There was a time when it was more likely for a successful foreign film to be remade in English than see a proper release in America. From the decade-long ban on Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale to the Lovecraftian Valdemar Legacy films never getting an official Region 1 release, being a fan of overseas genre thrills used to be much harder.
It was only recently that mainstream media began to shine a spotlight on alternative world cinema, with films like the Academy-Award-winning Parasite proving that modern audiences are more inclined to give international stories a try. Of course, after the J-horror trend of the 2000s and the recent success of scary movies like The Medium and Incantation, I think it’s safe to say that horror fans have always been more willing to deal with foreign media if it means getting access to unique scares.
And with Found Footage serving as a democratic tool that allows low-budget filmmakers to tell more convincing stories without the need for giant Hollywood budgets, it stands to reason that there are plenty of POV scares to be found outside of America. That’s precisely why we’ve come up with this list of six of the best foreign language Found Footage movies for your viewing pleasure!
While this list is purely based on personal opinion, there are still a couple of rules. First of all, we’ll only be featuring one entry per franchise when a movie has sequels (just to avoid repetition). Second, all entries have to be in a completely different language, so no movies from England, New Zealand or other English-speaking countries.
As usual, don’t forget to comment below with your own foreign Found Footage favorites if you think we missed a good one.
Now, onto the list…
6. Man Bites Dog (Belgium – 1992)
Written and directed by the subversive trio of Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel and Benoît Poelvoorde, Man Bites Dog has earned a sinister reputation as one of the most controversial cult films of all time. A monochromatic mockumentary chronicling the exploits of a charming serial killer, the real horror here isn’t in Ben’s brutal homicides but in the realization that you might be part of the problem by enjoying this kind of media.
While it’s possibly the most influential indie flick to come out of Belgium, Man Bites Dog is definitely not for the feint of heart, so you’d be forgiven for missing out on its disturbing thrills. That being said, I’d still recommend this darkly comedic experience to hardcore cinephiles who are interested in checking out a meta story about filmmaking gone wrong.
5. Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (South Korea – 2018)
Boasting skilled genre directors like Yeon Sang-ho and Kim Jee-woon, South Korea is no stranger to horror. However, I’d argue that Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum is the country’s first truly successful foray into Found-Footage, with Jung Bum-shik using the medium’s faux reality to offer up innovative scares in a familiar setting. If you haven’t seen it, the film follows a group of digital influencers who invade the titular building and find more than they bargained in its abandoned interior.
Kind of like a Korean analogue to the Canadian Grave Encounters (only without the humorous elements and featuring even more disturbing ghosts), Gonjiam excels at remixing tried-and-true horror tropes into a completely new experience. The film is also notable for becoming the subject of a lawsuit when the owners of the real asylum believed that the film was so scary that it might negatively impact the sale of the building.
4. Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night (Japan – 2010)
Arguably the least-watched entry in the Paranormal Activity franchise, this Japanese spin-off offers a chilling alternate take on the series chronology. Taking place immediately after the end of the Oren Peli’s original, Tokyo Night explains that Katie somehow transferred her demonic possessor into a Japanese tourist during a car accident. Returning to her family, the injured Haruka soon learns that something wicked has followed her home, resulting another round of supernatural shenanigans.
A slower and more atmospheric take on the night-vision scares of the franchise, Tokyo Night is a welcome change of pace when it comes to Paranormal Activity, and I actually think that it makes for a thrilling double-feature if watched immediately after the 2009 original.
3. Trollhunter (Norway – 2010)
Written and directed by the talented André Øvredal, who would later go on to helm the excellent The Autopsy of Jane Doe and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Trollhunter is a dark comedy following a group of college students as they produce a documentary about a professional hunter named Hans. As the project goes on, the students learn that Hans secretly works for the government-funded Troll Security Service, which aims to keep Norway safe from supernatural threats.
While the idea sounds absurd on paper, this peculiar mockumentary is one of the most entertaining monster movies ever put on film, playing around with centuries of Norwegian folklore as it explores a thrilling collection of creative troll designs. I particularly enjoy the picture’s memorable ending, which features Norway’s ex-president Jens Stoltenberg in a ridiculous news bulletin.
2. [REC] 2 (Spain – 2009)
Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza’s REC is often remembered as one of the scariest Spanish-language films of all time. However, with all the hullaballoo about this terrifying indie darling, horror fans often forget that the film spawned an equally entertaining sequel. And since we’re only covering one film per franchise, I think REC 2 is in dire need of a shout-out.
A direct continuation of the events of the first film, REC 2 is even scarier than its predecessor, benefiting from a more condensed opening act since the film assumes that you already know what’s going on. These days, I tend to rewatch both the original film and its sequel back-to-back as if they were a single experience, which I think is the best way to enjoy these nightmare-inducing foreign language found footage zombie flicks.
1. Occult (Japan – 2009)
Koji Shiraishi’s Noroi: The Curse stands alongside The Blair Witch Project as one of the most important landmarks in Found-Footage. However, despite the movie’s well-deserved cult status, it’s not Shiraishi’s only foray into the genre. That’s why I’d like to shine a light on the director’s other foreign language Found Footage masterpiece, the criminally underseen Occult.
Following Shiraishi himself as he attempts to shoot a documentary about the aftermath of a mass-stabbing, this slow-burning thriller soon transforms into a Lovecraftian yarn about disturbing terrorist attacks and leech-like UFOs. It may not boast the same complex structure as Noroi, but Occult is a frightening and compelling character piece in its own right, and a must-watch for fans of J-Horror.