9 Frighteningly Good Spanish Horror Movies That You’ll Never Forget
Are you looking for movies you’ll never, ever forget?
Then don’t blink now because this post contains nine of the most terrifying Spanish horror movies to have graced the silver screen.
They’ll get your heart and your brain racing with their visuals and plot twists.
So grab some popcorn and a wooden stake and hold on tight to your movie-watching partner because this post may get spooky!
- 1. “El espinazo del diablo” (The Devil’s Backbone)
- 2. “Los ojos de Julia” (Julia’s Eyes)
- 3. “[REC]”
- 4. “Tesis” (Thesis)
- 5. “La madre muerta” (The Dead Mother)
- 6. “Ahí va el diablo” (Here Comes The Devil)
- 7. “La casa del fin de los tiempos” (The House at the End of Time)
- 8. “Los sin nombre” (The Nameless)
- 9. “El orfanato” (The Orphanage)
- How to Learn Spanish with Horror Movies
- Why Are Spanish Horror Movies Great for Language Learning?
1. “El espinazo del diablo” (The Devil’s Backbone)
Where to watch: Amazon Prime
Guillermo del Toro’s “El espinazo del diablo” is set in 1939, as the Spanish Civil War is coming to an end.
The boy Carlos is sent to an orphanage in the middle of nowhere. What’s unusual is that he hears a voice which says, “Many of you will die.” Carlos soon learns that the voice is of a small boy, Santi—a ghost with a story to tell.
If you’re wondering what “el espinazo del diablo” refers to, it’s a drink from the liquid used to preserve dead fetuses, and it’s believed to cure all sorts of ailments. And in the movie you get to see a man of science drink it.
2. “Los ojos de Julia” (Julia’s Eyes)
Where to watch: Amazon Prime
Crafted by the master storyteller-director Guillem Morales, this 2010 offering is so full of twists, turns, betrayal and discovery that your head will still be spinning days after watching it.
Julia’s blind twin sister Sara has just died, ostensibly by suicide. Julia, who has a degenerative eye disease, suspects that there’s more to her twin sister’s death than meets the eye. She decides to discover who or what really murdered her twin.
Her worsening condition doesn’t help her cause and she’s left with poor vision and a feeling that someone—a sinister presence lurking in the shadows—is out to make her suffer the same fate as her sister.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime
Imagine being in an apartment complex full of zombies. You’re part of a documentary crew that’s trapped inside, recording the whole thing—and trying to stay alive in the process.
A reporter-cameraman pair, hoping to document what a group of firefighters does during the evening shift, follows them on a dispatch. The call is regarding a Mrs. Izquierdo, who’s trapped in her apartment, screaming.
Lo and behold, you find yourself ascending into an enclosed zombie epidemic. The building’s residents are fearful and normal one minute, but become aggressively rabid the next.
The real question is: Will you survive the night?
4. “Tesis” (Thesis)
Where to watch: Amazon Prime | iTunes
If gore and great storytelling are your regular fare, then you’ll fit right in here.
Angela is a university student working on a thesis about audiovisual violence. She finds a snuff film featuring a girl who disappeared two years earlier, and she tries to figure out who videotaped the murder.
As Angela gets deeper into her thesis, she also establishes the real possibility that she could very well end up starring in her own snuff film and end up dead. Now everybody is a suspect.
This winner of seven 1996 Goya Awards, including the awards for Best Film, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director, will take you on a rollercoaster of a ride.
5. “La madre muerta” (The Dead Mother)
Where to watch: Amazon (DVD) | Internet Archive
A bungled burglary leads to the murder of a woman while her daughter looks on.
Twenty years later, the criminal, going by another name and now working in a bar, sees the girl again. The poor girl is suffering from a developmental disability. Her blank stare sends cold chills down the murderer’s spine.
Does she recognize him? Will she turn him in?
The disturbed killer, getting desperate, badly wants to cover his tracks and tie up some loose ends. He plots to finish the job he should have done many years ago. Will he be able to finally do it? Check out the movie and find out.
