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The 20 Best Foreign-Language Horror Films of the 21st Century, From ‘Trouble Every Day’ to ‘Let the Right One In’

There's trouble every day with these terrifying films.

Best Foreign Horror Movies

15.) “I Saw the Devil” (2010)

Korean director Kim Jee-woon is the real deal. He’s a smart, visually canny director with a sharp sense of humor who adeptly plays with genres, from his sixth film, the wacky Oriental western hit “The Good, The Bad, and the Weird” to the serial killer thriller “I Saw the Devil,” which features his go-to star Lee Byung-hun. This time, Lee plays a homicide detective on the hunt for an insane serial killer who wacked his pregnant wife in a haunting opening sequence. This movie is not for the squeamish–Kim takes the violence about as far as anyone ever has–but he’s working out ideas, with irony. This vengeance plot, with all its gore and evil, is in the service of art. And the Hitchcockian film pulls the viewer into the killer’s mind, Ripley-style. Kim’s relentless camera tracks the deliciously horrible madman’s moves as he ingeniously battles his doggedly clever assailant. As Kim put it, “it’s about the dilemma of a man who must become the devil to defeat the devil.” In Korea, for the first time the film was restricted twice for violent content, yet despite the difficulties filmgoers faced to see it, the film became a monster hit. –Anne Thompson

14.) “Trouble Every Day” (2001)

Director Claire Denis found tension boiling underneath the glistening bodies of young legionnaires in “Beau Travail”; with “Trouble Every Day,” that fixation erupts into sexual obsession and bloody horror in the great French filmmaker’s into genre territory.  An American scientist (Vincent Gallo) has ulterior motives for picking the romantic city of Paris for his honeymoon: to find his ex-lover Coré (Béatrice Dalle), with whom he shares a desire for blood when aroused. Coré has become an “Under the Skin”–like seductress, luring men to hidden locations with the promise of sex, before ripping them to shreds. Eventually, Coré’s keeper Léo (Alex Descas) – another scientist of sorts – tracks her down, buries the bodies and locks her back up in his basement laboratory… until she escapes again. The connection between sex and violence is hardly new terrain for movies, but in the hands of Denis’ lingering camera and study of bodies in motion, it’s a natural extension of her quieter dramas and something far more profound. –Chris O’Falt

13.) “High Tension” (2003)

A divisive French nail-biter, “Haute Tension” made Alexandre Aja a heavy-hitter in the horror community thanks to an unflinching, gory, and radically feminist love story. This fast paced entry to the “woman being chased by a maniac” canon features stomach-churning violence, a brave lead performance from Cécile de France, and a twist ending that would make M. Night Shyamalan proud. Love it or hate it, it has been a favorite of extreme horror enthusiasts since its 2005 release as “High Tension” in America. —William Earl

12.) “Goodnight Mommy” (2014)

The actual terror in “Goodnight Mommy” sneaks up on you when you least expect it because, on the surface, there’s plenty to be creeped out about. First, there’s the mommy in question, a distant, often hostile woman who returns home to her twin sons after having extensive surgery, her face swaddled in bandages, her identity obscured. Who has really come home in her place? Then there’s the setting: A gorgeous home nestled into the middle of nowhere, surrounded by beautiful but isolating wilderness. But before long these suspicions subtly shift, and the true terror is inflicted by Elias — who, unable to process his own grief, would rather question his mother’s identity than his own sanity. Much like “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” “Goodnight Mommy” shows the darker side of parenting, the one that emerges when a mother’s love is not enough and the life she created will be her own destruction. –Jamie Righetti

11.) “Raw” (2016)

One of the most shocking debuts in recent years, director Julia Ducournau wild first feature follows a young student (Garance Marillier) who discovers some uncomfortable truths about herself (and the world) when she heads off to vet school (kind of the perfect setting for a body horror film). Marillier’s Justine is a dedicated vegetarian, so when she’s forced to endure a revolting hazing ritual (one that involves lots of blood and raw liver), she’s shocked to discover just how much she endures the taste of flesh. As Justine’s hunger for consuming meat grows, so does her desire to experience the pleasures of the flesh in different ways. Suffice to say, “Raw” is a visceral, challenging and often just plain jaw-dropping feature. -Kate Erbland

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