Sırrı Süreyya Önder is a well-known politician in Turkey. He also is the director of the Turkish horror comedy Island: Wedding of the Zombies (2010), which if you think about it is kind of amusing and amazing for any horror fan.
Director, Hasan Karacadağ, however, is the most famous horror movie director in Turkey and brought the concept of Djins into Turkish mainstream cinema. Many of his films are on this list — and quite terrifying Turkish films.
Dijins, demons, and possessions are typical tropes in Turkish horror movies. Most of the films in the list have English subtitles, but some don’t and are only available in Turkish.
This Turkish giallo incorporates French fantasique and erotic horror fiction into a cinematic experience that will leave you terrified to sleep alone at night. A masked serial killer finds a woman in each new town he visits, adamant that her initials match the first letter of the district he brutally kills her in. In an effort to hide his identity, the murderer wears a variety of masks and even zombie gloves as to not leave a trace. After killing his innocent female victims, the madman does the unspeakable to their bodies.
American horror film The Exorcist (1973) terrified audiences so much that lines formed around the block just so they could experience the terror all over again. The supernatural horror hit earned a whopping $441.2 million in box office sales. Numbers don’t lie, and filmmakers around the world became inspired to elevate their horror storytelling.
Turkish director Metin Erksan teamed up with writer Yilmaz Tümtürk to create a Turkish version of the 1973 box office hit. Set in high society Turkey, Şeytan follows a 12-year old girl whose innocent Ouija board game unlocks disturbing behavior and dangerous thoughts.
Josie Finlay explains the strange, uncanny and gonzo Turkish remake thus:
Regan is not Regan, she’s Gul, and this isn’t The Exorcist – it’s Seytan, Turkish director Meytin Erksan’s scene-for-scene remake of William Friedkin’s 1974 masterwork. Spawned the same year as its American progenitor, Seytan is a product of the copyright law-lite, budget-liter Yesilcam era of Turkish cinema, which saw the creation of hundreds of Hollywood rip-offs, adapted for a Turkish audience. These remakes, which run the gamut of blockbusters including ET, Star Wars and Jaws, often consist of a heady mixture of parts directly spliced from their originals, and other parts cobbled together using whatever the filmmakers could find in their garden sheds.
Director Hasan Karacadağ was born in Turkey, where his love for horror erupted into a successful career. This film marks his directorial debut before going on to direct the widely known horror series Dabbe (2006). Karacadağ has shared that his best horror movie is Dabbbe: A Demon Case (2013). However, this chilling 1999 film is an interesting peek into the cinematic mind of a fresh director ready to put Turkey on the map of cinematic horror.
Talip Ertürk and Murat Emir Eren each made their directorial debut by co-directing this film together. Originally titled Ada: Zombilerin Düğünü, this horror comedy opens on a group of friends attending a beautiful wedding on a remote island near Istanbul. Before the bride and groom can lock their love with a kiss, an influx of bloody zombies attack the wedding guests. Audiences will enjoy watching this hilarious zombie film unfold as if they were at the event themselves, thanks to the film’s point-of-view shooting technique.
Suspense builds to an all-time high in this psychotronic film written and directed by Hasan Karacadag. Based on a true story, this horror film follows the story of a bride-to-be whose body becomes possessed by a dead spirit. Luckily, her old friend is a psychologist and rushes to her side in order to cure her before the wedding. Hope floats in the air, but not for long, and demonic spirits begin to occupy the space all around them.
One reviewer on Twitter, described this movie thus: “Definitely, a first-rate movie! Supernatural movies with a religious theme will always give me nightmares for a week!!” The fact the film streams on Netflix as well makes it a popular and must-watch Turkish horror film. Dabbe is about a woman possessed by a demon before her wedding and is particularly apt found footage film because it feels so real throughout the movie.
There’s nothing like a mother’s love. And in this film, a young girl takes it upon herself to seek revenge against the monster that took her mother’s. Comparable to The Conjuring (2013) and The Evil Dead (1981), this horror story executes consistent jump scares that leave audiences wanting to run and hide, however the plot is too captivating to walk away from. If you are an aspiring horror filmmaker looking for dynamic ways of drawing in an audience with suspense, this is the one for you.
Istanbul-born actor Merve Ates was a mere 13-years old during the time of shooting her starring role in this exorcism film. Despite young age, her compelling performance is both chilling and tender. A Turkish town plagued by black magic must rely on hidden clues within their holy book, the Quran, to help rescue them from the demonic spirits looming all around.
Other Turkish Horror Movies
- The Dead Don’t Talk (1970) is written and directed by Yavuz Yalinkiliç, and follows the twisted love story of a woman and her lover on death row.
- Thirsty for Love, Sex and Murder (1972) is a Turkish remake of the giallo classic The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971), including lots of nudity, gun violence and physical stunts.
- Turkish Star Wars (1982) is a sci-fi movie that gained negative attention for using unauthorized footage, music and sound effects directly from other sci-fi films, including the American blockbuster Star Wars (1977).
- Baskin (2015) is a surreal horror film about a night patrol gone wrong in the middle of nowhere. Think of it as Hellraiser but made in Turkey. It is distributed internationally by IFC Films and IFC Midnight.
- Deccal (2015) was directed by Özgür Bakar, and shines a terrifying light toward the dark world of the evil Antichrist, ready to wreak havoc on the town of Istanbul.
- Housewife (2017) both thrills and horrifies audiences by opening on the gruesome murder of a child and father, by none other than the psychotic mother.
- Üç Harfliler 3: Karabüyü (2016) follows a man whose evil mother uses her powerful black magic skills to keep her son from any other women, including his own wife.
- Kafir (2018) tells the story of two sisters whose perfect lives are targeted by a sinister black magician whose evil intentions cause disturbing paranormal activity.
- The Antenna (2019) takes place in a dystopian Turkey where citizens, oppressed of their freedom of speech, are subject to constant monitoring by their government. Even within their own homes.
- Cinnet (2019) opens on a beautiful woman and her perfect family, whose lives take a dark turn when the wife wakes up to realize she violently killed her husband in the night.
Bonus: Horror Movies Based in Turkey
- Vampyros Lesbos (1970) has beautiful cinematography in and around Istanbul.
- Born of Fire (2009) this might be the most gorgeous film from a landscape perspecitive shot in Turkey.
- Twixt (2013) a classic ghost film, where the director said it was inspired by drinking raki in Istanbul. It does not take place there, but has origins in it.
- Vlad’s Legacy (2018) is centered on the legend of Roman Emperor Vlad Tepes, whose spirit is believed to cause haunting disappearances and brutal murders.