Earlier this year, the South Korean thriller Parasite made history when it won the Academy Award for best picture – shockingly. The shocking part wasn’t that it won, but the fact that in nearly 92 years, it is the first foreign-language movie to ever win this award.
Despite film being one of the most pertinent and accessible creative outlets in countries across the world, western award ceremonies are dominated by the works of white actors and directors far too often. Even when honoring international film, the industry tends to forget that the term “international” includes countries beyond the borders of Europe.
Anyway, TLDR: if the Academy’s not doing it, I’m taking matters into my own hands and making a tiny (emphasis on tiny) list myself! And since it is the season for all things spooky, every single one of these movies is somewhat Halloween-themed – obviously. It’s amazing to see the way culture, identity, and supernatural elements are all interwoven in horror-of-color, but there’s still definitely not enough exposure for these movies. Thankfully, I am here to provide!
- “Monihara (1961)” dir. Satyajit Ray
Any list of films is meaningless without the mention of at least one of Satyajit Ray’s works, and I’m not just saying that because I’m biased (although I very much am)! Monihara tells the story of a woman who marries a rich guy, tries to steal his jewels, and literally vanishes in the process – leaving her husband haunted by manic laughter and her shadowy silhouette. All of this combined with the misty atmosphere of an old mansion by the river really makes this a truly creepy, complex, and confusing masterpiece.
Where to watch: YouTube (free)
- “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)” dir. Ana Lily Amirpour
If you’re somehow into the weirdly specific trope of murderous but attractive chador-wearing vampires, this is the perfect movie for you! Set in the fictional Iranian ghost-town Bad City, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is about a lonely female vampire who kills evil men, but (plot twist) seems to fall in love with the one decent guy she finds. This movie is honestly the perfect medley of horror, romance, and this one genre that I like to call “two-people-driving-off-into-the-night-after-wreaking-havoc”.
Where to watch: UMass Kanopy (free for students)
- “Ganja & Hess (1971)” dir. Bill Gunn
Ganja & Hess is the story of Hess, an anthropologist who turns into a vampire after being stabbed by his assistant with an ancient magical dagger. His assistant’s wife Ganja falls for him while looking for her own husband, and together they are united by the dazzling power of vampirism – and love too, I guess. It would be downright disrespectful to choose a specific genre for this film so I’m not going to try, but if you’re into incredibly stylized movies that explore black identity and sexuality through religious imagery, this one’s for you. (Also yes, this is the second vampire movie on this list, and no, I am not as embarrassed as I probably should be.)
Where to watch: UMass Kanopy (free for students)
- “House (1977)” dir. Nobuhiko Obayashi
A young girl named Gorgeous just wants to spend a relaxing summer with her best friends at her grandmother’s house, but things don’t quite go as planned. The entire film is a series of bizarre events involving floating heads and cannibalistic pianos. This is arguably the most absurd movie on this list and might leave you wondering why you watched it, but it is definitely a personal favorite. So if you’re craving something more lighthearted but still Halloween-themed, House is the perfect thing to watch – especially with friends!
Where to watch: Criterion Channel (not free, but there are definitely free alternatives out there somewhere [eye emoji])
- “Cronos (1993)” dir. Guillermo del Toro
If you thought I was done with the vampire movies, you were hideously mistaken. Although the last two had stronger ties to romantic relationships, Cronos is more focused on the main character Jesus’ relationship with power, especially after attaining the eternal youth associated with vampirism. As always, Guillermo del Toro focuses more on the development of plot and character than on horror as such, but the creepy elements are all there, including a scene of the main character licking blood off the floor. Classic vampire antics.
Where to watch: YouTube (free, no subtitles)
- “Eve’s Bayou” (1997) dir. Kasi Lemmons
Considered one of the prime examples of “prestige horror”, a genre re-popularized more recently by movies like Get Out and Hereditary, Eve’s Bayou is a chilling tale about murder and subterfuge. The movie centers on the life of 10-year-old Eve from Louisiana who witnesses her father cheating on her mother and spends the rest of her summer plotting her revenge with a little bit of help from her quirky psychic aunt. This movie is honestly heartbreaking, but if you’re looking for something that’s more realistic and melancholic (while still retaining supernatural themes like curses and premonitions), this is the one!
Although this list obviously doesn’t even come close to exploring the enormous collection of movies out there, it’s a great start! I hope you guys enjoy these, and if anyone ever has any film recommendations, I’m always here for that. Happy Halloweekend everyone, stay safe (and remember to watch out for any ancient daggers or cannibalistic pianos)!