I’m on a hunt for the scariest movies of all time! I’ll be looking at films of any era, from any country, and then reviewing them based solely on how terrifying they are.
If you have a suggestion for a horror movie, please let me know on Twitter.
Please be advised, spoilers may lie ahead!!
Cô Hầu Gái (2016)
Director: Derek Nguyen
Starring: Nhung Kate, Jean-Michel Richaud
For this entry of The All-Time Scariest, I’m excited to finally stray from the confines of western media to investigate the spooky hauntings of 1950s Vietnam.
The Housemaid takes place during the First Indochina War, a tumultuous time of devastation that would result in the infamous events of the Vietnam War. A local peasant by the name of Linh learns of a housemaid position available on an eerie rubber plantation owned by a Frenchman with a great ass.
As time passes and Linh begins to harbour romantic feelings towards her employer, the dark past of the plantation rears its ugly head; from the horrible treatment of its workers to the grisly murder/suicide of the lady of the house and their infant child.
Straight off, this is a gorgeous film, and it makes you feel completely immersed. The dreary, foggy landscape of the plantation, with its rows of trees and the secrets that lurk somewhere out there in the shadows. The bleak, ornate hallways of the mansion and its many mysterious, untouched rooms. It’s all quite vibrant and creepy.
The Housemaid boasts expert cinematography; lovingly crafted shots that toy with our emotions throughout. There aren’t a lot of red herrings on offer here, but when they’re used, they really work well, making for a sense of unease that’s hard to shake.
The main event is when the ghost of Camille emerges from her resting place in the frigid lake, and she does not disappoint: her pale, scowling face is my exact vision of what a terrifying spectre should look in these films, and her jerky, sudden movements gave me the shivers.
With that being said, her arrival actually occurs quite early in the film’s runtime, and she dishes out her best scares within the first forty minutes. It’s startling and impactful, and yet, you kind of know that it’s not really going to be topped.
Sure enough, once you’ve seen the worst that Camille has to offer, she suffers some demonstrable diminishing returns. As she sets about disposing of the residents of the mansion, you’re less inclined to be panic-stricken, because her targets are characters who we have been conditioned to dislike.
There’s a deliberate reason for that, and the payoff takes things in a completely unexpected direction. Beyond those initial jolts, the intention shifts firmly towards telling an engaging story, and it makes the most of its setting to do so.
How much mileage you’ll get out of that story is dependent on how much you care about the central love triangle and the subplot of the abused workforce. Me personally, I enjoyed these aspects, and yet, I couldn’t help but feel cheated that the central antagonist became a secondary figure in her own movie.
Just as I found with Nope, concessions had to be made to explore these other concepts, and what we’re left with on the fright factor is a top-heavy affair. But jeez, those first attempts at rattling your nerves work really damn well.
The Housemaid absolutely nails the look and feel of the vengeful spirit, allowing her to wreak early havoc that puts goosebumps on your arms.
Once that’s done, she really has nowhere to go but down, and that’s when the horror gives way to mystery. It makes for a solid flick, albeit one that leaves you wanting for a little more bite.
Also, I keep inadvertently calling this movie The Bridesmaid for some reason, and I had to edit this article multiple times to correct that mistake. I’m a bit stupid like that.