To celebrate unique chillers and thrillers you may not have seen, Moviefone is spotlighting the best foreign horror films in a variety of categories. If you're up for a good scare -- and don't mind reading the occasional subtitle -- then consider this a world history lesson.
Today's installment: scary science-fiction. In a genre that routinely explores the possible and impossible in the world around us, it is quite easy to be frightened by the resulting discoveries. The melding of horror movie and sci-fi film results in a unique and demented view where the medically inaccurate, the reality-bending and the unexplainable take control over all things logical.
5.'Village of the Damned' (1960)
Country: Great Britain
Director: Wolf Rilla
What's It About? Every single living being in a five mile radius of a quaint British town suddenly collapses into unconsciousness. Despite the military's best efforts, no cause or cure can be found until everyone awakens, seemingly healthy. All the women involved in the mysterious "time-out" find themselves pregnant and simultaneously go into labor nine months later. They give birth to a collection of children who age rapidly, share the same blond features and bond in cold, uniform similarity. They possess telepathic abilities and have the ability to mentally force people to do whatever they want. Soon, anyone who rebels is driven to kill themselves in gruesome fashion. A professor -- and father to one of the children -- hopes to find a way to understand and solve the crisis that has developed. But soon he learns that villages around the world have experienced the same phenomena, and he realizes there is only one solution: complete destruction.
Why Is it Awesome? It's the godfather of creepy kid movies. An entire town of alien-looking children, who exhibit no emotions -- save for maybe the calm confidence to drive grown men to vicious suicide -- appear to have no weaknesses. Every possible solution to controlling the growing threat quickly proves helpless. It is a bleak film that offers more questions than answers. And when it is over, the creepy, hypnotic eyes of the children linger in your mind.
Country: Great Britain
Director: Harry Bromley Davenport
What's It About? Sam, a loving family man, is abducted by aliens right in front of his young son. Sam's wife believes that he simply ran out on them, and her poor son is unable to cope with the reality of the situation. But three years later, Sam returns to earth as a freakish alien creature who searches to reclaim his human body and regain his family that has since moved on. Sam now possesses bizarre, otherworldly powers and passes them on to his young son, who begins to display them in weird, imaginative ways. As father and son plan to re-start the family as a half-human, half-alien hybrid, things take a freakishly deadly turn.
Why Is it Awesome? This movie is weird. Really weird. On the surface, it sounds like a poor mash-up of horror and 'E.T.' but the movie's staying power exists in the lingering imagery and atmosphere it cultivates. Sam's desire to re-spawn takes on ghoulishly invasive properties, and the extraterrestrial imagination-fueled powers lead to odd and surreal nightmare scenarios where the end result is usually death.
Buy or Rent 'Xtro'
3. 'Cube' (1997)
Director: Vincenzo Natali
What's It About? A group of strangers awaken to find themselves in a large cube-shaped structure, consisting of smaller cube-shaped rooms. With no memory of how they arrived, and no explanation given for the origin of the structure, they plot to escape the cube, only to find that their path is complicated by a series of deadly traps. In order to survive the twisting nature of the cube, they must decode its complex mathematical puzzle, or else they will fall victim to grisly and ornate fatalities. But even if they can figure out the cube's true nature, they must tread cautiously; the structure's maddening reality can turn them against each other.
Why Is it Awesome? It's 'Saw' as done by Sartre. The film can serve as a display of fantastic and byzantine death sequences, but beyond that, it is a cold, existential nightmare. The film carries a deliberately ambiguous tone and the complex mathematical puzzle at the heart of the story keeps audiences on edge. It's one big exercise in resisting encroaching insanity. The failure to fight it off will most likely lead to a gory demise.
Buy or Rent 'Cube'
2. 'Meatball Machine' (2005)
Director: Yūdai Yamaguchi
AKA: 'Mītobōru Mashin'
What's It About? Yoji and Sachiko are two lonely coworkers and love-struck fools who inadvertently expose themselves to a strange techno-alien insect that bonds to their bodies and begins to transform them into hideous monsters. Multiple parasites swarm the city, mutating innocent civilians into horrifying cyborg-flesh weapons of destruction known as the Necroborg. The human host bodies' purpose is to fight each other to the death, and amidst the rapidly-developing bloodshed, Yoji and Sachiko must fight their urge to destroy each other's flesh.
Why Is it Awesome? It's a gory, bloody, skin-tearing, limb-cutting mess. A prime example of the burgeoning "splatter-punk" series of horror films -- movies that indulge in all the terrible and fantastical ways that a body can be maimed -- what sets 'Meatball Machine' apart is the story of doomed, innocent love between its main characters. The film is not for the squeamish, and the jaw-dropping effects and creature/weapon design create a movie that can't really be described like anything else.
Buy or Rent 'Meatball Machine'
1. 'Tetsuo: The Iron Man' (1989)
Director: Shinya Tsukamoto
What's It About? A white-collar businessman -- known only as Salaryman -- commits a hit-and-run on a man known only as the Metal Fetishist, who is obsessed with turning his body into a completely industrial creation. The Salaryman tries to cover up the accident, not realizing that the Fetishist is still alive; he returns to terrorize Salaryman by turning his body into a horrific amalgamation of metal and deteriorating flesh. Soon, everyone that surrounds the Salaryman is cursed by the Metal Fetishist's plan, and his reality becomes more nightmarish than his already-terrifying dreams.
Why Is it Awesome? One of horror film's most potently powerful ideas is the possibility that your own body will turn against you. The Salaryman is helpless to the human-esque Metal Fetishist's plan, and we spend the majority of 'Tetsuo' watching any and all feeble defenses fail miserably. The plight of body betrayal takes its necessary erotic turn, and the growing metal threat spreads outward, claiming more and more victims. Beyond the wondrous story however, 'Tetsuo''s legacy remains in director Shinya Tsukamoto's intense, hyper and gritty artistic style.
Buy or Rent 'Tetsuo: The Iron Man'
Check back every day, for more installments of Moviefone's best of international horror. Coming up tomorrow: the best zombie films.