The Best International Horror Movies of 2023

International Horror 2023

By Chad Collins and Mary Beth McAndrews

While American franchises and the Hollywood system dominate most of mainstream horror, us horror fans know the power of international horror. Some of the scariest movies of this century hail from non-English speaking countries (looking at you, Terrified), proving that subtitles shouldn’t stop you from experiencing some of the best horror films the world has to offer. This year was particularly impressive for international horror as Godzilla returned to theaters, directors were not afraid of breaking taboos, and even a few hearts were broken. But what were the 10 best films, at least according to Dread Central? Check out our list below.

Devils (Korea)

My feelings toward Devils have warmed since I first caught its North American premiere at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival. Kim Jae-Hoon’s body-swapping serial killer saga might adhere closely to the conventions of South Korean genre cinema—broad brushstroke comedy, diversions into earnest melodrama—but familiarity isn’t always a bad thing. As a grimy, gory gateway into the adrenaline-fueled savagery of Korean horror, Devils is as good as they come. —Chad Collins

Falcon Lake (Canada)

Young love meets a haunting ghost story in Charlotte Le Bon’s Falcon Lake. While this is one for fans of the slow burn, this film absolutely drips in dread. On the surface, it’s a sweet coming-of-age story about a boy falling for an older girl during a transformative Quebec summer in the woods. But as the film progresses and we see where Le Bon is taking us, sun-soaked fields no longer feel so welcoming. Plus, Le Bon just gets the beauty and pain of young love. It’s awkward and weird and a total nightmare, something she taps right into with both her direction and her script. —Mary Beth McAndrews

Godzilla Minus One (Japan)

With both The Boy and the Heron and Godzilla Minus One, it’s clearer than ever that audiences are desperate for something new. When in doubt, import and screen what audiences elsewhere can’t stop raving about. Such was the case with Godzilla Minus One, the titan’s return to the big screen after a seven-year absence (Legendary’s Monsterverse entries notwithstanding). The fifth entry in the Reiwa Era films, Minus One again reimagines Godzilla’s origins, this time having him square off with cowardly kamikaze pilot, Kōichi (Ryunosuke Kamiki) after the two encounter one another as World War II is coming to a close. Godzilla emerges years later, wreaking havoc across Japan in the midst of rebuilding.

This is rousing blockbuster action at its best, a Godzilla that culls from the classics, including Jaws and the titan’s own filmic legacy, while still carving out a niche of its own. Believe the hype. Godzilla is back and better than ever. —Chad Collins

Huesera: The Bone Woman (Mexico)

On the other end of the spectrum, Michelle Garza Cervera’s Huesera: The Bone Woman is considerably more patient than When Evil Lurks, though no less terrifying. A pregnant woman suspects she has been cursed by an evil spirit, the titular bone woman, and Cervera adroitly exploits maternal fears in ways I can’t recall ever having seen. This is culturally specific yet broadly terrifying horror, a haunting drenched in guilt, queerness, and an overarching sense that the world writ large and its oppressive power structures are haunted in their own right. —Chad Collins

In My Mother’s Skin (Philippines)

Kenneth Dagatan’s In My Mother’s Skin isn’t just one of the year’s best international horror offerings, it’s also my pick for the scariest movie of the year. This mottled haunted house hides secrets, guilt, and gut-churning body horror, orbiting around the ostensible respite of a rural fairy tale. It’s uncompromising and terrifying, a reminder that the scariest things in our world are firmly rooted in the real. All the flesh-eating fairies around are no match for the savagery of man. —Chad Collins

Megalomaniac (Belgium)

Extreme horror isn’t for everyone, but it is certainly for me. New French Extremity films like High Tension, Frontier(s), and Inside are my bread and butter. So of course Karim Ouelhaj‘s Megalomaniac was destined to be a favorite for 2023. It’s a scathing and cruel look at intergenerational trauma and toxic masculinity through the lens of the grown children of the serial killer the Butcher of Mons (who was an actual serial killer active in 1996 and 1997 but was never caught). Ouelhaj imagines what these children would be like if they were the spawn of pure evil.

