Representing Europe, and serving as a bridge from silent film horror to the sound era, is Vampyr, directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer. It was shot as a silent movie but had dialogue added in post-production. This film takes a Sheridan Le Fanu vampire story as the basis for dreamlike exploration of a setting where death seeps into place and mind. Vampyr is a prime example of the use of striking images in horror.
|Picture via poisonedteacup.|
|Picture via elbergo.|
For Australia, there is the made-for-TV film The Plumber, written and directed by Peter Weir. Some might classify it as more suspense than horror, but this battle of wills between a housewife and an intrusive plumber finds scares in the most realistic situation on this movie list. Though it doesn't attempt greatness, Weir fit some complexities into this small-scale story, such as various levels of socioeconomic conflict and the ambiguity over what is permissible in the classification and expulsion of an outsider.
|Picture via The Criterion Mission.|
Representing Asia is A Tale of Two Sisters (Janghwa hongryeon), directed by Kim Jee-Won. It's a gorgeous puzzle of a film that blends both psychological and supernatural varieties of horror.
|Picture found via The AV Club.|
Finally, we have Africa. While it was difficult to track down available horror films from the continent, I remembered that Neill Blomkamp's sci-fi film District 9 has a very strong body horror element. The film's commentary on race relations and xenophobia may be undercut by its depiction of Nigerian immigrants, but the messy divisions between outer-space alien refugee and human are still powerfully illustrated within District 9's narrative.
The last film on this list is the short film Meokgo and the Stick Fighter, directed by Teboho Mahlatsi. It didn't seem right to represent Africa just with a film that features a white African protagonist, so I decided to include this short film, which features black African characters. Like District 9, it's not strict horror. This odd little film is probably best categorized as fantasy. However, I'm also including it to bring up the point that horror, sci-fi, and fantasy often mix. Genre borders are probably imposed more by the audience than the creators, and are determined not simply by story, but a film's particular treatment of a story in relation with other films. This bizarre (at least to mainstream Western audiences) but entertaining short is about an accursed stickfighter who fights evil with the help of his magical tiny accordion (concertina). It is awesome.
This list was created with the intention of not only covering different continents but different types of horror cinema as well. Each selection is not meant to be an encapsulation of the entire horror output of a continent - just an outstanding film that happens to be from that continent. It's also worth noting the various fears that these movies depict. Black Christmas functions on fears of the intruder within the home. Vampyr, The Thing, The Plumber, A Tale of Two Sisters, District 9 and Meokgo and the Stick Fighter also make antagonists out of the outsider while incorporating suspicions about the protagonists themselves. The protagonists of At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul and Vampyr are driven mad by their fear of death, while the sci-fi films The Thing and District 9 find horror within bodily transformation. The outsiders are either possibly ordinary folks -sometimes the protagonists- whose perceived traits are exaggerated by possibly irrational fears, or extraordinary beings whose existence seems impossible until asserted with violence.
While one can't expect all stories to fit neatly within established categories, I've found that stories that are declared "horror" can be pared down to tales of defending minds and bodies against forces of unknown potential for destruction. An audience is whisked away from mundane and complicated everyday life and dropped into a fight for life and sanity versus the undefinable. It is the heightened return to instinct that makes horror such a vital genre.