In the mood for a frightening horror flick that sends chills down your spine? You got it. From family curses to vengeful spirits, these Asian horror movies will get you ready for some blood-curdling screams.
Undoubtedly, Asian horror films are considered the most horrifying and the best form of thrill for every movie buff. With the best horror movies hailing from South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and Thailand, these movies are guaranteed to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. These Asian horror movies are changing the course of cinematography and the horror genre through surreal imagery and technical innovations. While there are no definite styles for horror, the genre is usually linked with various types of storytelling through culture, folklore and mythology.
To date, the scariest films are the 2002 ‘The Ring’ and 2004 ‘Shutter’. If you’ve seen these movies, you would understand why Sadako and capturing “mysterious shadows” on your camera would be traumatising.
With Korea, Japan and Thailand ruling the Asian horror game, in Malaysia, director and actor Syamsul Yusof made headlines for his 2016 Munafik film. In fact, it is the second highest-grossing film in Malaysia after the 2022 release of Mat Kilau.
Grab a friend or two and make yourself comfortable. Your movie nights — especially during this ongoing Hungry Ghost Festival which ends August 26 — are about to be interesting.
These are the 13 best Asian horror movies that nightmares are made of:
A Tale Of Two Sisters (South Korea)
The 2003 psychological thriller follows two teenage girls, Soo-Mi and Soo-Yeon, returning home from an asylum to their beloved father and unhinged stepmother. As they settle down at home, the two sisters are constantly picked on and harassed by their stepmother but endure the pain for the sake of their father. However, strange things start happening when horrifying dreams of their late mother’s ghost began to haunt them, even in reality.
Horror movie fans, you’re in for a treat. Directed by Kevin Ko, Incantation is a Taiwanese horror film set in a found-footage concept. The thrilling tale centres around a single mother, Li Ronan, attempting to protect her little daughter from a fatal curse. Can Ronan save her family from the consequences of her action by breaking a religious taboo six years ago?
Adapted from a book by Koji Suzuki, the supernatural horror novel ‘Ring’ was first published in 1991. Seven years later, the movie adaptation, directed by Hideo Nakata, was released and became a huge box office success in Japan. In 2002, the American adaptation of the book titled ‘The Ring‘ starring Naomi Watts, was also released.
The thrilling tale follows journalist Reiko Asakwawa as she attempts to uncover the mysteries behind her niece’s death. However, when a strange videotape depicting spooky images appears, she tries to crack the case, especially when it steers to the viewer’s death in seven days.
Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam (Malaysia)
Starring Maya Karin as Meriam, Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam is a daunting tale about a restless female ghost who seeks revenge. Set in the past and present timeline, the film follows Meriam, who gets involved in a love triangle that causes her unfortunate death. Fifty years later, Maria, who resembles a spitting image of Meriam, is accused of the mysterious occurrences happening in the same village. Is there a connection between Meriam and Maria?
Directed and starring Syamsul Yusof, Munafik is a 2016 Malaysian supernatural horror film. As the first film of the Munafik trilogy, the movie centres around a religious medical practitioner, Adam, who cannot overcome the acceptance of his wife’s death. As he struggles to cope, it leads him to stop curing others until he meets Maria. Possessed by an evil spirit, Maria seeks help from Adam, who later discovers that this evil spirit could be linked to the horrifying accident of his late wife.
The sequel to Munafik currently bags the number two spot for the highest-grossing films in Malaysia.
The Guardian (Vietnam)
Have you ever wondered about the darkness of the entertainment industry? The Guardian follows the rise and fall of a backup singer, Nguyen Mai Ly, who dreams of becoming a star, just like famed superstar Lam Phuong. When the pop superstar Lam is found dead in her home, Nguyen Mai Ly enlists the help of dark forces, black magic and a Kumanthong doll (a divine child spirit believed to bring luck and fortune to the owner) to achieve fame. However, there will always be consequences if you’re dealing with black magic.
When photographer Tun and his girlfriend Jane flee from a tragic accident, the young couple later find mysterious white shadows in every photograph. Determined to find answers, they later uncover that their accident may have caused these sinister terrors. In case you haven’t watched the original, the movie was also remade in 2008 with the same movie title, starring Joshua Jackson and Rachael Taylor.
One Missed Call (Japan)
Premiered in 2003, One Missed Call is based on a novel by Yasushi Akimoto. The movie adaptation revolves around a young psychology student who attempts to solve a mysterious chain of deaths after receiving a strange series of voicemail messages from their future selves.
A Hollywood remake of the Japanese horror film was released in 2008, but it was revealed to be a major flop.
Dark Water (Japan)
Directed by Hideo Nakata (Ring 1 and Ring 2), Dark Water follows a divorced mother and her daughter who are forced to live in a dingy, old apartment. As they try to settle down, the mum notices a mysterious water leak from the floor above. Their discovery eventually leads to a string of supernatural events involving a missing girl.
The Maid (Singapore)
Set during the Hungry Ghost Festival, where Taoists believe that the gates of hell are open for ghosts to roam the earth, The Maid is centred on a young Filipina maid Rosa who starts having spooky encounters and nightmares shortly after joining a Singaporean family as a domestic helper. Unfamiliar with the local customs and superstitions of the Ghost Month, she also accidentally makes mistakes such as sweeping away pavement offerings, which apparently offends the spirits. Packed with jump scares, creepy imagery and a shocking twist ending, it’s guaranteed to send shivers down your spine.
Ju-On: The Grudge (Japan)
Who could forget Kayako’s terrifying croaks? If you’re sensitive to sounds, be prepared to cover those ears. Ju-On: The Grudge tells the story of a social worker hired to care for an old lady in a cursed home. Sensing there’s a vengeful spirit to haunt them, she realises that this mysterious presence will pursue anyone who dares to enter the house.
Pengabdi Setan / Satan’s Slave (Indonesia)
Starring Malaysia’s Bront Palarae and Tara Basro, Pengabdi Setan or Satan’s Slave are about a struggling family residing in the countryside.
When their mother dies from a mysterious illness, the family is forced to get on with their life. However, strange events keep occurring in their home when a vengeful spirit resembling their late mother starts haunting them. Could their mother’s death be linked to this deadly spirit?
Pengabdi Setan 2 / Satan’s Slaves: Communion is currently in theatres.
Hailing from the Philippines, Eerie tells a foreboding tale about Pat, a guidance counsellor who helps other students deal with the sudden yet gruesome death of a classmate, Erika. With the suicide rattles of an all-girls Catholic school, each student slowly reveals that they are being haunted by Erika’s ghost. Are they telling the truth?
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Kuala Lumpur
(Main and Featured image: Incantation/ Netflix)