Halloween season is on, and if you want to get spooked, Asian horror films are some of the best in the business.
Beauty Water (2020), Korea
Think you can’t get spooked by an animation? Think again. Consider this horror film like the popular Korean movie 200 Pounds Beauty, but with a lot less humour, and a whole lot darker. The story centers around Yeji, who is driven by the desire to change her entire appearance - no matter the sacrifice. Directed by Cho Kyung-hun, this animation is based on the popular webtoon Tales of The Unusual by Oh Seongdae and satirizes the absurdity of our society’s obsession with appearances and beauty, which ultimately drives the protagonist to her downfall.
Ring (1998), Japan
No list can be complete without this classic Japanese horror film, which propelled Asian horror into a global stage. Though it was released more than 20 years ago, Ring still remains one of the best horror films ever made. Directed by Hideo Nakata, the film follows the premise of an urban legend of a videotape that kills the viewer after watching it. A reporter sets out to investigate this, leading to an unnerving climax.
Shutter (2004), Thailand
One of the most memorable Thai horror films ever made, Shutter tells the tale of catching ghosts on film…back when film was a thing. The film follows a young photographer and his girlfriend who discover mysterious shadows in their photographs after a freak car accident. Directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom, expect jump-out-of-your-seat moments and an ending you’d never expect.
The Wailing (2016), Korea
Dubbed one of the most unsettling Korean horror movie to come out in years (which is a pretty ambitious title to fill), the film centers around a remote mountain village where a ghost, demn, shaman and a zombie-like viral infection occurs, but those aren’t even the truly scariest part of the entire film. This makes director Na Hong-jin’s third film, filled with an overwhelming sense of dread, unease, gore, and a mix of horror tropes that makes for one of the best Korean films - regardless of genre - in recent years.
The Maid (2005), Singapore
Directed by Kelvin Tong, this Singaporean horror film broke box office record for Singapore when it was first released. It tells the story of a maid arriving from the Philippines, who has to acclimate herself to the customs of Chinese Ghost Month, where she stays with her employees, a Teochew opera family in a dilapidated shophouse. It starts out like a typical Asian horror movie, but stay on for a surprise twist in the end - the film manages to scare, without any of that jumpy cliches. It won the European Fantastic Film Festival Federation (EFFFF) Asian Film Award at the 10th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan).
Ju-On: The Grudge (2002), Japan
Yet another classic Japanese horror film, this film, directed by Takashi Shimizu, was the third in the franchise’s history, where previous instalments garnered acclaim through word of mouth. Based on a Japanese legend, that when a person is killed in a violent way, his/her death will generate a curse that will stay at where the crime took place. No bloody scenes, simple, and low paced, the creepy atmosphere alone makes for one of the scarier horror shows out there. How? You’ll just have to watch and see...
A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), Korea
Making for one of the most original Asian horror films ever made, this psychological thriller tells the tale of two sisters returning home to her father after an extended illness at the hospital as well as her stepmother, who becomes an imposing presence to the girls with escalating intensity as the film progresses. A heart-wrenching drama and gripping, spine-tingling horror wrapped up in one, the film directed by Kim Jee-woon is one of the highest grossing Korean horror films to be screened for a Western audience.