Are you growing tired of the myriad of rehashed horror ideas released by Hollywood’s elite? Do staple American horror franchises no longer send shivers down your spine? Yeah, I get it. It might be time that you check out the best Asian horror movies instead, then.
If you’ve yet to look to the East for your horror fix, then you’re missing out. Sure, we’ve grown accustomed to the long-haired ghosts of Asian fright flicks, but there is so much across the Pacific waiting to horrify you.
From monsters to the deadly things that go bump in the night, there is plenty on this list of the best Asian horror movies to hold you over until the next uninspired but “highly-anticipated” horror sequel comes to theaters, including where you can watch these movies online.
The Best Asian Horror Movies
25. Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018)
Director: Jung Bum-shik Country: South Korean Where To Watch: Prime Video
Log into Prime Video and you’ll find a sea of found footage horror movies. That makes it easy to overlook gems like Gonjiam. The titular asylum is based on a real psychiatric hospital, and that hint of realism really helps drive the thrills. Gonjiam follows a film crew looking to turn their time in the hospital into a web series. Of course, things go awry, the building’s demons become active, and we’re treated to a delightful ghost story.
The scares are frequent, with the building itself lending an eerie atmosphere that makes everything all the more effective. We’ve seen dozens of moves like this before, but Gonjiam is a great blend of good filmmaking, a likable cast, and a respect for found footage horror and the genre’s fans.
Bum-shik doesn’t rely heavily on the overused tropes of found footage and instead allows its stars, living and dead, to shine.
24. #Alive (2020)
Director: Cho-Il-hyung Country: South Korea Where To Watch: Netflix
Quite often in zombie movies, the protagonist finds themselves surviving amongst a crowd. Day of the Dead, 28 Days Later, Zombieland, Return of the Living Dead, and so on didn’t quite touch on the potential isolation some would experience as they’re completely separated from family, friends, and even strangers for days, weeks, and even months. #Alive tackles this concept quite successfully as we follow Oh Joon-Woo and his attempts to survive on his own.
Even when he does find a companion halfway through the film, the other survivor, Kim Yoo-bin, is across a courtyard of the undead. Watching their relationship flourish despite the distance is neat and temporarily uplifting, but it doesn’t help us shake the dread of being alone during a zombie apocalypse. And that concept is even scarier than the undead itself.
23. Monstrum (2018)
Director: Heo Jong-ho Country: South Korea Where To Watch: Prime Video
Good creature features often feel like they’re a thing of the past. Then a delightful and entertaining romp like Monstrum will drop, giving you a taste of some good monstrous horror. Following in the footsteps of South Korea’s popular The Host from 2006, Monstrum puts a spin on the region’s monster horror. The movie is a period piece set during the 16th-century Joseon dynasty.
The setting lends something a bit more visually attractive as the lumbering beast stomps through classic architecture, leaving behind piles of bodies. It also makes the monster a bigger threat without modern conveniences. We can be more impressed by our heroes and maybe find their demise even more tragic since the odds are never in their favor.
While the monster tends to appear a little polished and shiny, the rest of the film does a great job of capturing the historical setting.
22. Satan’s Slaves (2017)
Director: Joko Anwar Country: Indonesia Where To Watch: Prime Video
When people discuss Asian horror, they usually touch on the usual supernatural suspects. Unfortunately, that leaves out other greats like this Indonesian gothic flick, Pengabdi Setan, or Satan’s Slaves. There are some hints of classics like Rosemary’s Baby tucked into this remake-prequel of the 1980 movie of the same name.
Like so many horror movies, it starts with a struggling family and sudden loss. From there, it dissolves into a branching narrative of ghostly visits and the threat of a satanic cult hellbent on fulfilling a prophecy. Satan’s Slaves is haunting and slow-paced, scattering tense and uncomfortable moments throughout.
The movie became the highest-grossing Indonesian film of 2017 and spawned a sequel, Satan’s Slaves 2: Communion, that held up to the original’s quality.
21. 23:59 (2011)
Director: Gilbert Chan Country: Malaysia/Singapore Where To Watch: Netflix
What’s the significance of 23:59? Outside of being one minute before the end of a 24-hour cycle, it’s also the exact time that a crazed woman living on a jungle island died. For most, that won’t mean much, but for the soldiers trapped on the island with her vengeful spirit, it’s a matter of life and death.
23:59 is a straight-up supernatural horror film that uses some typical tropes to drive its point home. Despite being a fairly run-of-the-mill ghost story, Chan works wonders to create a tense and often hair-raising film.
Once the woman makes herself known, you never quite feel safe as the young soldiers are picked off one by one.
