With the recent history-making Oscar win of Korean film Parasite, many have opened discussions about the place such movies have in the broader film industry. It seems foreign films, as well as horror/thrillers, have a much harder time breaking into the mainstream. But, when the Oscars say a foreign film with horror elements is the best film of the year, people start to pay attention, especially to films they haven’t seen.
Parasite as a Gateway
What was once a movie nobody but seasoned critics had seen is now being watched by millions. Now that it’s been proven such impressive titles exist and sometimes lack the attention they deserve, I wanted to put together a list for those wanting to explore films that need more acclaim. If not for their skilfulness, then for the amount of brutality they serve up in both emotional and physical form. Not unlike the sort of violence and shocking events witnessed in Parasite.
If you’re one of those people now paying attention after Parasite, or perhaps someone who is well-versed in this side of film and wants to see which movies I chose for the list, stay tuned for the most horrifying movies I have ever experienced. These films vary from drama to straight horror, with a few being foreign films best watched with subtitles. They all have one thing in common: after watching, you won’t be able to stop thinking about them. More importantly, they all, like Parasite, preach an important message through dramatic and horrifying twists.
We’re starting off the list with a horror film that’ll make you question everything from the morals of cruelty to the existence of an afterlife. Martyrs is a French-Canadian movie directed by Pascal Laugier, and I implore you to watch this version instead of the 2016 American remake. As Bong Joon-ho, director of Parasite said: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films”. This film was controversial from its release due to the graphic gore and violence depicted, often inflicted upon the young female characters.
The intrigue begins at the start of the movie, where we follow a girl named Lucie as she escapes her abuse and imprisonment in a slaughterhouse. After her horrific ordeal, Lucie is plagued with paranoia, which follows her throughout life in the form of a gruesome ghost. As a young adult she finally decides that with the help of her best friend, Anna, she will have her revenge on those responsible for her torture, hoping that in finding this closure the ghost will stop tormenting her.
But this movie is far from your average revenge plot, and by the second act, the movie has transformed completely into something even more horrific with revelations that will leave you questioning the sanity of the main characters and the motives of the monsters pursuing them. The ending is one of the most memorable in film history, with the final answer being left up to interpretation.
Another film out of Canada, but this one is in English. Cube is a 1997 film with a premise that would interest even frequent moviegoers. The plot can be reflected in the simple title. A group of strangers wake up in a cube, increasingly losing their cool as they realise they’re trapped. On each side of the room there is a small door with strange numerical engravings. While trying to figure out what they mean and how to use them to escape, the group comes across cruel traps designed to kill.
Each character brings something important to the team, whether it be math skills or brute force, and the viewer is led to wonder who created the cube and why these people have been entrapped and forced to solve it. As the characters devolve into violence and madness, questions arise regarding whether some lives are worth more than others.
The Nightingale is the most recent release on this list, getting its wide release in August of last year. Directed by Jennifer Kent (The Babadook), this dramatic thriller provides a premise never before seen on the big screen. Set in colonial Tasmania, a wildland undergoing a massive sweep of ethnic cleansing and settling. The tale follows Clare, an Irish convict, having served her sentence and awaiting her release. However, the British officer she is bound to refuses to let her go. After fighting to be given what is owed to her, the officer retaliates with violence against her and her family.
Clare finds herself in the company of an Aboriginal guide named Billy as she seeks to find and kill the officer. But her revenge is not easily had, as she must traverse the unforgiving bush. This revenge story is not one for the faint-hearted. It is probably the most brutal on this list in terms of unflinching violence. With Aboriginal Australian characters and their suffering shown at the hands of British colonialists, this movie is a tough watch. However, the ending is one of the best to come out of the revenge genre; brutally realistic and heart-wrenching. It is totally worth the two and a half hour runtime.
For those craving another South Korean drama/horror after watching Parasite, Oldboy is your best bet. The 2003 film, directed by Park Chan-wook, focuses on a deadbeat drunk who is suddenly kidnapped for no clear reason. During his imprisonment, he has nothing but time, and vows to get his revenge on whoever has trapped him. He goes mad from the lack of social interaction, his only company the old television in the room. However, he realises he must make the most of his time, and trains to be ready for his revenge plot.
He is prepared to fight his way out of prison. So, it comes as a massive surprise when he is suddenly released. Why was he kidnapped and held prisoner? Why was he suddenly let go? With the help of his love interest, he works to track down his antagonist and the answers he seeks. But such a simple film wouldn’t have made it on this list. It is the sick twists that come in the final act that turn the entire events of the movie on its head. After viewing the ending, you will never watch it the same way again.
The Main Message
These movies are alike Parasite in their raw nature. These directors are unflinching in their antagonistic portrayal of the powerful and upper-class. The powerless are trying to take their autonomy back, but it doesn’t always end happily.
Have you seen any of the films on this list? Are you hungry for more horror films to add to your watch list? Here on Fiction Talk we’re suckers for horror, and have a whole plethora of movie suggestions for you. If you’re skeptical, Parasite has proven without a doubt that these movies are worth your while.
If leisure is the mother of philosophy then I consider literature, film, and games as providers of lessons as worthy as Sokrates’.