viewers, this film is actually quite a lot of fun.  Sure it may be short on actual scares of frights but it makes up for it with a very high energy paced film filled with all sorts of interesting deaths. The best way I can think of describing this film is if you enjoy the film Idle Hands, then you will enjoy Hellphone.  Equal parts horror homage, parody, and comedy this is a film that may not be the best horror film you've ever seen but it is extremely entertaining from start and never slows down from the start.

Hellphone is the story of Sid, a teenage boy who lives in a fairly poor family so he works in an American style diner to help make ends meet.  Despite working, Sid still has very little money to spend on luxury's in life.  This becomes a problem when a cute new girl from his school named Angie wants to get his number and Sid doesnt own a cellphone.  Scrounging up what little money he can, Sid by a phone from a mysterious shop.  Sid is happy he has a new phone but will soon learn that his phone is possessed.  Unable to turn the phone off, Sid's friends, family, and surrounding strangers all become targets of the phone's strange calls meant to harm and humiliate the targets of it's choosing.

With a very heavy 80's feel, entertaining deaths, and a fun parody style similar to Idle Hands, Hellphone is a film most viewers will just have a lot of fun with.  But you better have a region free player or find a bootleg because this one has yet to land on a region 1 disc

The Guard from Underground (Japan, 1992):  Welcome to my world.  Ok, so not quite my world but close enough if someone at my work were a former sumo wrestler turned killer.  Long before his success in Japanese horror with films like Cure and Pulse, Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa brought a murderous former sumo-wrestler turned security guard to the forefront in a slasher film that’s part 80’s slasher homage, part film noir, and part kaiju.  Yep thats right, it's just as weird as it sounds but anyone who is familiar with Kurosawa's work in the horror genre knows to expect weird from him.  The only unfortunate part about this film is it starts REALLY slow.  Slow to the point where some people maybe wont make it to the good stuff.  But I say stick it out because you will be handsomely rewarded as it turns into a pretty violent slasher that once it eventually gets the ball rolling is a pretty tense experience. If you stick out the snail-like slow beginning you will be pleasantly rewarded with vicious slasher movie that includes one of the nastiest broken bone scene's unlike any in the Asian horror market

The Guard from Underground follows Akiko who is on her way to a new job at a big corporation.  Once she arrives at the job she meets an office full of weird coworkers.  There is her new alcoholic boss, a tough as nails perverted executive, and the strange members of the security department.  After being berated by her boss, Akiko hides out in a storage room only to get accidentally locked inside.  While locked in, there something or someone tries to break down the back door and get her but Akiko is able to escape before she is attacked.  A day later, she is in search of the security guards in order to obtain some keys but they can not be found.  In her search for them she ends up in the boiler room and soon find that there is a massive killer lurking in the shadows down there and she soon realizes both her life and all her coworker's hang in the balance

This may be the most accessible of Kurosawa's films next to Cure and Pulse.  It starts slow, is a bit cheesy and rather weird yet still one of the better slasher's from Japan, but maybe thats because they dont make too many slasher's

So there are five foreign horror films to start hunting down and giving a chance.  During this whole series, you may have heard of some and may not have heard of others but I am just trying to spread the word to a wider amount of people on films not necessarily high on everyone foreign horror "to-do" list.  Plenty of interesting films still left to cover so hopefully Part 2 will be out soon.
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