20. Ugetsu (1953)
Director: Kenji Mizoguchi Country: Japan Where To Watch:Rent or Buy
Sometimes, to find a great horror movie, you have to go back in time a little bit. For Ugetsu, we’re traveling back to the 1950s, where Kenji Mizoguchi delivered this supernatural flick set in Japan’s Azuchi-Momoyama period.
It’s not an effects-ridden paranormal romp and is sometimes considered more fantastical than horrific, but Ugetsu is effective in its use of the supernatural. The familial drama takes center stage, but it doesn’t undermine the horror of the spirit seducing peasant farmer Genjuro and the devastating effects of the civil war unfolding around them.
Director: Mo Brothers Country: Indonesia Where To Watch:Physical Only
Often pegged as Indonesia’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Macabre follows a group of hapless travelers who come across a beautiful and distressed woman, Maya, who had been robbed and stranded. Sure, it’s not a grotesque redneck family, but Maya and her kin serve a similar purpose as Leatherface’s lineage.
Despite Maya’s initial helplessness, it becomes quite clear that no one would be able to rob her and live to tell about it. Even stranger than the hitchhiking beauty is her family, who has a taste for some exotic fair.
Macabre is bloody and fairly unnerving, especially when you consider that Maya and her family could very well be your nextdoor neighbors.
18. Reincarnation (2005)
Director: Takashi Shimizu Country: Japanese Where To Watch:Physical Only
Do you believe in reincarnation? Professor Norihasa Omori certainly did. Or, at least, he wanted to when he slaughtered more than a dozen people and committed suicide in a hotel in hopes of better understanding what happens when we die.
Just as Omori was fascinated with the notion of reincarnation, horror movie director Ikuo Matsumura was just as fascinated with the slayings. So, he sets out to make a movie about the killings, with Nagisa Sugiura filling in as the professor’s daughters.
Of course, drumming up the bloodied past of the hotel proves to be ill-advised as Sugiura finds herself haunted by visions of Omori’s killing spree.
17. Alone (2007)
Director: Banjong Pisanthanakun / Parkpoom Wongpoom Country: Thailand Where To Watch: Netflix
Reemerging from a 15-year hiatus from acting, Thai-German pop singer Marsha Wattanapanich stars in this Thai horror film about conjoined twins.
When jealousy over the affection of a boy causes them to undergo a separation surgery that goes wrong, the movie transforms into a spooky ghost story that has one heck of a demented twist.
Wattanapanich portrays the two twins, delivering an incredible performance that shows the acting range of the popular musician. Alone caught the eye of film festivals around the world, including Fantastic Fest in Austin and the Toronto After Dark festival.
With some spooky effects, Alone is a delightful romp into the paranormal that all lovers of a good ghost story will enjoy.
16. Dumplings (2004)
Director: Fruit Chan Country: China (Hong Kong) Where To Watch: Prime Video
How disturbing can a movie about dumplings really be? The answer is “very,” thanks to director Fruit Chan and writer Lilian Lee. When a woman finds her life falling apart, she turns to an unlikely source – dumplings. It’s not pork or chicken in those little morsels, though, as Aunt Mei’s recipe calls for a human fetus.
I don’t want to give away too much of the movie’s more controversial elements, but I’ll just say Dumplings includes incest, cannibalism, and abortion clinics. This is one of those horror movies that will leave you disgusted and feeling uneasy, but it’s impossible to look away because it’s also surprisingly entertaining.
Things get incredibly weird and nauseating as one or two conversations go into detail on the texture of the dumpling’s main ingredient.
15. Suicide Club (2001)
Director: Sion Sono Country: Japan Where To Watch:Rent or Buy
It’s not uncommon for Japanese horror movies to deal with important or controversial subject matters. Suicide Club is among these, putting the focus on suicide and the idea and reasoning behind mass suicides. Sion Sono tackles these subjects within a gruesome horror movie that rightfully earns its cult following.
The film follows a series of suicides occurring around Tokyo and the search to uncover the reason for them. Though the events initially seem unconnected, there may be something sinister at the root of the rash of self-mutilations.
Sono takes a satirical approach but doesn’t stray away from the true horrors as random groups of teenagers start killing themselves in gruesome ways.
14. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
Director: Kim Jee-woon Country: South Korea Where To Watch: Prime Video
A good Japanese ghost story should never go overlooked. A great one, like A Tale of Two Sisters, should be placed at the top of your playlist. When Su-Mi (Im Soo-jung) returns home from a mental institution, she finds herself tormented by horrific nightmares. Are they the ghosts of her family’s dark past, returning as a warning for the fragile girl or something crafted from her twisted and broken mind?
Jee-woon successfully weaves a tale that highlights mental illness while delivering the frights necessary to become one of Asia’s best horror movies. The South Korean film is a memorable ghost story crafted through inspiration pulled from the infamous Janghwa Hongryeon jeon folktale.
