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 lesson: zombies! Who doesn't love them? The recently-deceased creatures who'd rather munch on a nice, juicy brain, than utter a single word have become all the rage with horror fanatics. The following collection of undead folk can be found in both hemispheres, come in slow and fast varieties, and have spread their disease along multiple time zones.
5. 'Stacy' (2001)
Director: Naoyuki Tomomatsu
AKA: 'Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombies'
What's It About? Take a deep breath. Ready? Okay -- a strange disease affects all teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 17. First, they are overtaken by a hysterical joy known as "Near Death Happines," then within a few days they drop dead. They immediately resurrect as flesh-eating zombies that attack the nearest living creature. The epidemic has caused the zombie schoolgirls to be nicknamed "Stacies." The government has tried to curb the panic by sending out execution squads known as the Romero Repeat-Kill Troops. Lonely puppeteer Shibu-san has been tasked by the beautiful Eiko -- in the final throes of Near Death Happiness -- to illegally repeat-kill her, while a med student joins the front-line in hopes of rescuing his lost pen-pal, Momo. Meanwhile, the Drew Barrymore-inspired female vigilante squad called the "Drew Death Troops" try to find the best weapon to kill a zombie, the TV is hawking the "Bruce Campbell's Right Hand 2" chainsaw attachment and there's still the mystery of the glittery Butterfly Twinkle Powder that glistens off a Stacy's skin. Got it? Now exhale.
Why Is it Awesome? Did you read what it is about? The movie is a car wreck of American zombie tropes and J-Pop stereotypes smashed together to create a fetishized monster of pure id. Once you look past all the heightened iconography of eastern and western culture, and get past the gleeful amount of gory violence, you'll end up with a very quiet, meditative story about the "power" of love and the things will people do to please one another..
Buy or Rent 'Stacy'
4. 'The Beyond' (1981)
Director: Lucio Fulci
AKA: 'Seven Doors of Death'
What's It About? A young woman named Liza inherits an old decrepit Louisiana hotel, unaware that in the 1920s an artist and possible warlock known as Schweick was tortured and murdered in the basement. A ghostly blind woman appears to Liza, urging her to leave, but Liza ignores the pleas. What she doesn't know is that Schweik's death has unlocked one of the seven doorways of Hell, and Liza's plans to renovate the abandoned building blew the door wide open. With the help of a local doctor, Liza must now contend with an infestation of the walking dead, who are entering our earthly realm from the underworld.
Why Is it Awesome? Director Lucio Fulci made his name in a variety of genres from Westerns to slashers, but his most-regarded work came with his innovations of the zombie film. It's hard to choose which one stands out the most, but 'The Beyond' is Fulci's fullest exploration of the afterlife and all its existential notions. Some zombies are the result of cosmic radiation or a voodoo curse, but the zombies in 'The Beyond' are a purely undead threat that have literally walked straight out of hell.
Buy or Rent 'The Beyond'
3. '[REC]' (2007)
Director: Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza
What's It About? TV reporter Angela is doing a fluff news piece on the graveyard shift of Barcelona's fire department. With her cameraman in tow, she follows the squad on a routine call to an apartment building that quickly descends into chaos. What appears to be a distraught, belligerent old woman soon reveals herself to be a crazed savage with a taste for flesh. Rescue workers' attempt to evacuate the tenants are blocked by the military, which has quarantined the building -- and locked everyone inside with a virus that is turning living beings into mindless creatures that attack one another. Angela and her camera are the only thing that document the horrors that are suffered by all those trapped inside.
Why Is it Awesome? Americans are probably familiar with the remake, 'Quarantine,' but they are not prepared for the level of intensity that comes with the original. '[REC]' turns zombie conventions on their head using the first-person, real-time effect to simulate a zombie attack. It ignores all the cliches that have come with the "rules" of zombie films, and instead focuses only on the confusing, terrifying, in-the-moment panic of being attacked by something that used to be human. The only time you'll get a chance to catch your breath and ask "what just happened?" will come with the end credits.
Buy or Rent '[REC]'
2. '28 Days Later' (2003)
Country: Great Britain
Director: Danny Boyle
What's It About? Coma victim Jim wakes up in an abandoned London hospital; his attempts to look for help quickly lead him to the city streets where he discovers even more deserted ruins. His first interaction with life turns out to be a cruel trick when he is almost attacked by a pack of blood-thirsty brutes, infected with a sickness that has removed all traces of humanity. He's rescued by a few barely-alive survivors who inform him of the "rage virus" that has brought about the end of the world. With most of civilization in ruins, and the general population now consisting of inhuman creatures that prey on the last remaining people capable of thought, Jim and his new friends try to find sanctuary ... somewhere.
Why Is it Awesome? The blockbuster, cross-continental hit changed everything we know about the modern zombie film. By transforming them into fast-moving, animalistic monsters, director Danny Boyle removed any last vestiges of hypothetical "zombie survival scenarios" from people's minds. '28 Days Later' is not just about the fear of being attacked by something that used to be a person, it's about humanity eating itself alive.
Buy or Rent '28 Days Later'
1. 'Dead Alive' (1992)
Country: New Zealand
Director: Peter Jackson
What's It About? In 1950s New Zealand, the timid Lionel must contend with his over-bearing mother and her meddling attempts to break up his budding romance with a local girl. Lionel is forced to stay by his mother's side after her health quickly deteriorates, following a bite from the diseased Rat Monkey of Sumatra. The infection quickly takes her life, but to Lionel's surprise she is revived as a mindless, brain-eating zombie. Ever the mama's boy, Lionel tries to look after his zombie mother, win the heart of Paquita and attempt to curb the zombie outbreak that has taken over his town. (Spoiler alert: He strikes out on a couple of those.)
Why Is it Awesome? Before he became the guy who made the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy, Peter Jackson was infamous in his native New Zealand for making the most ridiculous zombie movie of all time. The movie's use of blood and guts is so over the top that Lionel becomes a Chaplin-esque slapstick comedian trying to wade through it all. 'Dead Alive' has everything: a zombie baby, living intestines, a kung fu priest, an amazing use of a lawnmower and a finale with the largest volume of fake blood ever used in a movie. This is the goriest film of all time, and it's simply splendid.
Buy or Rent 'Dead Alive'
Check back tomorrow, for our final installment of Moviefone's best of international horror. Coming up tomorrow: the best WTF horror films.