Whoop! Here we go – who is numero uno?
10: Deep Red (Italy, 1975)
Psychic Helga Ulmann senses the nearby presence of an unhinged psycho and begins to take notes in the hope of identifying them, only for them to come and cleaver her to death. This is witnessed by her musician neighbour, who then teams up with a plucky reporter to uncover the identity of the loon.
I saw this one quite late so much of its effect had blunted due to so many body count movies, but the amazing revelation that we actually have seen the killer’s face earlier on is nothing short of excellent.
9: Dream Home (Hong Kong, 2010)
Hong Kong is one of my favourite cities, and affording a penthouse with a view of its admittedly stunning harbour is of such crucial important to bank employee Sheung, that she decides a spate of murders in her desired apartment block will force the prices to drop.
Sometimes staggeringly and disturbingly violent (the murder of the pregnant woman especially), but also darkly funny in part, this slasher satire is unflinchingly forthright with its grue and handsomely produced with an engaging non-linear narrative.
8: Opera (Italy, 1987)
When the diva breaks her leg after being hit by a car, ingenue opera star Betty is given her big chance but finds instead that she is stalked by a psychotic black-gloved murderer who is obsessed with her and tapes needles beneath her eyes to force her to watch as he kills various people in her life in Argento’s usual grisly ways.
At least partly inspired by Stagefright (and also featuring the lead actress Barbara Cupisti), this is less of a straight-up body count affair – as is always the case with DA – but nonetheless features some icky demises and the usual overdose of awesome visuals.
7: Anatomie (Germany, 2000)
A classy combo of 70s thriller Coma and Urban Legend, brilliant anatomy student Paula becomes suspicious when a classmate who had a rare heart condition ends up on the slab before her with gum-like blood. Some investigation uncovers a secret group of doctors who dissect living patients to get a closer look at diseases before they claim their victim’s life.
Amidst mucho medical chatter, there’s a solid slasher film at work, with some particularly awesome chase scenes towards the end.
6: Tenebrae (Italy, 1982)
Argento again, as a famous American writer promoting his latest novel in Rome seems to be at the centre of a series of grisly razor blade slayings. With the help of his young protege, he investigates a possible suspect while countless sexy young women are hacked and slashed to ribbons as usual.
Tenebrae could be the most ‘American’ of Argento’s films (not that I’ve seen them all), with B-movie fixture John Saxon playing the agent of the main character. Wait for the inventive way the killer is modern-arted to death at the end.
5: Julia’s Eyes (Spain, 2010)
Julia (Belen Reuda) has a degenerative sight disorder that is slowly blinding her. After her twin sister Sarah – ahead of her in the sight-loss department – apparently hangs herself, Julia suspects somebody else assisted, but every avenue she investigates seems to result in the deaths of people around her.
Mucho giallo posturing takes place in this Spanish gem, with an entirely creepy moment where a blind woman says to Julia: “There’s someone else here with you – he’s right behind you.”
4: A Bay of Blood (Italy, 1971)
Arguably the most important Italian giallo movie, a body count bonanza more than a little responsible for Friday the 13th‘s general outlook: Various people drawn to the home of a recently deceased countess are targeted by a killer or killers hungry for money, land, inheritance, whatever.
Nobody can be trusted and almost everyone is capable of killing to get their way, which sucks when you’re just one of a quartet of sexy teens who have no interest in any of it and just wants to party!
This has a veritable phone book of alternate titles around the world.
3: Haute Tension (France, 2003)
While the French take credit for inventing cinema and I sat there in my film screenings wondering what the hell all the fuss was over Amelie, it can’t be denied that they scored most of a home-run with Haute Tension (a.k.a. Switchblade Romance), a straightforward slasher tale so brutal and so edge-of-your-seat it’s just wiser to sit on the floor from the beginning.
College girls Marie and Alex go to the latter’s farmhouse home for their break and the family are assaulted in the night by a nasty psycho who drives the creepiest truck this side of Duel. He offs the family and takes Alex away for nastier pursuits, unaware that Marie was even at the house. She follows to rescue her friend and spends the next hour dodging detection.
But then there’s that twist, so divisive it could end marriages. Personally I didn’t mind it, but would’ve preferred them not to try and be so clever.
2: Cold Prey II (Norway, 2008)
Showing the world how to do a proper sequel, Cold Prey II not only manages to get the leading lady back for another round with the Fjellmannen, but even has the other cast members back to play their corpses in a genuinely heartbreaking morgue identification scene.
Going down the Halloween II route, sole survivor Jannicke recovers while foolish authority types try to resuscitate the killer, who rises from his slumber to break necks, slash throats, and pulverise faces with extinguishers anew. A heartbeat behind the original in terms of tension.
1: Cold Prey (Norway, 2006)
Shocker. Squeezing kilometres out of tried and tested methods, Cold Prey is quite rightfully holder of the crown of best non-American, non-Canadian, non-British, non-Irish, non-other-English-speaking-nation, non-foreign-but-pretending-to-be-American slasher movie.
Five young snowboarders take shelter at a seemingly abandoned ski-lodge after one of them breaks his leg, but find that it isn’t abandoned at all, and a hulking Jason-like figure lives there, who doesn’t take kindly to intruders.
Everything that happens has pretty much happened before in another film, but it’s all brought together so perfectly in Cold Prey you have to wonder why that Jason-in-winter Friday the 13th episode has never been forged ahead with.
* * *
So there we have it – Norway apparently produces the best non-English language slasher films. I’m a tad disappointed it was so obvious, and that both #1 and #2 were occupied by sibling films. Hey-ho.
Since starting this, there’ve been a number of other foreign language films that entered my life, and so these adorables would’ve surely featured too:
Basag Ang Pula (Philippines, 1984) – thanks to Jenny Lo!
Bloody Reunion (South Korea, 2006)
Cemetery of Terror (Mexico, 1985)
Death Bell 2: Bloody Camp (South Korea, 2010)
Trampa Infernal (Mexico, 1989)