As is typical with an Asian supernatural movie, the specters are terrifying and the scares effective.
13. I Saw the Devil (2010)
Director: Kim Jee-woon Country: South Korea Where To Watch: Crackle, Popcornflix, Vudu, Tubi, Pluto,
More of a horror thriller, I Saw the Devil has no problem keeping the audience tense and unsettled. Viewers follow National Intelligence Service agent Kim Soo-hyun (Byung-hun) on a mission for revenge when his fiance is dismembered and thrown in a nearby stream.
The opening alone is an unsettling display and quickly justifies the title, but director Jee-woon has plenty in store for the movie’s audience. Especially when Soo-hyun lets his thirst for revenge send him on a rampage.
There’s no shortage of blood sprayed about as both men show just how vicious they can be.
12. Noroi: The Curse (2005)
Director: Koji Shiraishi Country: Japan Where To Watch: Shudder
The movie is told through the eyes of a paranormal investigator that sets out to uncover the mystery behind a woman and her son. As people close to the pair start to die off and go missing, the expert finds himself battling a deadly supernatural force.
Noroi: The Curse is a gritty and relentless movie that can help to reignite the flame of found footage horror.
11. The Host (2006)
Director: Bong Joon-ho Country: South Korea Where To Watch:Rent or Buy
Before Bong Joon-Ho astounded audiences with the Oscar-winning Parasite, he set a tentacled horror loose on South Korea. While it was a bit silly, especially with the simple Park Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) headlining the cast, The Host remained faithful to monster movies.
The amphibious creature terrorizing South Korea’s Han River may not have earned the notoriety of other Asian movie monsters, but it really deserves to. Its speed, size, and host of deadly appendages helps elevate it to a frightening level, especially to those always fearing what waits within murky waters.
While Cloverfield often earns praise for being the quintessential monster movie of the new millennium, had The Host succeeded better in the American market, it likely would have surpassed the found-footage creature feature.
10. Shutter (2004)
Director: Banjong Pisanthanakun / Parkpoom Wongpoom Country: Thailand Where To Watch:Rent or Buy
You’re in for a creepy good time with this Thai supernatural horror film. Of course, there’s an American remake, but you’ll want to stick to the original in order to understand just how spooky something as innocuous as a camera can be.
In the wake of a car accident that leaves a mysterious woman allegedly dead, Tun (Ananda Everingham) starts to see spectral images in pictures he takes. Believing them to be the ghost of the girl they hit, his girlfriend, Jane (Natthaweeranuch Thongmee) searches for answers, but uncovers a past that was better left buried.
Shutter will have you feeling quite different about taking selfies.
9. Pulse (2001)
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa Country: Japan Where To Watch: Prime Video
Pulse is up there with Ringu and Ju-On as classic Japanese horror films that were pretty much obliterated by U.S. filmmakers. The 2001 supernatural horror movie sees our world being invaded by ghosts, using quite a unique medium—the Internet. Of course, the Internet of 2001 was quite a different creature than it is today, and Pulse was a clever way of using that relative newness to scare the masses.
Like many Japanese ghost stories, Pulse is filmed well and relies heavily on slow-burn tension to pull off effective scares. Its supernatural entities aren’t overdone, reminding us that ghosts don’t need to be wispy CGI monstrosities. That the movie also pits our beloved Internet as a portal for evil feels like social commentary that was maybe a little ahead of its time.
8. Audition (1999)
Director: Takashi Miike Country: Japan Where To Watch: Shudder, BFI Player
Oh, you already know about Audition. You absolutely do. You’ve heard of its most disturbing and grotesque scenes, but haven’t had the stomach to sit down with the full movie. Don’t just settle for hearing about the movie’s most shocking moments, however, as the real horror of Audition is woven into a dreadful tale of obsession and abuse.
There are some heavy themes found within Miike’s adaptation of the 1997 novel of the same name, and whether or not they speak to you may amplify how Adaptation affects you. The tragic life of the devilish Asamy Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina) almost makes you feel bad for her – until you remember her disgustingly horrific acts.
Even if you have to look away during the movie’s more disgusting scenes, Audition is a must-see for horror fans. Especially if you’re about to get back into the dating world.
7. Dark Water (2002)
Director: Hideo Nakata Country: Japan Where To Watch: Shudder, BFI Player
Oh, you saw the 2005 remake starring Jennifer Connelly and Tim Roth and don’t think you need to watch the original Japanese adaptation of Koji Suzuki’s short story collection? I really would advise you to put some time into Hideo Nakata’s 2002 film. You won’t regret it, unless, of course, you hate Asian horror movies that may actually scare you.
