15 Czech horror films to stream this Halloween weekend

From folk horror to '70s gothic cinema we’ve rounded up some of the creepiest Czech films for your viewing (dis)pleasure.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 29.10.2021 16:00 (updated on 29.10.2021) Reading time: 6 minutes

Czech cinema is better known for its absurdist humor than straight-up horror, but a number of spooky entries have managed to materialize out of the mist. The best tend to have been made between the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s. But a number of contemporary films merit mention.

We’ve ranked 15 horror entries that are currently available from streaming services, most of them with English subtitles. There's also an honorable mention for the silent-era German version of “The Golem," with a new score.

Streaming services currently showing Czech horror films include Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime, DAFilms, Aerovod, and Edison Online. Two YouTube channels show licensed copies of Czech films: Česká filmová klasika, run by the National Film Archives, and Filmy česky a zadarmo, operated in cooperation with distributors.

Witchhammer (Kladivo na čarodějnice)

Director Otakar Vávra, 1970

Witchhammer (Kladivo na čarodějnice). (Photo: NFA)
Witchhammer (Kladivo na čarodějnice). (Photo: NFA)

Real witch trials took place in Northern Moravia in the 1670s, and these inspired a 1963 novel. The subsequent film was released briefly in January 1970 but banned in Czechoslovakia until after the Velvet Revolution as there were quite a few parallels with communist-era show trials. The film, though, is also very critical of church officials who use persecution for their own economic gain. It is more drama than horror, and has been compared to playwright Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.” On YouTube, but without subtitles.

Cremator (Spalovač mrtvol)

Director Juraj Herz, 1969

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One man’s descent into madness features one of the best performances from Czech acting icon Rudolf Hrušínský. The political allegory follows a man who operates a crematorium as he becomes more obsessed with his work, while World War II looms on the horizon. The main character begins to see himself as a liberator and savior of souls, losing all touch with reality.

The film was a highlight of the Czechoslovak New Wave. The original ending, though, taking events up to the 1968 Soviet-led invasion, was censored and is believed to be permanently lost. Currently on Netflix, Aerovod, and DAFilms with English subtitles.

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Valerie a týden divů)

Director Jaromil Jireš, 1970

The very last entry in the Czechoslovak New Wave finds a surrealistic blend of vampires and witches in a medieval setting. Vítězslav Nezval’s 1935 novel has been transformed into a 77-minute fever dream that defies description but involves stolen magic earrings, a traveling show, people who constantly change in appearance, and some sort of curse. Currently on Edison Online, but without subtitles.

The Hastrman (Hastrman)

Director Ondřej Havelka, 2018

A revisionist and dark look at the Czech water goblin, a popular fairytale figure, won four Czech Lion awards, including Best Actor for Karel Dobrý plus ones for costumes, music, and cinematography. The film is based on the 2001 novel by Miloš Urban. Currently on Netflix and DAFilms with English subtitles.

Morgiana

Directed by Juraj Herz, 1972

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Iva Janzurová in
Iva Janzurová in "Morgiana." (Photo: NFA)

Gothic horror films were all the rage in the early 1970s, and Juraj Herz tried his hand at it with an adaptation of a Russian novel by fantasy writer Alexander Grin. Iva Janžurová, who is still active, established herself as a top Czech actress by playing two sisters, one good and one evil. When their father divides his estate unevenly, foul deeds can’t be far behind. Seaside scenes were shot in Bulgaria. Streaming on Edison Online and DAFilms, but without subtitles.

Wild Flowers (Kytice)

Director F. A. Brabec, 2000

A visually stunning, almost hypnotic omnibus of seven short films based on poems by Karel Jaromír Erben, which in turn were adaptions of folk tales. The segments vary in tone, with a few decidedly tipping over into horror while others are more contemplative. Currently on Netflix with English subtitles; also playing at Kino Aero's upcoming Some Like it Czech film series, Nov 11.

Noonday Witch (Polednice)

Director Jiří Sádek, 2016

Aňa Geislerová stars in a psychological horror film loosely based on a Karel Jaromír Erben tale. A woman moves to a small town where her husband grew up, only to find something isn’t quite right. Is some evil afoot, or is it all in her head? The situation deteriorates over the course of a very hot summer. The same story is featured as a segment in “Wild Flowers.” On HBO GO without subtitles and Amazon Prime dubbed in English.

