1. THE BROOD (1979; CANADA).
A man attempts to uncover an unorthodox psychologist’s therapy practices on his institutionalised wife, while a series of violent attacks committed by a brood of mutant kids coincides with the man’s investigation. Having discovered The Brood when on a ‘watch everything David Cronenberg’ mission, I must say… I was not disappointed. It was twisted, brutal, warped, and had me thinking about it for quite a while.
2. AMORES PERROS (2000; MEXICO).
A horrific car accident connects three stories, each involving characters dealing with loss, regret, and life’s harsh realities, all in the name of love. I do confess to thoroughly enjoying only two of the three stories, but these two are enough. The story of the woman in the apartment searching for the dog… pffft! The story of the dog-loving loner who pays his way through assassinating and fucking up people… wow! For anyone looking for a gritty, real-life thriller/drama, this is your film. The old loner/killer is a badass like no other!
3. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008; SWEDEN).
Oscar, an overlooked and bullied boy, finds love and revenge through Eli, a beautiful but peculiar girl who turns out to be a vampire. And who said the Swedish film industry can’t rub shoulders with the rest of the world? I haven’t had much experience with Swedish films, let alone Swedish horror films. However, this masterful as well as suspenseful take on a vampire film has everything — gore, lust, a creepy, desolate terrain, and a childhood romance like no other.
4. MARTYRS (2008; FRANCE).
A woman’s pursuit in the name of revenge against the persons who abducted and tormented her as a kid leads her and a friend, who is also a victim of child abuse, on a frightening journey into a living hell of depravity and brutality. I hadn’t heard much about Martyrs prior to watching it. But when somebody described it as being half supernatural thriller and half gore-fest, I was overcome with keenness. Without a shadow of a doubt, their description was right on the button — 2 hours of some of the most buckling cinema I’ve ever witnessed. Warning: Not for the faint!
5. THE AURA (2005; ARGENTINA).
The perfect crime is plotted by a deluded taxidermist. It is worth mentioning from the off that it really is worth watching any film starring Ricardo Darin. Being Argentina’s version of, say, Russell Crowe or Kevin Spacey, he is a tremendous talent, and — along with Nine Queens and The Secret in Their Eyes (which won an Oscar) — The Aura is proof once again of this man’s subtle, mysterious, unflinching mastery in front of the camera.
6. TSOTSI (2005; SOUTH AFRICA).
Tsotsi takes us along for the ride for 6 days in the unrelentingly violent life of a young Johannesburg gang leader/thug. I was never going to miss this film anyway, with it having won the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year in 2006, but it did take me a fair while to get around to watching it… what had I been doing with my time? It was a superb watch, and shows what can be achieved with a solid cast and a simple yet realistic look at life on the streets.
7. KONTROLL (2003; HUNGARY).
A story about a weird, young man, Bulcsú, the fellow workers on his train ticket-inspecting team, all likeable characters without exception, a rival ticket inspection team, racing along the tracks at night… and a subtle yet endearing tale about love. For me, more than the sheer, unequivocal enjoyment of the film and the storyline, I was fonder of it being my first Hungarian cinematic experience — and it really is a tremendous effort and worth a watch. A strange bunch of unique characters makes for what I hope is the start of some fantastic cinema from Hungary.
8. DEAD MAN’S SHOES (2004; ENGLAND).
A disgruntled, disaffected soldier (Paddy Considine) returns to his hometown to get his own back on the thugs who had brutalised his mentally handicapped brother (Toby Kebbell) years earlier. Being fortunate enough to watch this in cinema, Shane Meadows absolutely packs the punches from start to end in this English revenge thriller like no other. Shane Meadows, thank you for restoring my faith in British cinema. A classic!
9. THE NIGHT OF THE SUNFLOWERS (2006; SPAIN).
The same day’s events are objectively presented from six different views. On one of my late-night Amazon.com crawls in which I’m looking for foreign films that have gone under my radar, I discovered this — it had a moderate 7.2 IMDb rating. I tell you what… no regrets whatsoever. It is certainly reassuring to see the wealth of Spanish-speaking countries’ cinematic talent starting to emerge.
10. GOMORRAH (2008; ITALY).
An intimate look at Italy’s modern crime families. Based on the inner workings of the real-life Camorra syndicate, Gomorrah relentlessly depicts Italian life that you don’t tend to see in Cinema Paradiso — life full of cold-bloodedness, savagery, and barbarity.