When a divorced mother is forced to move into a rundown apartment, she and her daughter are dragged into a very wet supernatural horror. As hard as Yoshimi Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) tries to protect her daughter from the waterlogged spirit, the more she realizes the sacrifices that may need to be made.
Dark Water is a tale of love and loss sprinkled with everything needed to become one of the best Asian horror movies.
6. The Wailing (2016)
Director: Na Hong-jim Country: South Korea Where To Watch: Shudder
In 2016, South Korean director Na Hong-jim transported audiences to the rural village of Gokseong. This wasn’t some pleasure trip, however, as a strange man from Japan has arrived with a strange disease in tow. As the illness spreads throughout the village, it brings with it hysteria, violence, and death.
The Wailing isn’t simply a great horror movie, it’s an award-winning effort that follows a police officer as he immerses himself in the infection to uncover its origin. Watching the South Korean village crumble upon itself is both entertaining and frightening and well-deserving of the more than 60 award nominations it earned.
Don’t expect jumpscares galore as you dive into this supernatural thriller, which relies heavily on a slow burn to keep viewers at the edge of their seat.
5. The Eye (2002)
Director: Pang Brothers Country: Singapore Where To Watch: Shudder
Be careful whose organs you accept. It’s a strange message, but it’s sure to be your mantra after watching 2002’s The Eye. The Pang brothers and co-writer Jojo Hui crafted what amounts to a classic ghost story, complete with everything we love about supernatural flicks.
When violinist Mun receives an eye cornea transplant to cure her 18-year blindness, she finds that the gift of sight comes with a catch. Her newfound vision gives her the ability to see deaths before they happen, which could be useful if it didn’t come with the occasional horrifying ghostly visitor.
The Eye is a haunting movie that relies more on pacing and freaky ghosts to terrorize the audience.
4. One Cut of the Dead (2017)
Director: Shin’ichiro Ueda Country: Japan Where To Watch: Shudder
Sometimes, the best horror movies are the ones that don’t take themselves too seriously. When Shin’ichiro Ueda released One Cut of the Dead, it’s unlikely he would have expected his zombie comedy would go on to become an award-winning film. Yet here he is, many quarts of fake blood and a $30.5 million box office later.
We’ve seen so many different zombie movies over the years, but this one is beyond delightful. Director Takayuki Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu) just wants to film a low-budget zombie movie, but his actors prove to be difficult. Before they can even make progress, the crew finds themselves in the middle of a real zombie apocalypse.
It’s a funny and chaotic take on zombie movies, exactly what was needed to breathe some life into a tired genre.
3. Train to Busan (2016)
Director: Yeon Sang-ho Country: South Korea Where To Watch: Shudder, Netflix
Train to Busan isn’t your run-of-the-mill zombie movie. It’s so much better. Whether it’s the claustrophobic location of a train or the animal-like viciousness of the zombies, there’s something about Yeon Sang-ho’s zombie flick that elevates it above so many others.
The movie has a lot of heart and you’re going to love many of the characters you meet. That, of course, is mistake #1 in a zombie movie as you know nobody is off limits. Train to Busan absolutely pulls no punches when it comes to tearing your heart out and then immediately devouring it with an insatiable lust for blood.
You know you’re watching a great zombie movie when you’re fighting back tears one moment and feeling an adrenaline rush of fear the next. It’s also on Netflix if you haven’t caught it yet.
2. Ju-On: The Grudge (2002)
Director: Takashi Shimizu Country: Japan Where To Watch: Shudder, Netflix
Even if you’re the most difficult person to scare, when you hear that freakish guttural death rattle, you’ll feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It’s simply unsettling, there’s no better way to describe it.
In Ju-On: The Grudge, when there is a brutal murder, a curse is set upon the location it took place. The curse manifests as horrifying pale-faced spirits that pop up at the most inopportune moments. LIke when you’re trying to cower under your comforter.
Even if Ju-On was a bad movie – which it absolutely is not – that death rattle and the long-haired specter of Kayako has rooted themselves as icons of the horror genre.
1. Ringu (1998)
Director: Hideo Nakata Country: Japan Where To Watch: Shudder, Netflix
If you’re one to shake your fist at the remake trend, then you may want to shake it at Hideo Nakata. Ringu is essentially responsible for many of the Western horror remakes to release in the past umpteen years – and there’s a really good reason why. Simply put, it’s a timeless horror classic that utilized our love for technology against us.
Even if you’ve seen the American version, you absolutely must sit down with Ringu. It simply does the concept of a vengeful ghost spreading its revenge via VHS tape much better. And much scarier. There’s something about that iconic scene that makes Ringu’s version of it so much better, and it’s probably that it’s a grittier movie that doesn’t have that Hollywood gloss to it.
While The Blair Witch Project was revitalizing horror in the United States, Ringu was doing it in Japan.
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