Spanish Horror Films
Spanish cinema has been responsible for a rich and diverse selection of films over the years, and performers such as Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas have enjoyed great success both at home and abroad. While less than 20% of their yearly box office revenue is generated by domestic films, Spain continues to be a leader in international cinema. You might also be surprised at how many English-language movies are turned out each year, ranging from Christian Bale’s The Machinist to Nicole Kidman’s The Others.
While Spanish horror films aren’t well-known around the world, there are a number of examples worth watching. The following are ten of my favorites, and they range from fog-drenched ghost stories to gory slasher flicks. In short: horror movies from Spain have something to scare the pants off anyone.
- Horror Rises from the Tomb (1972) - Legendary Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy pulls double duty as director and star. He’s Alaric de Marnac, a warlock who, along with his wife, is executed centuries prior in France. When a modern-day group unearths his severed head, it doesn’t take long before de Marnac is possessing others in a mad search for the rest of his body. While the dubbing is on the poor side, the presence of gore and nudity will more than compensate.
- The Night of the Werewolf (1980) - Paul Naschy writes, directs, and stars in this film about a group of lovely Spanish girls who resurrect a werewolf and the infamous Countess Elizabeth Bathory, a woman known for bathing in the blood of women to maintain her youthful appearance. The werewolf character, Waldemar Daninsky, would be famously played by Naschy in 11 other motion pictures.
- The Others (2001) - While it was made in Spain, this Alejandro Amenabar film is performed entirely in the English language. That didn’t stop it from winning eight Goya Awards, which are the Spanish equivalent of the Academy Awards. Set on the isle of Jersey just after World War II, The Others stars Nicole Kidman as Grace Stewart, a mother of two light-sensitive children living in an isolated country home. When three new creepy servants arrive on the scene, a number of odd events begin to occur. At first, Grace denies the possibility of the supernatural, but she soon realizes that a powerful otherworldly force is at work. There’s a big twist to look forward to near the film’s end, and it’s strong enough that I imagine even M. Night Shyamalan was impressed.
- Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971) - Written and directed by Amando de Ossorio, Tombs of the Blind Dead was a major success and spawned several sequels in the 1970s. Hundreds of years before the events of the film, an order of knights were accused of witchcraft and put to death, their eyes pecked out by birds on the gallows. Back in the present day, a young woman comes across their tomb and promptly gets killed by the re-awakened and blind knights. Her boyfriend starts looking into her disappearance, but he also winds up being pursued by these sword-wielding horrors who hunt entirely by sound. Blessed with a nice mix of gore and nudity, this is a classic examples of the horror films from Spain.
- REC (2007) - Remade in the United States as Quarantine, REC follows a TV reporter and her cameraman as they cover a typical night in the life of Barcelona firefighters. But when an emergency call comes from an apartment building, the news crew and the firemen soon find themselves trapped in a structure brimming with bloodthirsty tenants. The equally enjoyable sequel, REC 2, picks up right where this one leaves off.
- Vampyres (1974) - Released around the globe under a number of different titles--including Daughters of Dracula in the U.S.--Vampyres is one of the most erotic horror movies ever made, regardless of nationality. Marianne Morris and Anulka star as a pair of lesbian vampires who lack fangs and roam about freely in the daylight. Luring passing travelers to their isolated home, they drain their blood and enjoy as many sexual interludes as possible. Expect plenty of nudity and sex, as well as a healthy amount of gore.
- The Devil’s Backbone (2001) - Directed by Guillermo del Toro and set during the Spanish Civil War, The Devil’s Backbone combines a ghost story in an old orphanage with the search for a hidden cache of gold. Alternately tender and terrifying, the film takes an honest look at the horrors of war and the resulting brutality through the eyes of an innocent child, something that would later be touched upon in del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.
- Pieces (1982) - Shot in Spain and set in Boston, this multi-national production has achieved cult status thanks to buckets and buckets of gore. A killer is on the loose at a college campus, dispatching young women left and right in order to complete a deranged jigsaw puzzle of female flesh. Genre vet Christopher George stars as a cop intent on bringing the madman to justice, and the script was written by Italian filmmaker Joe D’Amato. A must-see for fans of the slasher genre.
- Night of the Seagulls (1975) - The fourth and final film in Amando de Ossorio’s Blind Dead series, Night of the Seagulls follows a doctor and his wife as they move into an isolated coastal town. The locals are less than welcoming, and the doctor eventually learns of the town’s terrifying secret: every seven years, blind knights will ride out of the sea to claim virgins to sacrifice. The heroic couple tries to save the young women, leading them to confront an ancient host of evil. While not the best of the series, it does provide a fitting end to an enjoyable franchise.
- The Blood Spattered Bride (1972) - Based on the vampire story Carmilla, this erotic tale follows a newly-married couple as they attempt to resist the temptations of an ancient vampiress (Alexandra Bastedo). The young wife (Maribel Martin) is specifically targeted, succumbing to the lesbian charms of the immortal undead. If you’re looking for a steamy example of Spanish horror films, put this one at the top of your list.
When you’re ready to give Spanish horror films a try, check out local retailers such as Eerie Books (in beautiful Wylie, Texas). If they don’t have what you’re looking for, then there are always online options such as Amazon and Netflix.