The Scariest Asian Horror Films of All Time

By 313 votes 97 voters 6k views 26 items tags f p @

List Criteria: Vote up the scariest horror movies from Asia.

In the past 20 years, Asian horror has emerged as a major force in the genre. While American horror stagnated, churning out countless remakes (many of which are based on these Asian films), A-horror movies have been a source of innovation. Korean horror, for example, practically invented a new sub-genre of revenge-themed psychological thrillers, pioneered by Chan-wook Park. On top of that, something about the cultural difference makes these films extra-scary to Western audiences. Even a run-of-the-mill Japanese horror film can scare the pants off of a Western viewer who has never seen the style.

The criteria for voting on this list is fear. Which film evokes the most primal terror? These are the films which make you turn on all the lights in your house and get nervous when you go to the bathroom late at night. We're talking can't sleep, scarred for life, nightmare fuel. The winner will earn the title "scariest Asian horror film."

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    Directed by Takashi Shimizu of Ju-on fame, this 2005 Japanese horror follows actress Yuka as she stars in a horror movie based on true events. A father murdered his entire family and everyone else at a hotel while filming the entire event. Now 20 years later, a film is being shot on location at the infamous hotel.

    The film begins slowly and gradually accelerates so that by the climax, it feels like a freight train going full speed. Overall, the plot has a balance of predictable and unpredictable twists that keep the viewer guessing without feeling too lost. The cinematography and imagery are eerie without feeling too familiar. Not a gore fest by any stretch, this film relies on psychological suspense and atmosphere to terrify the audience.

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    Okay, so holding a fake audition to help you pick a second wife is pretty shady. Even so, Shigeharu Aoyama does not deserve what happens to him in this 1999 Japanese horror. The atmosphere is tense and gritty in this film by Takashi Miike. Unlike his later film Ichi the Killer, Audition is not overly gory. The film is artistically beautiful and truly terrifying, something that no horror fan can afford to miss.

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    In addition to being completely terrifying, this 2001 Japanese horror by Kiyoshi Kurosawa is an interesting social commentary. Humans really do not know the long-term effects of constant manipulation of the electromagnetic spectrum (radio, electricity, wireless, etc.), nor do we know the impact of constant media saturation and connectivity. This premise serves as the bedrock for horrifying imagery, frightening cinematography, and a deeply creepy atmosphere that sticks with you. The American remake, as is often the case, just did not do the film justice.

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    Ringu is about a video that kills you when you watch it. Specifically, you die seven days after seeing the video, murdered by an absolutely terrifying ghost named Sadako. Many films have been spawned from this original, including the American remake and the recent Sadako vs. Kayako.

    The story of the 1998 original by Hideo Nakata is a bit more fleshed-out than in the American remake. The plot makes a bit more sense and is more effective because of it. The killer video itself is also more fear-inducing and less art house than in the remake. Ringu subtly pokes at the fourth wall, drawing the audience into the horror in a way that few films can.

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    This terrifying 2002 Japanese horror by Takashi Shimizu is the third installment of the Ju-on series and by far the most successful. It was remade in America in 2004, becoming one of the most successful Asian horror remakes. It also spawned several sequels, including the recent Sadako vs. Kayako.

    The film is about a ghost named Kayako who basically kills anyone she comes into contact with, and a woman named Rika Nishina who is trying to uncover the origin of the curse. The imagery is terrifying, bolstered by the fantastic cinematography and an unnerving atmosphere. This film is particularly frightening to Western audiences who are used to ghosts following a certain set of rules. Kayako does not follow these rules.

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    Photography is a little creepy when you get right down to it. Shutter examines the phenomenon of spirit photography and the blurry line between what is real and what appears on film. The 2004 supernatural horror from Thailand is about a photographer named Thun and his girlfriend Jane who begin to find strange things in their photographs after they flee the scene of an accident. Soon they find that their friends are also being haunted, and it's getting worse. The cinematography and special effects are both realistic and creepy. The storyline is surprisingly surprising, and the eerie atmosphere is augmented by some terrifying imagery.

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    Battle Royale is a gore fest. It is perhaps the gore fest. As part of some Draconian law aimed to prevent delinquency, 42 high school students are unwittingly dragged to a deserted island. There, they must battle to the death. The last one standing gets to live. Each receives a bag of supplies and a random weapon that ranges in effectiveness from machine gun to frying pan. Oh yeah, and they also all have collars that explode if they try any funny business.

    Surprisingly, this film is full of heart and human relationships. The characters that the audience gets to know end up being well-developed. You really do end up feeling for these kids and wanting them to live. Then, as soon as you start feeling that way, the horrifying reality of the situation reappears and someone gets gutted like a fish.

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    This 2013 South Korean horror offers a realistic and grim portrayal of a modern city in a total epidemic outbreak. A highly communicable disease with a 100% fatality rate rips through a suburb of Seoul. As medical resources are overwhelmed and civil authority collapses, we are given a terrifying view of the worst-case scenario. The film centers around infectious disease specialist In-hye and rescue worker Ji-goo as they struggle to survive and save others. The acting is excellent and authentic, contributing greatly to the impact of the film. The story is well-executed, and the parade of horribles presented leaves the viewer imbued with totally rational fear about a very real, very possible threat.

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