Foreign horror selections at SIFF prove fear is universal

Prepare to be thrilled with international horror flicks like Belgium's "Cub" about a troop of cub scouts terrified by tales of a feral boy.
Prepare to be thrilled with international horror flicks like Belgium’s “Cub” about a troop of cub scouts terrified by tales of a feral boy.

Monsters under the bed, demonic creatures lurking in the woods, killers on the hunt: no cultural barriers can make these less terrifying. With dozens of horror films and thrillers set to play this year — many of them from abroad — SIFF is serving up a gripping combination of nightmare-inducing flicks.

Entries from Belgium, Ireland, Spain, Denmark, and the United States bring their classic and creative scare tactics to Seattle with everything from paranormal encounters to werewolf transformations. The films vary in language, but each delivers a fright nonetheless. After all, screams can be understood without subtitles.

Here are five chillers from five different nations that will have 2015 SIFF-goers stunned:

When Animals Dream – Denmark

Beware of watching this one during a full moon. This film from director Jonas Arby features a young woman confined to a lonely life on an isolated island off the Denmark coast with her father and comatose mother. But when she starts sprouting hair in strange places, she finds that with her adulthood comes a set of sharp teeth and claws. The sight of her gnawing on glass shards as blood drips out of her mouth is enough to send shivers up the spine. Experience it in theaters June 5 at SIFF Cinema Egyptian and June 6 at Harvard Exit.

Shrew’s Nest – Spain

This 2014 film from producer Álex de la Iglesia tells the tale of a young woman in 1950s Spain whose agoraphobia gets the best of her — and threatens the lives of her roommates. Montse’s delicate state is kept stable as she shares a flat with her sister, whom she raised after their parents’ death and disappearance. But when she takes in an injured neighbor and subsequently develops feelings for him as she nurses him back to health, her psyche is shaken and her housemates are in danger. No ghosts or monsters haunt this movie, but the instability of the mind is enough to leave the viewer unnerved. One of the co-directors, Esteban Roel, will be in attendance at the showings on May 18 and May 19. Another showing of the movie will take place on May 26 at Lincoln Square Cinemas.

The Hallow – Ireland

The woods are an unwelcoming place in this 2014 thriller from director Corin Hardy. A happy young couple and their newborn baby inhabit an old house in rural Ireland, only to discover that they aren’t alone in the forest. Ancient demonic forces lurk within their property and wage battle with their new human neighbors. See these monsters on the big screen May 16 at SIFF Cinema Egyptian and May 20 at SIFF Cinema Uptown.

Cub – Belgium

A camping trip in the forest won’t sound so enticing after watching this action-packed terror from director Jonas Govaerts. What started as a team-building trip for a Cub Scout troop turns into a desperate effort to escape murder. Throughout the night, scouts are picked off one by one by mysterious booby traps appearing around camp. Something is hunting them. Find out what haunts the forest on May 29 at SIFF Cinema Egyptian and June 3 at AMC Pacific Place.

The Nightmare – USA

Okay, this isn’t a foreign horror film — but it’s too freaky to leave out. Rodney Ascher delivers a terrifying twist to the SIFF horror film line up with this documentary about sleep paralysis and the realistic hallucinations inflicted on its victims. For those that suffer from the condition, nightmares aren’t confined to the subconscious. Their vivid visions seem real as they lay frozen, unable to move or react. See these nightmares come to life May 22 at SIFF Cinema Egyptian and May 25 at SIFF Cinema Uptown.