Most of us are very familiar with or even nostalgic about Western horror movies. After all, everyone has heard about films like Scream, The Ring, Halloween, The Shining, and so many more their entire lives. However, you may be surprised to find out that quite a few of your favorites are actually influenced by or even remakes of Asian cinema! Yes, Asia is actually quite a large hub for amazing horror films even to this day, some people just never notice! Well, I’m here to change that. It’s time to not let those words at the bottom of the screen scare you but instead be scared by some of the best horror you never knew about.
Premise: Seven years after the death of his wife, CEO Aoyama is invited to sit in on auditions for actresses. Yamazaki Asami catches his eye, a striking young woman with ballet training. However, Aoyama soon realizes she is not as reserved as he first thought.
Japan is perhaps where most of America’s iconic remakes come from, as the country is notorious for some of the scariest films around. However, Audition is one that much of the general public might miss while fans of Japanese films have made it into a cult classic. Takashi Miike is a master of the craft and this is no exception.
Honorable Mentions: Ringu, Ju-On: The Grudge, One Cut of the Dead, Cure
Premise: A businessman, his estranged daughter, and other passengers become trapped on a speeding bullet train during the first moments of a zombie outbreak.
South Korea is full of a lot of the best horror in the modern day, but I have never met a single person who didn’t like this movie. Yes, it’s scary and at times a tad bit gory, but it’s truly more about a father reconnecting with his daughter. It’s a surprisingly heartfelt movie while still giving you your zombie fix.
Honorable Mentions: The Wailing, A Tale of Two Sisters, Thirst, Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum
China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan
Premise: A blind violinist gets a cornea transplant, allowing her to see again. However, she soon realizes her new eye can see ghosts. So, she sets out to find the origins of the cornea and discover the fate of its former host.
China and the Chinese-speaking area, while enormous and the most populated, don’t actually have all that many well-known horror films. However, when they do, it’s often an amazing ghost story told in a unique way. The Eye is tense and scary with more substance than most.
Honorable Mentions: Dumplings, Incantation, Mon Mon Mon Monsters, Corpse Mania
Premise: A shaman realizes that his nephew has been possessed. However, the goddess that appears to have taken him turns out not to be as benevolent as she first appears.
Thailand has an interesting history with horror that truly started picking up in recent years. Currently, The Medium has been making rounds on social media as an effectively horrifying possession story rooted in urban lore. Its documentary style simply makes it even more intimate as if you’re actually there.
Honorable Mentions: Inhuman Kiss, Shutter, 13: Game of Death, Laddaland
Premise: A man and his son encounter a demon while searching a decaying castle for hidden treasure in 19th-century India.
To most Americans, Indian movies are epically romantic Bollywood pieces with elaborate dances and exciting songs. Horror is perhaps the last thing that comes to mind. However, as one of if not the largest film industries in the world, India has much to offer in the world of folk tales, murder, and mystery. After its release on Netflix, Tumbbad gained a cult following for its effortlessly creepy atmosphere and its jaw-dropping surprises.
Honorable Mentions: Bulbbul, Go Goa Gone, Churuli, Pizza
Premise: A woman inherits a house, but she’s unaware that members of the community have been trying to locate and kill her to remove a curse that has plagued them for years.
Indonesia and the island countries surrounding it are all quite well known for their folklore involving unique creatures and terrible curses. Impetigore is a fantastic mix between fear and culture as you’ll be scared but learn much about the country in the process. While the story may not be the most original horror film ever created, its style makes up for every fault.
Honorable Mentions: Satan’s Slaves, The Queen of Black Magic, May the Devil Take You, Macabre
Premise: Beloved actress Jane Ciego decides to produce her own film since she has become tired of the usual projects she’s been getting. However, an accident on set leaves her disabled, trapped in a house filled with bizarre phenomena, and under the care of her unloving husband and an obsessive nurse.
What could be worse than having everything you’ve ever worked for come crashing down all in one instance? Well, not only does Jane have to deal with that, but now she has a bunch of ghosts to deal with! This is a film that will mess with your mind and have you wondering where the nightmare ends and reality begins.
Honorable Mentions: Feng Shui, Midnight in a Perfect World, Of The Flesh, The Rites of May
Premise: A single mother and her children in an isolated cabin are on high alert when they bring home a girl caked in clay. As more and more strangers show up on her doorstep, she quickly finds another reason to fear the forest.
Malaysia is another country that roots much of its horror in its folklore, effectively teaching the world about its culture while having you shake in your boots. The premise of Roh seems simple enough, but that’s how it gets you. It’s increasingly tense and knows exactly when a deafening silence is the most effective.
Honorable Mentions: Munafik, Pusaka, Zombi Kampung Pisang, Dukun