(Welcome to Pop Culture Imports, a column that compiles the best foreign movies and TV streaming right now.)
It was just coincidence that this week’s Pop Culture Imports column fell on Halloween, but I couldn’t pass up recommending you folks some foreign frights. If you’re in for a night of horror movies and shooing away irritating trick-or-treaters, read up on this week’s spooky batch of foreign flicks. This week’s best foreign movies and TV streaming now include a Guillermo del Toro double feature recently added to the Criterion Channel, the best zombie movie of the decade Train to Busan, and Ana Lily Amirpour‘s breakout vampire western A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.
Fire up those subtitles, put on your fangs, and let’s get streaming.
Best Foreign Movies and TV Streaming Now
The Devil’s Backbone – Criterion Channel
Country: Mexico, Spain
Genre: Gothic ghost horror
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi, Fernando Tielve, Íñigo Garcés.
Shot like a western and framed like a ghost story, The Devil’s Backbone is an ingenious synthesis of gothic horror and political allegory, underscored by a heartfelt narrative about childhood innocence lost. Guillermo del Toro‘s breakout film, the 2001 Mexican film would provide the foundation for his saga of politically charged dark fantasies, which would culminate in his Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water. The Devil’s Backbone follows a sensitive child (Fernando Tielve), who del Toro has described as “a force of innocence,” who is sent to live at a home for orphans in a remote part of Spain during the Spanish Civil War after his father is killed fighting the fascists. He soon discovers that the orphanage is home to a ghostly boy who wanders the grounds, ominously whispering that they will all die. Del Toro is not subtle about his visual and political metaphors here — in the orphanage courtyard lies a defused bomb that had fallen the night the boy disappeared — but it only adds to the striking, evocative nature of the film and its story of a place and people lost to the ravages of war, suspended in time like a phantom.
Watch This if You Like: Pan’s Labyrinth, The Orphanage, The Haunting of Hill House, supernatural horror as political metaphor.
Train to Busan – Netflix
Country: South Korea
Genre: Zombie horror
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Cast: Gong Yoo, Jung Yu-mi, Ma Dong-seok.
It’s hard to name a more perfect zombie movie than Train to Busan. The 2016 South Korean horror film has an almost comically simple premise: A workaholic father and his daughter find themselves trapped on a speeding train in the middle of a zombie outbreak. Forced to fend for themselves against selfish humans and alarmingly acrobatic zombies, the passengers of their train car hunker down to survive the zombie attacks until their train can reach a military safe haven in Busan. But that simple premises belies a deeper message about class warfare, which Train to Busan delivers effortlessly while never sacrificing the gory, blood-soaked fun. But the novelty of Train to Busan comes in how it treats its human characters — never once forgetting about their humanity in favor of bloody shocks. Gong Yoo turns in an emotional performance that proves to be the crux of the film, while the dynamic Ma Dong?Seok catapults to the top of the list of all-timer badasses. Tightly constructed and relentlessly thrilling, with a surprisingly tender heart at the center, Train to Busan is easily one of the best horror movies of this decade.
Watch This if You Like: 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead, Snowpiercer, crying through your screams.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night – Criterion Channel
Genre: Vampire western
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Cast: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Mozhan Marnò, Marshall Manesh, Dominic Rains.
They don’t get cooler than this movie. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a brilliant debut from Ana Lily Amirpour, who directs this moody, atmospheric vampire film with panache. Proudly described as “the first Iranian vampire western,” A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is an unnerving reinterpretation of vampire mythology and its gender politics through a feminist lens. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night takes place in a forgotten Iranian city that is terrorized by a skateboarding vampire (a hypnotic Sheila Vand) who preys on men who disrespect women. Stunningly shot in a striking black and white scheme that recalls a mix of Jim Jarmusch and David Lynch, A Girl Who Walks Home Alone at Night is more of a mood than a movie: a mood of a counterculture that destroys the system brick by brick.
Watch This if You Like: Let The Right One In, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Persepolis if it just had all the counter-culture stuff and vampires.
Cronos – Criterion Channel
Genre: Vampire horror
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Federico Luppi, Ron Perlman, Claudio Brook, Margarita Isabel, Tamara Shanath.
Guillermo del Toro came out of the gate swinging with his debut feature, a gory Hitchcockian wrong man thriller meets Cronenberg body horror. Cronos follows an unusual protagonist played by Federico Luppi who stars as Jesús Gris, an elderly antique store owner who happens upon a strange object in his store hidden inside a cockroach-infested archangel statue. While investigating the strange golden scarab, the device pierces his hand and Jesús finds his body begin to change. His wrinkles disappear, his energy returns, and he feels like a man decades younger — albeit, a man with a thirst for blood. But Jesús’s discovery of this device makes him the target of dying businessman Dieter de la Guardia (Claudio Brook) and his hot-tempered nephew Angel (Ron Perlman), who have been searching for this key to immortality for years. A unique twist on the vampire genre, Cronos is full of big thrills and setpieces, along with some gnarly prosthetics and truly unhinged performances.
Watch This if You Like: The Hunger, Thirst, The Fly, watching an absolutely deranged Ron Perlman performance.
Black Spot – Netflix
Country: Belgium, France
Genre: Crime thriller series
Creator: Mathieu Missoffe
Cast: Suliane Brahim, Hubert Delattre, Laurent Capelluto.
The one non-horror title on this list, I had to include this hidden gem of a French detective series. Black Spot‘s first and second seasons were quietly dropped on Netflix earlier this summer, but its gloomy and incredibly bingeable crime thriller narrative makes it a perfect Halloween watch. The title is a bit misleading: the French title, Zone Blanche, is more accurately translated to “dead zone” — referring to the isolated, miserable town of Villefranche, where cell phones don’t work, “microwaves are fickle,” and the homicide rate is six times the national average. It’s here that hypoallergenic D.A., Franck Siriani (Laurent Capelluto) stumbles, as the local police department have discovered yet another body, a young nurse found hanging in the misty forest where the trees bleed. It’s an intriguing start to the series, and a mystery that only further unravels through its secretive denizens, including the sheriff Major Weiss (a captivating Suliane Brahim), who puts on a tough exterior to hide a painful, traumatic past. A little eccentric, a little funny, with hints of the supernatural, Black Spot is a hidden gem on Netflix that deserves a watch.
Watch This if You Like: True Detective, Twin Peaks, The Killing, beautiful French people being sad in the woods.
Source: Slash Film