Well, of the past two decades, anyway. We’ll make more lists like this citing classics, but we’re going contemporary this time around. That’s because this month, we’re celebrating the release of La Casa, a Spanish-speaking film about a haunted house. Great little film if we do say so ourselves: a one-shot wonder (not unlike 2019’s 1917) based on a true story. To mark the ocassion, we thought we’d share our top 10 foreign horror movies about haunted houses. However, because a dwelling can be more than a house, we’re throwing you some curve balls along the way. Strap in, and get ready. It´ll be a rough housewarming party!
Ju-on: The Franchise (2000-2015) – My Favorite Japanese Pick in the Top 10 Foreign Horror Movies About Haunted Houses
Where else could we start? One of my personal favorites in this list, and a landmark moment that changed cinema for over a decade. Between 2000 and 2010, the United States was flooded with remakes of Japanese horror films. And it all started with Ju-on. Experimental, weird and downright terrifying, there’s ghosties aplenty in this must-watch for fans of the genre
Dark Water (2005)
Japan does have an obsession with ghosts. My wife, in fact, is terrified of them. Only last week, my mother-in-law was questioning whether her grandmother’s house was haunted. Not because it may be silly for a house to be haunted, but because she hadn’t heard about ghosts there before. So, it makes sense that a haunted house would also translate in Japan to a haunted apartment. Dark Water is a moving story of paternal love, and the lengths to which one will go to safeguard a child… even one that isn’t ours.
Yet another type of haunted dwelling must now be added to the list: hotels. This one in particular is also intriguing in that it’s a bit meta. The film is about filming a movie in a hotel where a mass murder took place. It’s kind of crazy, but the way they incorporate the past into the current day events is visually stunning. And the acting is top notch.
Ghost of Mae Nak (2005)
Japan does not have a monopoly on haunted dwellings. This Thai film is steeped in regional folklore. Considering it came out in 2005, which is relatively early for Asian horror exports, it’s admirable just how polished the end product became. Ghosts, dodgy real estate agents, small town thieves, people falling into comas… there’s something for everyone in this great little time capsule of a film.
Darker Than Night (2014)
Mexico’s first movie shot in 3D is also a remake of a 1975 classic of the same name. Following Taboada’s masterpiece isn’t an easy thing to do, but I actually found this new take on the source material quite refreshing and well executed. Whether it’s deserving of a spot on a list of the top 10 foreign horror about haunted houses might be up for debate, particularly considering its ancestor, but the added relatabilty is what brings the remake home for me.
El Espinazo del Diablo (2001) – My Favorite Spanish-Speaking Pick in the Top 10 Foreign Horror Movies About Haunted Houses
Another favorite of mine, this is actually a the top of my list of Guillermo del Toro films. It may be because I’m a history nerd and the Spanish Civil War setting totally tickles my fancy. However, I do think The Devil’s Backbone has not only amazing scares, but also a healthy amount of intrigue which puts it squarely above its contemporaries. Also, creepy kids are always creepier than creepy adults. That’s just cinema law. One of my top choices in any top 10 foreign horror movies about haunted houses list, of the past two decades or any time in history.
The Borderlands (2013)
When I first saw this film, it even had another name. That’s how long ago it was. But it’s stuck with me ever since. A found footage film from the UK, about a haunted church in a rural British village, The Borderlands isn’t your typical FF affair. It’s put together very well, and it got ahead of genre tropes by many, many years. A great introduction into found footage for non-fans of the genre.
The Silent House (2010) – Most Brutal Pick in this Top 10 Foreign Horror Movies About Haunted Houses List
This is possibly the film that resembles La Casa the most. Also shot in one take, and also based on a real story, The Silent House is a film from Uruguay that goes rather far in its exploration of the horrors which can be encapsulated within a dwelling.
It’s a bit hard to find, and you must not confuse it with the 2011 American remake starring Elizabeth Olsen. But if you do find it, you’ll be glad you did.
The Orphanage (2007)
I know, I know. Another Spanish film about an orphanage. But The Orphanage differs from The Devil’s Backbone in many ways. In particular, its visual presentation of the “threat”, as well as its clever and effective use of sound. The tension that this film carries throughout its runtime is unlike almost anything else out there. I could not write a list of my top 10 foreign horror about haunted houses without including The Orphanage. Amazing stuff.