Horror Abroad: Delving into Our Fear of the Unknown by Adrian Rawlings

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Everyone, please bring your eyeballs together to enjoy this guest post by Adrian Rawlings, an entertaining horror aficionado. He’s here to chat about the different aspects of foreign horror and fright, and he includes one of my favorite movies of all time: Pan’s Labyrinth. Sit back and enjoy!

You don’t have to be a xenophobe to have a healthy fear of the unknown. Some of the most primal fears known to man are concerned with otherness: unfamiliar geography, people from other places, and more.

More specifically, horror often comes to us from abroad. Many of the most terrifying stories told in novels and movies concern foreign locations or exotic expatriates. Maybe it has something to do with the familiarity of home; maybe we need to cross to another shore to seek true terror. Whatever the reason, it’s now well established that horror is only too easily found abroad. Let’s take a look at some notable examples.

In 2006, noted filmmaker Guillermo del Toro released Pan’s Labyrinth, which went on to become one of the best received Mexican-Spanish cult films of all time. The film takes place in 1944, after the Spanish Civil War. The main character, Ophelia, is a young girl who finds herself in hostile surroundings with a sadistic stepfather. While exploring the countryside, Ophelia copes by inventing (or does she?) all manner of creatures that both help and terrify her. The film is a popular one, and you may often find the film playing on horror-themed channels.

While Pan’s Labyrinth centers on the terror that can be found when characters are displaced to unfamiliar places, the novel The Silence of the Lambs focuses on the sort of horror that comes to us: that is, a foreign expatriate.

Released in 1988 and written by Thomas Harris, the novel features Hannibal Lecter, a character made famous by Anthony Hopkins in the 1991 movie of the same name. Lecter is a British national who, at the beginning of the film, is serving nine consecutive life sentences in Maryland for heinous crimes against humanity. The novel and the film remain poignant reminders that when domestic sources of terror are exhausted, we often invite new scares from foreign shores.

Let’s go back even further to 1976, to the seminal film The Omen, directed by Richard Donner. In it, Robert Thorn and his wife Katherine relocate to Great Britain after Robert’s appointment as the US ambassador. Just a short time earlier, Katherine had given birth to a son who – unbeknownst to her – died during childbirth. Concerned for his wife’s state of mind, Robert agrees to adopt the orphaned son of a different woman who died under similar circumstances.

Katherine raises the son as though he is her own, which of course she believe he is. After the two travel to Great Britain, the boy begins to exhibit frightening tendencies which slowly worsen. It’s all made worse by the fact that the Thorns are alone in an unfamiliar country.

That’s just a quick look at some of the different sorts of terror that can be found abroad. The fact is that there are many, many more. Browse the thriller section of your favorite bookstore or video rental kiosk, and chances are good you’ll run into some scary stories brought to you from distant lands.

Adrian Rawlings
Adrian Rawlings

AUTHOR: Adrian Rawlings; @adrianrawlings2
BIO: Adrian Rawlings is a TV and horror blogger. Look to him for the scoop on hit movies and TV shows, horror films, tech reviews, how-to guides, and more.

2 thoughts on “Horror Abroad: Delving into Our Fear of the Unknown by Adrian Rawlings”

    1. It is great, but also a pretty heavy movie. Still, I watch it yearly because of the ending and the sense of wonder and magic at the world around us it raises in me.

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