Felix, his son, follows in his father’s footsteps, raping and killing women, then leaving their body parts on the side of the road. Martha, his daughter, is meek and isolated, continuously assaulted at work, unable to ever express her rage. It all builds to a shocking and blood-soaked climax that leaves you feeling hollow. It’s a beautiful and brutal experience that showcases the power of extreme horror. —Mary Beth McAndrews

Naga (Saudi Arabia)

This rare piece of Saudi genre cinema deserves more than a silent Netflix debut. Meshal Al Jaser‘s feature film debut Naga is a strange one, yes, but it features one of the best animal attack scenes I’ve ever seen, dizzying visuals, and a lot to say about gender politics in Saudi Arabia. The film follows Sarah, a young woman with a violently controlling father and a secret boyfriend. With a 9 PM curfew and the excuse she’s out with friends, Sarah sneaks off to the desert with her boyfriend to do drugs, party, and throw up a big middle finger to the patriarchy. But things don’t go so well for Sarah and she must endure the night from hell to get home before breaking curfew and facing her father’s wrath.

Sarah is the worst in all the best ways. She wants to spit in the face of patriarchy while also being a product of it, creating a mess of contradictions that make her both unbearable and somehow relatable. Just like with Sarah, you’ll either fall in love with Naga or have a bad trip. Regardless, it’s dazzling and ambitious genre-adjacent fare that deserves its time in the spotlight. —Mary Beth McAndrews

Our Father, The Devil (France)

Ellie Foumbi‘s Our Father, The Devil is perhaps one of the most devastating yet hopeful films of 2023. It’s a rape-revenge film unlike anything you’ve ever seen as a young woman must grapple with her past after her abuser appears back in her life. It’s a tremendous examination of healing from physical, mental, and sexual abuse, and the reality of what that healing looks like. Foumbi recognizes just how messy that process is, as does her lead Babetida Sadjo who turns in one of the year’s best performances. This is another important entry into the women-directed rape-revenge film canon that looks at the reality of healing through a genre lens. —Mary Beth McAndrews

Project Wolf Hunting (Korea)

The elevator pitch for Project Wolf Hunting is Con Air meets Resident Evil on a ship. Based on that description alone, you know everything you need to about this gnarly Korean action-horror. The first part follows a group of cops escorting a cargo ship of criminals being extradited from the Philippines back to Korea. So of course, that’s already a powder keg of a situation, but don’t worry. Director Hong Seon Kim makes sure to have everything explode into violence almost immediately—he knows what we want.

It’s a slick cops-versus-bad-guy type movie at first, with an ungodly amount of bullets flying through cramped hallways as blood drips through the vents. But then there’s the mid-film twist that throws Project Wolf Hunting firmly into horror territory as something hiding in the belly of the boat shows itself.

While some parts of the story drag, that doesn’t keep this from being one of the year’s best and bloodiest horror offerings, regardless of country of origin. Kim takes no prisoners and has no qualms about killing his darlings as if they were nothing but background characters. It’s one mean movie that’ll satiate any gorehound as heads explode, limbs fly, and maggots crawl through rotting flesh. —Mary Beth McAndrews

When Evil Lurks (Argentina)

Third act notwithstanding, Demián Rugna’s follow-up to the criminally underrated Terrified is as savage and cruel a horror movie as they come. This subversive take on demonic possession—here conceptualized as “Rottens”—is chock full of spewing entrails, severed limbs, and oozy, gooey corpses. It’s not for the faint of heart, and at times, the sheer exploitative excess threatens to overwhelm, but at its core, Rugna has delivered one of the year’s most visceral horror gems. —Chad Collins

What was your favorite international horror film this year? Let us know on Twitter @DreadCentral!

Check out the rest of our Best of 2023 coverage here.



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