Scary movies have a place on nearly every streaming network, but if international horror movies are what you seek, Shudder is your best bet. While the site has plenty of American and English-language horror, and it also has a healthy array of foreign-made classics (two words: Mario Bava), you can’t beat Shudder’s selection of recent films that a) didn’t grind out of Hollywood and b) will freak you the hell out. Wondering where to start? Read on!
The Queen of Black Magic (2019)
We reviewed this skin-crawlingly great Indonesian film back in January and it’s still haunting our nightmares. Inspired by the legendary 1981 cult classic of the same name — which is well worth seeking out on its own — it comes from a pair of Indonesian genre stars: director Kimo Stamboel and writer Joko Anwar (director of Impetigore, which is also on Shudder, and also highly recommended). It’s about a group of men who bring their families along for a reunion of sorts at the rural orphanage where they grew up, only to realise something has been patiently waiting for them to return… and it’s more than ready to unleash some of the most gruesomely revolting revenge tactics ever.
32 Malasana Street (2020)
Directed by Albert Pintó from a script by Ramón Campos, Gema R. Neira, David Orea, and Salvador S. Molina — and purportedly inspired by true events — this 1976-set tale introduces us to the multi-generational, semi-dysfunctional Olmedo family, who move from their farm to Madrid hoping for a fresh start. It doesn’t take long before their ramshackle new apartment, which is still filled with the belongings of its deceased former owner, starts showing every sign of being haunted. We’ve seen many a ghost story with this basic premise before, but 32 Malasana Street is a cut above: Excellently directed and acted, not to mention atmospheric as hell and legitimately terrifying.
Noroi: The Curse (2005)
The “pursuit of horrifying and unsolvable mysteries” drives documentary filmmaker and paranormal investigator Kobayashi (Jin Muraki) in this found-footage tale from Kôji Shiraishi — and before you quickly click to the next slide because we said “found footage,” please note that “horrifying” is also an apt descriptor for Noroi: The Curse itself. Purportedly Kobayashi’s final film before his mysterious disappearance, The Curse follows him as he investigates a spate of curiously linked odd phenomena and the people affected by it. But the movie’s not just a bunch of shrieking and shaky-cam; we also see variety-show clips, interviews, and other footage that helps create a believable canvas for Kobayashi’s story. A believably horrifying canvas, if you will.
One Cut of the Dead (2017)
OK, Shinichiro Ueda’s one-of-a-kind zombie opus isn’t exactly scary, but it is totally rewarding for horror fans in its own unique way. If you haven’t yet watched One Cut of the Dead — which somehow has a French remake on the way called Final Cut, from the director who made The Artist — well, we kind of envy you because it’s an absolutely delightful viewing experience. Just know this: you have to keep watching for at least 30 minutes. And don’t read anything else about it before you do.
Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)
On the rough streets of a Mexican city, children orphaned and made homeless by gang violence form a little tribe of their own. There’s plenty of real-life horror in the premise of Issa López’s dark fairy tale, but Tigers Are Not Afraid — a hauntingly beautiful film that feels like a spiritual successor to Guillermo del Toro’s early work; it’s no surprise del Toro himself showered it with praise — weaves supernatural elements into the kids’ poignant and frightening plight.
The Medium (2021)
Another found-footage horror done so, so right, this Thai-Korean chiller (directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun and produced by Na Hong-jin, whose eerie The Wailing is also a recommended Shudder pick) styled like a documentary starts off chronicling the interesting but not especially pulse-pounding life of a shaman who serves as the vessel for a benevolent goddess, a spiritual duty that’s part of her family legacy. Things perk up when the goddess’ spirit decides it’s time to jump into the next generation, in the form of the shaman’s unwilling niece… and then take a turn for the highly alarming once the documentary crew (and with them, anyone watching The Medium) starts to realise there’s even more horror to the story than they realised, leading to a truly shocking final act.
Satan’s Slaves (2017)
Joko Anwar — writer-director of Impetigore and writer of The Queen of Black Magic — is all over this list for a reason, and it’s fortunate that Shudder has helped make his films so accessible stateside. Like The Queen of Black Magic, Satan’s Slaves is inspired by an earlier Indonesian horror film of the same name — Sisworo Gautama Putra’s 1980 cult classic — but is not a remake. Nor is it quite as gushingly gory as Anwar’s other titles. It’s more of a gothic-occult-Hereditary-ish nightmare, following siblings who dig into their family history when sinisterly spooky things start happening after the death of their mother, a once-renowned singer who’d fallen on hard times. Turns out, well… her past holds some diabolically dark secrets. (See: film’s title.)
Train to Busan (2016); Peninsula (2020)
There’s a reason people are still talking about Yeon Sang-ho’s suspenseful, poignant, gory, and darkly humorous zombie sensation Train to Busan, which follows a businessman and his young daughter (and their fellow passengers) whose train ride — meant to be a bonding experience — is interrupted by a sudden outbreak of the undead. There’s also a reason the director then made Peninsula, a follow-up set in the same universe that introduces us to some entertaining new characters with that same survival spirit. Those reasons? These movies are killer.
Skull: The Mask (2020)
When the Shudder press release trumpeting Brazilian import Skull: The Mask landed in our inbox earlier this year, we knew we were powerless to resist such keywords and phrases as “splatter-filled supernatural slasher,” “whoever wears the mask is possessed and compelled to commit sacrifices,” and “a throwback treat for fans of ‘80s slashers and gory practical effects.” When the movie, written and directed by Armando Fonseca and Kapel Furman, arrived, we were not disappointed. All we want for Christmas is a sequel.
We know, we know, we’re a broken record, using any excuse to shove the Argentine nail-biter Terrified in your face. It’s just that good — and by “good,” we mean “pants-wettingly distressing.” You’re welcome!