Like many I enjoy to say in my comfort zone, and stick to what I know, but what makes these European horrors give us more of a fright is the destruction of the conventions that we know.
One of my personal favourites is El Orfanato, directed by Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona and produced by Pan’s Labyrinth’s director Guillermo del Toro. The film has an emotional shocking twist, and is hair-raising the entire time. A mother’s worst nightmares – a sick child which also goes missing- this film touches on realistic, traumatic subjects which Hollywood cinema rarely explores.
Many children go through the face of having an imaginary friend, but the real terror kicks in when it is revealed that these friends are anything but imaginary. Exploring paranormal elements, this chiller is set in an old orphanage. This setting definitely gives the film a cold, spine-chilling sense. The film focuses on Laura, the missing boy Simon’s adopted mother. Using her motherly instincts, Laura is set to find out the truth about her son’s disappearance, and is willing to go to any extremes to find her son, even though this is frowned upon by her husband. This film is an emotional rollercoaster full of shocks and twists, and although we want nothing else better than for her to find Simon safe, we can’t help but to eagerly want to discover what these mysterious children want and what has happened to them.
Belén Rueda’s performance of Laura is flawless, and although in a different language, I felt a part of the film and found myself exploring options of what could have happened to the young boy with the clues in the film. If you’re one who enjoys the paranormal, mystery, and pure terror, this is definitely one for you.
Whilst on the subject of Guillermo Del Toro, another film with a strange twist is his 2006 Pan’s Labrynth. We are all guilty of enjoying a good old Disney movie, and what makes this film stand out, is it’s adaptation of the fairytale genre. The film focuses on female protagonist Ofilia in 1944, five years after the Spanish Civil war. Ofilia moves with her mother, to be with her partner The Captain, whose child she is expecting, and during this time, her mother falls ill, and similarly to Lucy from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Ofilia meets a faun, which expresses to her of how he believes that she is the lost Princess of another World, and in order to receive mortality, she must complete a number of dangerous tasks. The film focuses on two parallel narratives – Ofilia completing the mysterious tasks, and the protagonist, The Captain, which brings in the drama element. The film includes other fairytale adaptations such as the young female eating the fruit of a monstrous character. The audience are made to question the realism of this fairytale World – has Ofilia created this World as a way to deal with her new difficult life? Or is she the only one who can see aspects of this World with being the lost Princess? Fairies, mysterious creatures, and magic are a few to mention of what makes this film so different and although not specifically a horror, this film’s hybrid-genres is what makes it so unique and most certainly worth a watch or two.
2008’s Let The Right One In received an impeccable critic response during its box office success with its remake, Let me in, but not many have experienced the true creation of the Hollywood beauty that we know. Children are usually depicted as weak, victims and innocent, where as this film challenges these stereotypes. The film focuses on twelve year old Oskar, a young male character who is victimised by bullies. He becomes supported by a strong female character of a similar age – Eli who is revealed to be a vampire. The film follows the children’s growing relationship, resulting in them falling in love. In a typically Hollywood movie, this is most likely to be only explored within adult narratives. What makes this film so shocking is how it explores the realistic affect of bullying on a child mentally. Oskar can be seen imagining revenge, such as stabbing a tree trunk with a knife. This was saddening to watch as it is hard to view a character in this state, but once the strong influential character comes in – Eli, we can believe Oskar’s suffering from this abuse will be stopped in the future. Although we want to feel optimistic about this, it becomes confusing as although Eli and Oskar love one another, Eli is strong for the wrong reasons. We get to view the characteristics of youth in a different way than in Hollywood. Seeing Eli with blood from her human prey on her mouth is very gruesome, and with the rare combination of romance and horror focusing on two children, this is what makes the film so interesting, as it is very different and challenging to other cinema and creates a huge emotional response. What makes a successful horror if not shock, fear and suspense, which is nothing this film is short of.
2006’s French horror Them is one that also stands out to me. The film is said to be ‘based on actual events’, and includes many techniques to put the audience in a state of panic. Afraid or the dark? Claustrophobic? If so this film will be your worst nightmare. Filmed in small spaces with low lighting, this film’s setting and lighting alone work to terrify you, regardless of the horrific plot. The film focuses on an average, happy couple, whose world is soon turned upside down. After being woken by their car being stolen in the night, the couple discover their home is being invaded. With little lighting, no phone signals and away from help, this film will certainly have you on edge as you watch them struggle to escape from the hooded invaders.
Violence, gore, and the supernatural – Irish film Let Us Prey is based in a police station during a new officer’s first night. During the first few hours of her shift, the cells become occupied with a number of citizens with secrets. One inparticular who comes into their custody is a trench-coated man who after research, is revealed to be a man who was recorded as dead twenty years earlier. ‘The price of our sins is paid for in blood’, and he makes sure he sticks to his word. The only possession this mystery man holds is a book of names- names of criminals who are now dead. The excitement of the film comes from the instant question of which of these criminals will make it out alive? No one is there by mistake.
There are many European and foreign horrors out there that take horrors to the extreme, and explore different techniques in which our typical Hollywood cinema lacks to explore. If you’re a big horror fan like myself, and fancy a good scare with something different, I highly recommend watching the horrors from different cinemas.
Written by Christina Cooper
Source: eremedia, torrents, audiences everywhere,