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.
The final installment in our look at foreign horror: the best WTF films. These are the films that defy easy description. They're not just the "left-overs" but are movies that take everything you expect a horror film to be, turn it on its side, and then spin wildly out of control. Their reputations have built into urban legends -- things that most people have only heard about, and sound too outlandish to be real; but these five films are very real, and are waiting to be watched.
5. 'House' (1977)
Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi
What's It About? Oshare and her friends decide to spend their summer vacation at the country home of Oshare's estranged aunt. What none of the girls realizes is that Oshare's aunt is secretly an undead spirit and her house is possessed by a demon that feeds off the flesh of innocent young girls. The girls are trapped in the aunt's haunted house and get picked off one by one.
Why Is it Awesome? Because it is completely demented -- thoroughly, aggressively demented. A girl-eating piano, a killer lampshade, walls that spew blood like a fire hydrant, disembodied limbs floating through some sort of undefined negative space -- that's just some of the stuff you'll see. Calling it "weird" for the sake of being weird is an insult to the level of experimental, absurd filmmaking at work. It's a complete dissection of cinematography, editing, special effects, character archetypes and ironic sentimentality. It's not "scary" in the traditional sense, but its psychedelia, its energy, and its lucid surreality dominate every frame of film. It feels like the kind of thing you saw late at night on TV while half asleep and you weren't fully able to process what you were watching or to be certain that anyone would ever believe you witnessed it.
'House' Arrives on DVD October 26
4. 'The Human Centipede (First Sequence)' (2009)
Country: The Netherlands
Director: Tom Six
What's It About? Two American girls vacationing in Germany are kidnapped by Dr. Heiter after their car gets a flat tire. They are drugged and brought back to his compound, where, after regaining consciousnesses, they are placed into Heiter's mad medical obsession: to create a "human centipede" that will share one long digestive track. The three victims must find a way to survive their new horrifying condition and crawl away to safety -- before Heiter adds more "links" to the centipede.
Why Is it Awesome? Because it's probably the most decency-pushing horror film in modern history, if not all-time. The film ramps up the morbid humor with its striving for medical accuracy, and the plight of its poor, poor victims does not shy away from the gross details. Director Tom Six came up with the idea from bizarre dark jokes about criminal punishment, and the character of Dr. Heiter serves as a comment on the horrifying history of WWII and the Nazis' reprehensible human experiments. 'Human Centipede''s greatest horror lies in the fact that someone actually thought up the idea.
Buy 'The Human Centipede (First Sequence)'
3. 'Three... Extremes' (2004)
Country: Hong Kong/South Korea/Japan
Director: Fruit Chan, Chan-wook Park & Takashi Miike
What's It About? An anthology film from three of Asia's biggest directors. 'Dumplings,' from Hong Kong's Fruit Chan, tells the story of an aging actress who samples the wares of a mysterious cook who is offering dumplings that have the power to reverse the effects of aging. The dumplings are successful, but the woman must decide if she'll continue eating them after she learns of their secret ingredient. In 'Cut,' from Chan-wook Park of South Korea, a film director returns home to find his wife held captive by a spurned movie extra. The captor plans to chop off one of the wife's fingers every five minutes unless the director submits to a series of mind games. And in 'Box,' from Takashi Miike of Japan, a young woman is plagued with nightmares of being buried alive by a terrifying figure, all while she searches for her long lost sister.
Why Is it Awesome? Takashi Miike has earned a reputation for being one of the world's most shocking directors, but with 'Box' he displays a calm reserve meditating on quiet horror that shifts between linear and non-linear imagery. 'Cut' meanwhile is an exhausting torture scenario, not just for the explicit physical pain that is depicted, but also for the lingering mental trauma that opens a Pandora's box for the story's unfortunate victims. But the most out-there segment in the movie is 'Dumplings.' Without spoiling the secret ingredient, we can say that viewers with weak stomachs and/or serious moral beliefs should avoid watching it at all costs. It will do nothing but get you angry, not just at the implications of the scenario, but in Fruit Chan's nauseating use of sound design that leaves little to the imagination.
Buy or Rent 'Three... Extremes'
2. 'The Wicker Man' (1974)
Country: Great Britain
Director: Robin Hardy
What's It About? Police Officer Howie investigates the disappearance of a young girl on the folksy island of Summerisle. Howie's devout Catholicism is drawn to immediate conflict with the island community's Celtic pagan beliefs. Their practices regarding medicine, sexuality and education anger him, as his faith is tested with intense temptation. As the people of Summerisle deny the existence of the missing girl, Howie beings to uncover a conspiracy that is possibly driven by the pagan cultish ritual of human sacrifice.
Why Is it Awesome? It's an unnerving thriller that peels away layer and layer of madness until there's no hope left. Its exploration of the folk practices of ancient Britain challenges and questions the notions of faith and the hope that someone will save you. The pagan practices of Summerisle are depicted with lavish detail, and as the people close in more and more on the unsuspecting Howie, the terrifying notion that everyone else is the enemy moves from fevered paranoia into grim reality.
Buy or Rent 'The Wicker Man'
1. 'Audition' (1999)
Director: Takashi Miike
What's It About? A lonely widower named Aoyama wants to attempt dating again, but as a busy, middle-aged father, his romantic skills have grown shaky. A filmmaker friend comes up with a scheme to hold a mock audition for a fake film, allowing Aoyama to meet all the women who try out and to single out the one he likes best. Aoyama is mesmerized by Asami, a young girl with a mysterious past. His friend urges Aoyama to pursue another woman, but Aoyama is insistent on discovering more about Asami, even as he is unprepared for what he discovers next.
Why Is it Awesome? Because there's 'Audition' and then there's every other horror movie. So much of the film's sad, shocking, awful power comes from not knowing what comes next, so we won't divulge too many details. But 'Audition' is the film that loudly proclaimed the world of horror cinema was being revolutionized on an international level. Defying all notions of what a horror movie had been in the past, 'Audition' is a film that stays with its audience for years. Those who see it will struggle to watch even a moment of it ever again, but every single second of celluloid is perfectly preserved in the viewer's memory.
Buy or Rent 'Audition'
Check out the full list of the best foreign horror films ever.