My Love Letter to Asian Horror Films

My love of horror films started later in life. Up until my early 20’s, I was more of an arthouse cinephile than a Wes Craven fan. But then my brother and I started working at the same independent video store to make money during college. As a bonus, we were allowed to watch anything we wanted for free. After watching my way through a few sections, I decided I was ready to try some horror.  My brother had a few ideas about where I should start. His pick was Audition, a Takashi Miike film that he assured me was “basically a drama.” JERK. My reaction afterward was to pick up the phone and yell at him while he laughed hysterically the entire time.


I went on to watch a lot of American horror films, but I found myself thinking about that crazy Japanese film. I soon came to a realization: I wanted to see more. It was new, fresh, ballsy, and interesting. And so began my love affair with Asian horror films. These are just a few of my favorites, grouped by country.


In the late ’90s through the early 2000s Japanese horror films were everything. They had a hypnotic beauty combined with a fearlessness that American horror lacked. Often duplicated by America, but never as good as the original (except maybe The Ring). A few remain my all-time favorites to this day. And yes, my brother recommended these too!

Battle Royale

Forty-two students, three days, one deserted Island: welcome to Battle Royale. A group of ninth-grade students from a Japanese high school have been forced by legislation to compete in a Battle Royale. The students are sent off to kill each other in a no-holds-barred game to the death, until one survives — or they all die.

The film that inspired the Hunger Games, is brutal, violent, and maybe more disturbing for the kids killing kids content. be forewarned!


A reporter and her ex-husband investigate a cursed videotape that is rumored to kill the viewer seven days after watching it.

This is the original that launched a million spooky lookalike ghosts. I love the American remake The Ring, but as far as creepy girls go, Sadako wins every time.

Kairo (Pulse)

Japanese teens investigate a series of suicides linked to an internet webcam that promises visitors the chance to interact with the dead.

Not gory, but damn spooky. These are the kind of crawl-under-your-skin scares that are rare today.


After the heyday of the J-Horror movement, Korea really stepped up and produced some of the best horror films around, even to this day. They are willing to explore dark storylines and turn the gore up to 11.

The Chaser

A disgraced ex-policeman who runs a small ring of prostitutes finds himself in a race against time when one of his women goes missing.

Based on a true story, this film pulls no punches in the torture/gore department. It’s worth the trouble of tracking it down.

The Wailing

Soon after a stranger arrives in a little village, a mysterious sickness starts spreading. A policeman, drawn into the incident, is forced to solve the mystery in order to save his daughter.

Another film that has buckets of gore, but a great storyline to go with it. The cops are bungling at first but are soon helpless in the face of true evil.

Train to Busan

While a zombie virus breaks out in South Korea, passengers struggle to survive on the train from Seoul to Busan.

Combines action and gore to form an absolutely electrifying zombie film.


Best known for its insane action films, Hong Kong is no slouch when it comes to horror films. Two of my favorites came from there: one a film of haunting sadness and the other with a scene that STILL scares me today!

Inner Senses

Yan is haunted by fleeting images of what she believes to be dead people. Soon, her suspicions are confirmed when her therapist Jim begins seeing the same things and the two begin to unravel a mystery that leads to a forgotten past.

Leslie Cheung’s last film before he tragically committed suicide, Inner Senses a film of pain, loss, and new love found. And it still features one hell of a scary ghost story too.

The Eye

A blind girl gets a cornea transplant so that she will be able to see again. She gets more than she bargained for upon realizing she can also see ghosts.

Thanks to this film I still occasionally receive texts like this from my friend Sam: “I had to walk up four flights of stairs today because you had to show me the film with that elevator scene!” LOL.  Girl, same.

And yes, this is a million times better than the remake.


There is a new wave of horror filmmaking in Taiwan, and it produced two terrific films recently.


Six years ago, Li Ronan was cursed after breaking a religious taboo. Now, she must protect her daughter from the consequences of her actions. This found footage film is inspired by a true story.

Great film, but this lady kept asking me to chant the “blessing” along with her. Yeah, it’s a no from me. Good luck with that curse.

The Sadness 

After a year of combating a pandemic with relatively benign symptoms, a frustrated nation finally lets its guard down. This is when the virus spontaneously mutates, giving rise to a mind-altering plague. The streets erupt into violence and depravity, as those infected are driven to enact the cruelest and ghastliest things they can think of. Murder, torture, and mutilation are only the beginning. A young couple is pushed to the limits of sanity as they try to reunite amid the chaos. The age of civility and order is no more. There is only “The Sadness.”

WOW. If you want gore, you have come to the right place. So, be forewarned. This film is definitely in the extreme horror category.


More recently, I have discovered the great films that Indonesia has to offer. Full of folk tales, Satan, black magic, and plenty of gore, these are always a great time.

Satan’s Slaves

The plot follows a family haunted by the death of their mother, who dies after being bedridden for three years from a strange and debilitating illness.

The acting in this was really fantastic and the sense of connection between the family was so strong. While there was not a lot of gore, it had a grimy sense of dread. Highly recommended along with its sequel: Satan’s Slaves: Communion.


After surviving a murder attempt in the city, Maya, a down-on-her-luck young woman, learns that she may inherit a house in her ancestral village. With her friend Dini, Maya returns to the village of her birth, unaware that the community there has been trying to locate and kill her to remove the curse that has plagued the village for years. As she begins to discover the complicated reality of her past, Maya finds herself in a fight for her life.

Another great film from Joko Anwar. This film has more gore than Satan’s Slaves and also features another great cast!

I hope that you have found a least one Asian horror gem here you haven’t seen, or maybe a film you haven’t seen in a while to rewatch. If there are any great Asian horror films you love, please feel free to put them in the comments below!

About Christine Burnham

When not writing, Christine Burnham is watching TV, Horror films, reading, cooking, and spending time with her menagerie of animals.

Check Also

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes’ Teaser Poster Revealed

Lionsgate Films invites you to, “Experience the story of THE HUNGER GAMES (read our retro …

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.