Lunacy (Šílení)

Director Jan Švankmajer, 2005

Two stories by Edgar Allan Poe – “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” and “The Premature Burial” – plus a touch of the Marquis de Sade inspired a tale of a grief-stricken man who voluntarily enters an asylum due to his nightmares and hallucinations. The asylum, though, proves to be a very strange place. On Amazon Prime in an English dubbed version.  

Ferat Vampire (Upír z Feratu)

Director Juraj Herz, 1983

Dagmar Veškrnová (Havlová) in “Ferat Vampire.” (Photo: Škoda a.s., National Film Archives)
Dagmar Veškrnová (Havlová) in “Ferat Vampire.” (Photo: Škoda a.s., National Film Archives)

Future first lady Dagmar Veškrnová, who would later marry Václav Havel, stars as a racecar driver. The car, a modified Škoda 110 Super Sport concept car, doesn’t run on gasoline, though. Jiří Menzel, netter known as a director, appears as an actor. Some of the scenes relating to the strange car have a distinctly David Cronenberg-type feel. On YouTube, but without subtitles.

Dinner for Adele (Adéla ještě nevečeřela)

Director Oldřich Lipský, 1977

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Also called “Adele Hasn’t Had Her Dinner Yet.” The disappearance of a dog puts American detective Nick Carter on the tail of a crazed scientist and his evil plan. Special effects were by animator by Jan Švankmajer, and Rudolf Hrušínský has a key role.

It is a bit of a stretch to call this zany romp a horror film, but the monster created by Švankmajer makes it a must-see. Currently on Netflix and Aerovod with English subtitles.

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Wolf's Hole (Vlčí bouda)

Director Věra Chytilová, 1987

"Wolf's Hole" (Vlčí bouda). (Photo: NFA)

The most prominent female director from the communist era, Věra Chytilová, made an allegorical tale about 11 people who were mysteriously asked to go to an isolated ski resort. The organizers, though, insist only 10 were invited, so one must be an unwelcome intruder.

The film competed at the 37th Berlin International Film Festival, but lost to the Russian film “Tema.” On YouTube, but without subtitles, and on DAFilms with English subtitles.

The Greedy Tiffany (Nenasytná Tiffany)

Director Andy Fehu, 2015

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Václavské náměstí, Praha 1 - Nové Město

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Domažlická, Praha 3 - Žižkov

Also called “Voracious Tiffany.” An alcoholic who supports his drinking by going to small villages and stealing from cottages finds a video recording that has clues to a valuable treasure. Once the secret gets out, there is a race to find the treasure. But getting the prize involves more than just digging for it. The director has made the film available on YouTube with English subtitles.

Choking Hazard

Director Marek Dobeš, 2004

Zombies attack an isolated motel out in the middle of the forest, where a self-help seminar is taking place. A cross-section of characters, including a porn star who wound up at the motel by accident, have to fight to survive. The film is a comedy with some philosophical overtones.  On YouTube, but without subtitles.

The Ghoul

Director Petr Jákl, 2015

A Czech-made found footage film, shot in English, follows some would-be documentary makers into Ukraine, where they decide to hold a séance to contact the spirit of a legendary cannibal. Lots of running, yelling, and shaky camera work follows. The film was originally released in 3D. Currently on Netflix in English.

Bathory: Countess of Blood (Bathory)

Director Juraj Jakubisko, 2008

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Jakubisko tried to crack into the international market with an English-language production about a Hungarian countess who is alleged to have bathed the blood of hundreds of kidnapped virgins. The big-budget Slovak, Czech, Hungarian, and UK production earned decidedly mixed reviews but was a hit domestically. Currently on Netflix in English.

The Golem: How He Came into the World

Honorable mention: The Golem: How He Came into the World, a century-old German expressionist film, has been broken up into eight segments and given a new soundtrack by eight groups of alternative music artists. It is part of the project Reboot Rescored, focused on promoting Jewish culture. Each segment also includes discussion and analysis by contemporary scholars.

The film was made in Germany in 1920 by director Paul Wegener, based on a story by Prague-based writer Gustav Meyrink, and is set in Prague. The Golem tale is one of the enduring legends from Prague’s Jewish heritage.  The segments can be seen on YouTube.

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