Five Must-See 2023 International Horror Movies

2023 was kind of a weird year for movies. If you only go out to see the big blockbusters, you might’ve been disappointed with 2023’s slate. Sure, there were some real winners last year, but a seemingly disproportionate number of highly anticipated titles failed to win audiences over. It was a pretty big bummer, but if you’re the kind of fan who likes to dig a little deeper, you know that those high-profile duds were just the tip of the iceberg. 2023 also gave us some amazing under-the-radar gems that didn’t get the mainstream recognition they deserved, and many of them were horror films from international markets.

Now, to some people, that might be surprising, but to hardcore fans, it’s just the same old same old. While Hollywood studios are hands down the biggest producer of horror movies, they’re not always the best. In fact, many of the most beloved genre titles of this century hail from the non-English-speaking world, so it would’ve been weird if 2023 was devoid of international horror highlights. The problem, like I said, is that these films don’t often get the recognition they deserve, but I’d like to do my part to remedy that. I’ve composed a list of five of my favorite international horror movies of 2023, so if American cinema let you down last year, check some of these films out. They might not make up for all of 2023’s big-budget disappointments, but they’re definitely a start.

Godzilla Minus One

Godzilla opening his mouth

If there’s one movie on this list many of you have probably seen already, it’s this one. Godzilla Minus One was a huge hit with fans and critics alike, and as of this writing, it’s made more money here in the States than it has in the rest of the world. It was a bona fide win all around, so you probably don’t need me to tell you to give it a watch.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, let me assure you, this film lives up to the hype. It’s the perfect mix of amazing Godzilla action and top-notch human storytelling, making it a welcome reminder that kaiju movies can be more than just mindless, style-over-substance fun. Even Martin Scorcese would be hard-pressed to deny that this is cinema. Godzilla Minus One is more than just one of the best international horror movies of 2023. Hell, it’s more than just one of the best horror films from any country. It’s one of 2023’s best in any genre. Whether you’re normally a Godzilla fan or not, this is one movie you do not want to miss.

When Evil Lurks

A bloody hand touching a man's face

If you’re plugged into the horror community, you’ve most likely heard of When Evil Lurks. Among hardcore genre fans, it’s probably garnered even more acclaim than Godzilla Minus One, making this hands down one of the most must-see horror movies of 2023, international or domestic. It comes from the mind of Demián Rugna, the Argentinian filmmaker who gave us the 2017 gem Terrified, and much like his last feature, this one also puts a never-before-seen spin on a subgenre that’s been done to death in recent years.

When Evil Lurks is about two brothers who discover that one of their neighbors is possessed by a demon, and when they try to fix the problem themselves, they botch the process and unleash an unspeakable evil on the rest of their town. On paper, that may sound like just another generic possession film, but trust me, When Evil Lurks is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It doesn’t feature spinning heads, pea soup, or a heroic priest yelling “The power of Christ compels you.” Instead, this is a much darker, more violent, and more pessimistic take on the subgenre, and it crafts an original mythology that’s miles away from movies like The Pope’s Exorcist and The Exorcist: Believer.

That being said, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. When Evil Lurks is more than just a fun scarefest. Its two protagonists are surprisingly sympathetic, so you’ll love them and care about their story just as much as you enjoy the movie’s gross-out gore and shocking violence. It’s a rare combination most genre films can only dream of achieving. When Evil Lurks deserves every ounce of praise it got last year. It’s the total package, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you need to remedy that. Right now. 

Falcon Lake

A ghostly figure standing by a lake

Are violence and gore not your thing? Then you might want to consider giving Falcon Lake a shot. It’s a drama horror about a teenager from France who spends a summer vacation in Quebec, and the entire movie is pretty much just the story of how he meets a girl named Chloe and develops a relationship with her.

From that brief plot synopsis, you might not think this is much of a horror film, and you wouldn’t be wrong. For the vast majority of its runtime, Falcon Lake plays like a straight-up drama, and it only gives us a brief touch of horror at the very end. So if you’re looking for chills and thrills, this is not the movie for you. However, if you’re a fan of drama horror, I think you’ll love it.

For starters, the characters and the story are great, and the entire film is saturated with the kind of hauntingly beautiful atmosphere you’d expect from an A24 movie. Then, when the horror comes to the fore in the final few minutes, it hits you like a ton of bricks. It’s not exactly scary, but it’s an emotional gut punch that ends the story on a clever note. It’s the cherry on top of this beautiful and ghostly coming-of-age story. For me, Falcon Lake is hands down one of the best international horror films of 2023.

Project Wolf Hunting

Criminals covered in blood

I have to be honest, I’m cheating a tiny bit by putting Project Wolf Hunting on this list. The film had a super limited American theatrical run in October of 2022, making it technically not a 2023 release. However, that initial run was so limited it doesn’t really count. I didn’t even hear about it until a VOD release date was announced a few months later, so for all practical purposes, this counts as a 2023 international horror movie.

Project Wolf Hunting takes place on a ship carrying a bunch of violent criminals under the care of the Korean police, and soon after the vessel sets sail, these captives break free and go on a bloody rampage. But that’s just the beginning. Unbeknownst to both the convicts and the cops, there’s another, even more dangerous passenger on board. The ship is also carrying a zombie-esque super soldier, and when he’s accidentally awoken from his slumber, nobody is safe.

On the narrative level, Project Wolf Hunting isn’t anything to write home about, but it makes up for that deficiency with an insane amount of hardcore blood and violence. Seriously, I saw this film last January, and even though it was only the first month of the year, I already knew it was going to be one of the most brutally violent movies of 2023.

And now that 2023 is over, I’m happy to say I was right. Project Wolf Hunting is a bloody good time (literally!), so if you’re in the mood to test your threshold for on-screen violence, this film will more than do the trick.

Good Boy

A person in a dog costume

Last but not least, we have Good Boy. This is unquestionably the weirdest entry on this list. It’s a Norwegian movie about a couple named Christian and Sigrid, who recently started dating. It looks like they’re about to embark on a storybook romance. However, they quickly run into a little problem. Christian has a dog, but it’s not what you think.

It’s actually a guy named Frank who just dresses in a dog suit and acts like Christian’s pet 24/7 (yes, he even curls up on Christian’s bed and eats dog food). After finding out about Frank, Sigrid decides to end their relationship. She soon has a change of heart, and not long afterward, the true nature of Frank and Christian’s odd arrangement comes to light.

Like I said, Good Boy is super weird, but it’s also super intriguing. The mystery of why Frank acts like a dog will keep your eyes glued to the screen the entire time/ No matter how far-fetched (no pun intended!) this premise may be, you won’t be able to look away. Once you start watching, you’ll need to know just what the hell is going on here. When the movie finally pulls back the curtain and lets you in on its secrets, it does not disappoint.

I’m obviously not going to spoil anything, but suffice it to say, the third act of this film is pretty brutal. It’s not violent or gory, but the psychological torment some of these characters go through is genuinely disturbing. It’s one of the rare times when the payoff is just as good as the setup. Good Boy was hands down one of the biggest highlights of 2023’s international horror slate.

Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong movie fan, and his favorite genres are horror, superheroes, and giant monsters.

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