6. “Ahí va el diablo” (Here Comes The Devil)
Where to watch: Amazon Prime
A couple loses their beloved teenage son and daughter to the hills and caves of Tijuana, Mexico. Thankfully, the kids are found alive and well the next day.
Or are they?
They start to display very strange, antisocial and malevolent behavior upon their return—as if they’re possessed. This prompts the couple to suspect that something deeply sinister must have happened on the night they were gone, and they believe some evil spirit might be causing this disturbing behavior. Seeking answers, they hear stories about the dark legends of the area and caves the children were lost in.
The mother finds herself in a cave, where she finds…all the answers to her questions.
7. “La casa del fin de los tiempos” (The House at the End of Time)
Where to watch: Amazon Prime
Imagine being under house arrest inside a haunted house. Imagine living out your days in the house where your husband was murdered and your son vanished into thin air—and you’re the one who’s been convicted of those crimes.
This movie happens in two timelines: one in 1981 and another in 2011. When the clock strikes 11:11:11 on November 11, 2011, the house is transported back 30 years to 1981. Dulce, the main character, sees things that make her understand all the tragedy, horrors and strange events from 30 years before.
This movie, which was distributed all over the world, has been well received by audiences and is one of the highest-grossing Venezuelan pictures.
8. “Los sin nombre” (The Nameless)
Where to watch: Amazon (DVD)
A six-year-old girl’s heavily mutilated body is hoisted out of a deep cistern.
Five years later, her mother suddenly receives a phone call where she hears a familiar voice: it’s her daughter! Or at least the voice claims she is. She says she only wanted everybody to believe she was dead, and now she’s asking her mother to come and get her.
And so begins a mother’s epic struggle to get her daughter back from the clutches of whatever it is that has her. “Los sin nombre” (The Nameless) is the name of the cult that has worked behind the scenes of history to commit humanity’s most horrendous acts.
9. “El orfanato” (The Orphanage)
Where to watch: Amazon Prime | Google Play | iTunes
Laura goes back to the old orphanage where she grew up. Together with her husband and adopted son Simon, they’re going to reopen it for disabled children.
It doesn’t take long before Simon starts talking about seeing Tomás, a boy his age who wears an old sack for a mask. Simon claims he talks with Tomas, an orphan who has warned him that he’s about to die!
On the opening day of the orphanage, after a little argument, Simon runs and hides from Laura. Where’s Simon? Is he still alive? You’ll have to watch the film and brace yourself for more shocking revelations.
How to Learn Spanish with Horror Movies
If you’re a Spanish learner, then Spanish horror movies can be a great way to deepen your knowledge of the language:
- Watch them like any movie, at least at first. You can’t go full-on “Spanish language learner” mode from the get-go, mining every line of dialogue for all the Spanish goodness they contain. Instead, watch the movie first, like you would any movie. Do it at least once.
In order to make the most out of a movie linguistically, you also have to understand the context. Language doesn’t happen in a vacuum, so you’ll also need to process characters’ motivations and reactions, as well as the non-verbals.
- Read along (out loud) with the subtitles. Let’s say you’ve seen the movie a few times. Now you’re in learner mode, looking to get as much as you can from the film. To maximize the time you invest, you can read the subtitles out loud and even speak along with the characters.
Since this can feel intense for a full-length film, you can practice with short Spanish movie clips first. For instance, the FluentU Spanish program features clips of movies and other Spanish media with interactive subtitles. Aside from being able to check dual Spanish-English subtitles, you can click on any Spanish word and get more information about what it means, including sentence and video examples:
- Watch without subtitles, even before you think you’re ready. Subtitles are eminently useful, but there comes a point when you have to let go and immerse yourself in the language without their help.
With horror movies, you actually have so much going on in terms of context, visuals, sounds and themes, that you can wean yourself from subtitles earlier than you think. Go ahead and try it. You don’t need 100% comprehension. Just enough to negotiate meaning.
