For this week’s Stream Picks, we’re giving you Volume Two of our favorite international horror offerings. As always, these are all ready to watch on some of the most popular streaming outlets. Like last time, these recommends are not for those averse to subtitles – you’ll be doing some reading, but if you’re looking for something different to try, we think these are worth a watch.
Mexico: The Similars – 2015 (featured)
Unrated (equal to R rating for violence, language, and brief nudity) – 1hr 29min
Directed by Issac Ezban
Starring Fernando Becerril, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Humberto Busto
In this creepy homage to the style of The Twilight Zone, the year is 1968 and eight strangers are grouped together in a bus station by a bizarre weather phenomenon. When some of them begin experiencing inexplicable physical transformations, paranoia sets in and wild accusations are made, turning their refuge into a place of anguish and violence. Along with 2014’s The Incident, director Issac Ezban has been developing a reputation for his stylish depictions of sci-fi/horror that invoke the vibe of Black Mirror, The Outer Limits, and the aforementioned Twilight Zone.
Iran: Under the Shadow – 2016
Rated PG-13 – 1hr 24min
Directed by Babak Anvari
Starring Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi
Set in 1980s Tehran, a woman named Shideh, banned from her medical studies in the wake of the Islamic Revolution, must keep her daughter safe as Iraqi missile strikes rock the city and her husband is called to provide medical treatment on the war front. If that wasn’t enough, her child has caught the attention of a mysterious and sinister presence that dwells in their building. As the air raids intensify, so will the curse of this malevolent spirit. A BAFTA nominee for best picture, this movie ambitiously blends the political turmoil of a nation scarred by war, revolution, and cultural upheaval with horror inspired by Persian folklore.
Hong Kong: Rigor Mortis – 2013
Unrated – (equal to hard R rating for graphic violence, imagery, disturbing sexual content, and brief nudity) – 1hr 43min
Directed by Juno Mak
Starring Siu-Ho Chin, Anthony Chan, Fat Chung
A once popular actor, his life now in ruins, moves into a rundown apartment block and begins to contemplate suicide. What he discovers is that the place is ravaged by the same kind of evil entities that he used to fictionally battle as the star of a horror movie franchise. While involving a lot of cultural references and folklore that are very specific to that part of the world, this is a very stylish and bleak subversion of a sub-genre of Mandarin films that blended comical horror and martial arts in their depiction of the jiangshi, or hopping vampire. Yet vampires there aren’t the same as vampires here. It’s all quite confusing and much of the context is lost on Western audiences, but there is still a lot that can be appreciated in regards to visuals and tone, even if a substantial portion is lost in translation.
France: Ils (Them) – 2006
Rated R – 1hr 17min
Directed by David Moreau & Xavier Palud
Starring Olivia Bonamy, Michael Cohen
A couple living in their isolated home are set upon during the night by a gang of hooded assailants. That bare-bones plot pretty much sums this movie up, but what it lacks in story, it compensates for in sequences of pure tension and suspense. While it has much in common with The Strangers, this actually predates that film by a couple years. If you enjoy cat-and-mouse sequences and don’t mind a movie that is essentially just those, you should find this to your liking. (Heads up though – the ending hasn’t exactly aged so well.)
Thailand: Laddaland – 2011
Unrated (equal to R rating for graphic violence & imagery) – 1hr 53min
Directed by Sophon Sakdaphisit
Starring Saharat Sangkapreecha, Piyathida Woramusik, Sutatta Udomsilp
In this paranormal chiller, a family moves into an upscale neighborhood – the father eager to put forward the image offinancial success. With a hefty mortgage to pay and a fractured relationship between the parents and their teenage daughter, life in the seemingly peaceful upper-class subdivision isn’t what Dad had hoped for, as the house next door is the scene of a gruesome murder-suicide, intensifying tensions within their own household. Things boil over when visions of their slaughtered neighbors begin to appear. Despite the Southeast Asian setting, this film touches upon a lot of themes that Western audiences can certainly appreciate, as it plays like a variation of The Amityville Horror but for the post-Great Recession era.