The Best Spanish Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen

Shiver (2008)

Santi is a teenager with an affliction that makes sunlight dangerous for his health and his skin. With no medical cure available, his mother moves him to a small village in the overcast and forest-filled mountains. The community isn’t exactly welcoming, and as a series of brutal attacks on animals and eventually people escalate, they begin to suspect the weird teen is responsible.

The mountain setting offers a natural beauty against which the horror unfolds, and it’s an increasingly thrilling narrative that moves from xenophobia and paranoia to carnage and revelation. The whole village has an inherent caution against strangers, but a select few seem especially concerned and fearful. As is often the case with insular communities (in movies at least), though, there’s typically far more to fear within. Secrets, lies, and sinful acts never lead to rainbows, especially when they’re spilling onto the shadowy forest floor like disemboweled sheep intestines.

Santi is played by Junio Valverde who previously starred in Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone (as a character also named Santi), and he gives a compelling turn here as a boy struggling on two fronts. He’s trying to fit in with his new peers, and he’s forced to defend himself against accusations regarding a sickness he doesn’t even understand. It’s part of what makes this horror tale an equally effective coming of age story, too.

Shiver is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Slugs (1988)

A small town unknowingly built on a toxic waste dump site sees the result of that decision in the arrival of mutated slugs. They’re slightly larger than usual, far more carnivorous, and intent on ruining everyone’s day.

As far as Jaws riffs go, this Spanish-made/American-set flick is definitely one of the goriest, goofiest, and most nudity-filled as you’re likely to find. Our hero is a health inspector named Mike Brady (!) who teams up with a sanitation specialist and a British slug expert to stop the slimy, squirming onslaught, only to be shut down by the mayor and police. They go rogue in an attempt to save the town, but the deaths ramp up as slugs attack, cause explosions, and see their eggs burst from a guy’s body. It’s all wonderfully over the top in the blood and gore department (as evidenced by the screenshot above), and fans of Fangoria-style practical effects will not be disappointed.

Director Juan Piquer Simón is best known – and deservedly so – for the absolute slasher gem that is Pieces (1982), but while that film has playful fun with its genre tropes Slugs is played straight. It’s still ridiculous and funny, but it’s played seriously as a creature feature with unintentionally humorous beats landing throughout. The score is gloriously ill-fitting, the dialogue is questionable, and the upbeat ending will have you wishing they had followed it up with an equally wild adaptation of Slugs author Shaun Hutson’s sequel Breeding Ground.

Slugs is available on Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon and can be rented via Amazon Video.

Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)

A British couple on vacation arrive on a small Spanish island and find only terror instead. The small village seems devoid of adults, and the children are acting more than a little strange. He grows concerned for their safety and for that of their unborn baby, and they soon realize that the only way off the island may be forcefully through the kids.

Easily the most infamous of the films on this list, this mid-70s horror classic still hasn’t been seen by enough people. It’s a rare sun-drenched nightmare, but while it suggests warmth and comfort, the film builds a masterful tension between the abandoned streets and buildings and the increasing numbers of odd children that ultimately casts a chill over it all. The title’s question is taken seriously by these soon to be parents, and their struggle is evident all the way up to the breaking point. Kid villains in horror can be creepy, but they’re often ineffective when it comes to feeling like a true threat because they’re small and weak. That’s not the case here as their use of numbers, shock, and cruelty give them a visible advantage.

It’s the kind of film you won’t see duplicated because our more enlightened times often dictate better treatment and portrayal of child characters onscreen. That didn’t stop a remake called Come Out and Play from releasing in 2012, but it unsurprisingly lacks the original’s increasing urgency and sense of real danger from the children. (A better update is available in 2008’s The Children which lands both the threat and the ending equally well) Interestingly, Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn” was published just a year after the original film was released with a fairly similar plot, but the odds are slim that he could have seen the film by that point. His murderous tykes are all of his own making.

Who Can Kill a Child? is available on Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon.

Check out more of the Best Movies You’ve Never Seen.

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