- Take note of character reactions and repeating lines. One of the characteristics of a good language learner is the ability to extract something from a scene and use it in a different context. If someone in the movie whispers, “No corras” (Don’t run), you can take that line from before and add to it, saying, “No corras. El piso está mojado.” (Don’t run. The floor is wet.)
So, be very conscious of the words you learn from these movies because you can actually apply them to everyday situations. Here’s a video that shows how you can break down Spanish lines in movies:
- Write a plot summary in Spanish. Make the movie a jumping-off point to practice your writing skills. Writing is often the last skill that language learners master, but the very act of writing itself makes you better with other language skills like speaking and listening.
Writing your own summary of the film forces you to learn more words, helps you notice the basics of Spanish sentence construction and gives you the chance to express your thoughts in Spanish. You end up with a visual reference of your thoughts.
Why Are Spanish Horror Movies Great for Language Learning?
It might seem like horror movies are more popular than ever these days, but Spanish filmmakers have been scaring the world for quite some time.
The ’60s and ’70s, considered a “golden age” of Spanish horror cinema, produced movies like “El gran amor del conde Drácula” (“Count Dracula’s Great Love”) and “¿Quién puede matar a un niño?” (“Who Can Kill A Child?”). These and other movies coincided with the end of General Franco’s dictatorship, which had severely controlled such content.
Today, that tradition of psychological thrillers, bloodlust and scare-the-pants-off-of-you filmmaking is continued by the likes of Guillermo del Toro, Juan Antonio Bayona and Jaume Balagueró.
Spanish language learners can put all this overflowing gore to good use as language learning tools. The movies will keep you up at night anyway, so you might as well put those sleepless nights to good use and improve your Spanish!
Here are three reasons why:
1. They have a compelling storyline.
One great thing about a horror or thriller movie is that you never know what’s going to happen next. Yeah, we know somebody is probably going to die, or somebody is definitely hiding behind the door or somebody is rearranging some furniture in the middle of the night, but we’re not really sure.
Instead, horror movies play on our primal fears, our deepest and darkest thoughts. By tackling the taboo, by skirting the commonalities between fantasy and reality, the horror genre has a way of imprinting movie sequences inside our minds.
Horror movies are supposed to pull the rug out from underneath us. They can purposely lead us to some erroneous conclusions in the first 117 minutes of the film, then introduce some fundamental twist that turns the whole movie on its head. Sometimes, it’s even a double or triple twist that takes us for a loop:
The woman was actually not her mother!
That guy was dead this whole time?!
The ghost was actually helping her!
Oh, so that’s why she killed them!
She’s actually the ghost!
Intense scenes, coupled with unique and unforgettable plot twists, combine to make horror movies more memorable in terms of both story and language itself, making them particularly useful for learners.
2. They feature repetition and rhythm.
In spite of them being highly unpredictable, on some level, horror movies also follow a formula. So you’ll often see scenes that are reminiscent of what you saw earlier. For example, a character might have a modus operandi when killing, or there might be a repetition of what happens today and what happened exactly 666 years ago.
Or you might hear the killer blurt out the same lines over and over every time he stabs someone.
For example, in the movie “Final Destination,” you see Death work in a very similar way, creatively using everyday objects and a confluence of seemingly freak events to snatch his subjects from the world of the living.
3. They often have very vivid scenes.
Movies have many other things going on for language learners.
The plot provides context for the language so you can actually see for yourself how it’s used in dialogues and scenes. Movies are language in action, and if anything, horror movies do this contextualizing function a notch above other genres. They hit your senses stronger, embedding themselves deeper in your memory.
You might forget everything about a boy-meets-girl flick, but you’ll never forget how a deranged daughter says, “Sabroso…” (yummy) while she’s naked and feasting on the raw, bloody insides of her own pet dog. Perhaps it’s an unconventional way to learn new vocabulary, but at least it’s effective.
Good horror films make you feel immersed in the story, and these nine Spanish horror movies will chill your spine and activate your brain.
In fact, some of these movies are so freaky, they might just scare your pantalones off. If you’re a horror movie fan, though, I’m willing to bet that’s what you’re aiming for!