Recently widowed Japanese man Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) is lonely and his young son suggests he look for a new wife. Aoyama's friend Yasuhisa Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura) is a film producer who sets up a fake casting call to help Aoyama find a woman who meets his specific criteria. He selects Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina) and persues her despite being unable to get hold of any of the people she has listed as references on her resumé. After a whirlwind romance, he proposes marriage to her but Asami has a dark past and some specific criteria of her own that Aoyama may not be able to live up to.
Audition is suspenseful, disturbing and not for the squeamish. It contains torture. It's also beautifully shot and strangely haunting.
2. Julia's Eyes (2010)
A blind woman called Sara (Belén Rueda, who also plays Julia) supposedly hangs herself in her basement, but her twin sister, Julia suspects foul play. She learns that her sister had a boyfriend and follows in Sara's footsteps trying to find him. Slowly losing her own sight, Julia is pursued by a mysterious stranger, but the local police do not believe her.
Julia's Eyes is directed by Spanish director Guillem Morales, and is Spanish. It's an odd blend of thriller and love story, with some truly terrifying scenes thrown in. The plot is reminiscent of Terrence Young's Wait Until Dark (1967). It doesn't rely overly on gore, getting most of its chills from suspense, but it's definitely not for the faint of heart.
3. Wait Until Dark (1967)
Based on a Broadway play, Wait Until Dark is a bit of a blast from the past. It stars Audrey Hepburn as Suzy Hendrix, a blind housewife. Suzy's husband acts as an unwitting drug mule, transporting a doll into the country as a favour to a woman he meets, unaware that the doll is stuffed with heroin. While he is away on business, Suzy becomes the unwitting target of three men trying to get hold of the doll. They each pose as different people trying to win Suzy's trust, but when they become impatient things start to escalate.
Wait Until Dark is tense and exciting, helped by the eerie soundtrack composed by Henry Mancini.
4. The Babadook (2014)
Amelia (Essie Davis, of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries) is bringing up her six-year-old son, Sam (Noah Wiseman), alone since the death of his father in a car accident while she was in labour. Sam's behaviour becomes erratic and disturbing, and he becomes obsessed with a creepy pop-up children's book about a monster called the Babadook. Strange events start occuring in their house, and Amelia attempts to destroy the book, but as Sam reminds her "you can't get rid of the Babadook".
Directed by Jennifer Kent, The Babadook is an underrated Australian psychological horror film. It may be particulary scary to parents since it taps into the guilt and fear of being a bad parent and screwing up your kids, though that isn't ultimately what it's about.
5. The Devil's Backbone (2001)
The Devil's Backbone was directed by Guillermo del Toro, the director of Pan's Labyrinth (2006). Like Pan's Labyrinth, it is also set in Spain during the civil war. It's about a young orphan named Carlos (Fernando Tielve) who is taken to live in an orphanage in a remote part of Spain. The orphanage is run by Republican loyalists, and has been attacked by Franco's troops, as well as being troubled by the ghost of a dead boy who appears to the orphans at night.
The Devil's Backbone is an intriguing film with a complex plot and some terrifying events seen through the eyes of a child.