It really is amazing to see how far our genre has come after all these years. We have a lot of our own horror auteurs to thank for that here in the States. However, a big THANK YOU should be given to our counterparts overseas. Filmmakers from around the world have helped push the genre further and further into what we know today. And while one could argue that America has created some enduring iconic masterpieces that have greatly influenced the way that other countries view horror film in general, it is how those particular filmmakers approach each new project and what innovative ideas they bring to their films that has ultimately changed how we view the genre here in the great old U.S. of A.
Think about it for a sec. Take away all the great examples of foreign genre films and ponder how the cinematic landscape of horror would look like today without them. Would we have the rich color of Suspiria? Or the over-the-top gore of a Fulci film? Perhaps. But, the genre might very well look much more bland without our horror-loving friends from across the globe. I look at it as a push and pull kind of thing. One film couldn't exist in the form that it is today without the influence of another...and so on and so forth. It is the proverbial snowball that constantly grabs ideas from another and keeps going down that perpetual hill. Unfortunately, not all snowballs are great. But, those that are...have taken from other great films and offer more greatness for the great ones yet to come.
Man...I should really lay off the peyote.
Anyway...the following 5 films (in no particular order...aside from chronological...so...I guess there's an order) have helped change the horror universe into what we know it to be today. There are plenty more films that have truly changed the game. But, these 5 films are BIG. Like...John Holmes kinda big. These are...
5 HORROR IMPORTS THAT CHANGED THE GENRE FOREVER
(1922, Germany) - F.W. Murnau
No one really knew what a goddamn vampire really looked like before Nosferatu came out. I mean, I'm sure people had their own interpretations as to how Dracula looked like, thanks in large part to Mr. Bram Stoker. But, no one has ever seen one up close or moving up on this newfangled invention called film, for that matter. That is...until Germany released a film back in 1922 depicting a creature going around in the dark drinking the blood from humans. Nosferatu forever changed the culture of horror and implanted a new kind of DNA into genre filmmaking. Not only were new ideas introduced in the way that we could see a vampire up on the big screen but, new ideas were introduced in the way that we could scare an audience using moving pictures. Some of the lighting and special effects used in Nosferatu set forth a new path for horror. A path that is still utilized in today's genre filmmaking. Even Max Schreck's brilliant physical acting is perfect. It is an important film, not only for the vampire film, but also for the horror film in general. Some of the elements are still used in creature-type horror films today...tho, it does remain my favorite vampire film of all time because of what it represents...and because it managed to scare the fuck out of me when I first watched it. Without sound. Nosferatu is one of those films that aliens will take back to their worlds to study for its masterful storytelling and its disturbing imagery. An amazing achievement in horror film history that has changed everything forever. Edward Cullen be damned.
KILL BABY, KILL
(1966, Italy) - Mario Bava
(1980, Italy) - Ruggero Deodato
Do you remember the very first time you watched Ruggero Deodato's notorious classic? For me, it was during my "sick and twisted" phase back in my mid teens. I actually remember it like it was yesterday. It was a comfortably warm summer day. We had just gotten back from a long day of thrashin' up government benches with our skateboards. My friend, in an attempt to shock us silly, pulled this film out of his backpack. Having watched Caligula just a few days prior...I simply shrugged Cannibal Holocaust off in a way that I regret today. It shocked all of our young minds silly. We watched things that we could not believe that day. And then...we watched the film again. The film is considered, even to this day, to be the one film that introduced the Found Footage subgenre of horror. It also showed us many other things. Like depicting, in great detail, the devouring of human flesh...as well as the art of impaling and animal killing and several other deviant stuff. In fact, Deodato was actually charged with making a goddamn snuff film...because authorities thought this shit was real. The influence that Cannibal Holocaust has in today's landscape of horror cinema can especially be seen in the modern iteration of "sick and twisted" films (STF). Eli Roth's upcoming The Green Inferno (apparently named after the film seen in Cannibal Holocaust) is said to be a direct homage to Deodato's sick masterpiece. Cannibal Holocaust has indeed changed the world of horror forever and has even managed to help create a whole subgenre in the process.
(1998, Japan) - Hideo Nakata
Whether you're a fan of Nakata's Ringu or not, you have to acknowledge its place in the history of game-changing horror films. There are legions of horror fans out there that prefer the 2002 version to the original, myself included. However, Ringu played a huge role in ushering in the new brand of Japanese horror films and, ultimately, shaping the modern supernatural subgenre into what it is known as today. Without Ringu, it would be hard to imagine what horror cinema might look like today. Not just the whole Japanese influence...but, the entire genre in general. It weaves together some of the previous concoctions of Japanese horror and fuses some new imaginative elements to create something altogether creepy in execution. It is not your typical in-your-face horror film. Ringu takes its time to get the story going, while also moving into a new set of horror rules that literally jumps out of the television screen into your living room. The film basically blew the gate open and allowed for other notable Japanese horror films to enter the landscape one after another. Thus inspired Hollywood to make some really good versions of these films in remake form. The Grudge, The Eye...even in a film like the recent Mama...it is easy to see the Japanese supernatural influence all throughout the film's premise and style. Whether you like it or not...Ringu had a huge role in changing the genre into what it is known as today.
28 DAYS LATER
(2002, UK) - Danny Boyle
Before Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, zombies were a slow and tired subgenre. Sure, the zombie father, himself, George A. Romero created 3 perfect masterpieces that laid down the blueprint for subsequent iterations of the subgenre....but, you can only do the same thing for so long before things started getting stale and silly. Enter Danny Boyle. Before 28 Days Later, he dabbled in the genre with his 1994 directorial debut, Shallow Grave. But, it wasn't until Boyle made his interpretation of the "zombie film" when horror geeks stood up and took notice. Not only creating a brilliant film, but revitalizing an entire subgenre of film in the process and reshaping the zombie film path for many filmmakers yet to come. 28 Days Later single-handedly created an entire movement that both angered and excited genre fans. "There's no such thing as fast moving zombies!" These were the cries heard all over. Still...no matter what stance you have on the debate, it is hard not to accept the significance of Boyle's masterpiece when you take into consideration the current landscape of zombie entertainment. Would a television series like The Walking Dead even have a chance if it were not for ground-breaking films like Boyle's 2002 film? Who really knows? All I know is that 28 Days Later certainly helped to change the horror genre into what we now know it to be....forever.
There are most definitely many more foreign horror films that deserve to be on this list. You are even welcome to include more in the comments below. But, I offer these 5 films as some of the more important ones that have helped shape our beloved genre into what it is today. Without help from our friends across the oceans, we would never have a category of cinema as awesomely horrific as it is.
Thanks for reading,