Expedition FEAR: Five Fearsome Foreign Films

Horror is global. Here are five great fright films that have premiered at Fantastic Fest!

Every Friday night at 10pm FEARnet brings you Expedition: FEAR, which gathers the best horror movies from around the globe. This November sees some favorites hit the channel, including Severance (as a double feature with The Wicker Man!) and the immortally offensive The Human Centipede (for Thanksgiving, doncha know). Click here to check out the entire November line-up!

I love a lot of things about Fantastic Fest, but I really love the way the fest programmers scour the globe for the most interesting, bizarre and exciting genre films - especially horror. When our partners at FEARnet talked to us about their Expedition: FEAR Friday night foreign horror blocks, I knew this was a good opportunity to put on the bragging vest and do a little bit of crowing about the great overseas horror movies Fantastic Fest has brought to us. I narrowed it down to five because I like alliteration and "Five Fearsome Foreign Films" excites me as a headline, but I could have easily gone fifteen or more. This is just a sampling of the last nine years of Fantastic Fest premieres - you should start making your plans to join us in September of 2014 to see what year ten holds. 

2005 - Wolf Creek (Australia) - Texas Premiere

Greg McLean's tense, ugly movie takes backwoods horror tropes and gives them an Aussie spin. A group of backpackers runs into trouble in the Outback, and the trouble they run into is John Jarratt, playing the viscious psycho Mick Taylor. Wolf Creek is mean and upsetting, a movie that could get lumped in with the 'torture porn' crowd if you wanted to, but which I think is much nastier than most of its American cousins have the balls to be.

2006 - The Host (South Korea) - US Premiere

Bong Joon-ho's wonderful monster movie is a mash-up of genres in that unique South Korean way; you can be laughing in one scene, crying in another and on the edge of your seat ten minutes later. The Host is fun and weird and, best of all, in the true socially conscious tradition of great monster movies. It's pollution from a US army base in South Korea that creates a monstrous tadpole beast that lurks in the Han River and terrorizes Seoul.

2007 - Timecrimes (Spain) - World Premiere

Nacho Vigalondo is an annual staple of Fantastic Fest. I only wish he could make a movie every year so we could premiere them annually as well. While Timecrimes (Cronocrimenes in Spain) is technically a scifi movie, Nacho blurs genre boundaries and makes a film that occupies a very weird and unique spot in the stalker canon. I don't want to spoil anything about this great, twisty time travel movie, but a middle aged guy finds himself caught up in a bizarre temporal web when he witnesses a man in bloody bandages kill his beautiful neighbor. 

2009 - REC 2 (Spain) - World Premiere

Found footage movies are a dime a dozen (literally, if we're looking at their crummy budgets), but REC managed to transcend the aesthetic and use it both wisely and quite scarily (is that a word?). REC 2 picks up the threads at the end of the first film and takes what had been a zombie movie and expands it into some very fun, very spooky demonic possession action. Directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza get playful with the POV aspects of found footage, and especially with their use of night vision and the way it opens up a look into another level of terror. 

2011 - Juan of the Dead (Cuba) - US Premiere

I'm so sick of zombie movies. The great zombie films had something to say, but most of them now are just gorefests with annoying characters trapped in a location. Which is part of why Alejandro Brugués' Juan of the Dead is such a delight. The director has a lot to say about life in his native Cuba, and watching a Cuban make a zombie movie in Cuba (the country's first!) that criticizes the Communist regime is thrilling, and reminds you what the best horror movies can do - turn a mirror back on us and the world in which we live. The fact that Juan of the Dead is a really great movie, with a terrific set of characters, strong humor and excellent gore, certainly helps.