21 Scariest Asian Horror Movies To Watch

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Horror movies in Asia are inspired mainly by national, cultural, or religious folklore, particularly beliefs in ghosts or spirits. In Asian horror, there is a widespread and engrained acceptance of supernatural forces in many Asian cultures. These supernatural forces suggest associations with animist, pantheist, and karmic religious traditions. Asian countries like China, Japan, Thailand, and Korea are the leading countries that have arguably received the most international attention in the horror genre.

This curated list consists of the 21 scariest Asian horror movies to watch.

21- Ringu [1998]

Stylized as the Ring in English and Japanese, the movie was released as Ringu in North America and is based on the 1991 novel by Japanese writer, Koji Suzuki. Ringu follows the story of a reporter who investigates the mystery behind a cursed videotape that kills the viewer seven days after watching it. After its release, Ringu influenced Western cinema and gained cult status in the West. When the movie was released in Japan, it coincided with the release of The Blair Witch Project [another horror movie released in the United States]. The movie helped to reawaken the horror genre by taking a more restrained approach to horror, leaving much of the terror to the audience’s imagination. Its influence also led to several sequels, remakes, and even a television series. Hideo Nakata directed the 1998 movie and starred Japanese actress Nanako Matsushima, widely regarded as one of the finest Japanese TV actresses. Ringu is available for streaming on Prime Video.

20- Ju-On: The Grudge [2002]

The 2002 Japanese horror film was written and directed by Takashi Shimizu. In Ju-On; The Grudge, there is a brutal murder; a curse is set upon its location. The curse manifests as horrifying pale-faced spirits that appear at the most mistimed moments. While the horror flick was quite a hit when it dropped, it was unfavorably compared to Ringu. Like Ringu, the movie scored several remakes and a prequel television series available on streaming platforms. The original film starred Megumi Okina, Misaki Ito, Takashi Matsuyama, and Yui Ichikawa. Ju-On; The Grudge is streaming on Prime Video.

19- Train to Busan [2016]

Squid Game actor Gong Yoo stars in th first installments of Train to Busan, a South Korean action horror film directed by Yeon Sang. The film’s plot revolves around a high-speed train from Seoul to Busan as a zombie apocalypse suddenly breaks out in the country and threatens the safety of the passengers. Alongside Gong Yoo, Kim Su-an, Ma Dong-Seok, and Jung Yu-mi also appeared in the 1hour 58minutes movie. Train to Busan is available for streaming on Prime Video.

18- One Cut of the Dead [2017]

Tagged as a zombie comedy film, One Cut of the Dead follows the story of a team of actors and filmmakers who are tasked with shooting a zombie film for live television, and they must accomplish that in a single take. The movie is divided into three sections;  the first section explores how the actors and filmmakers turn into zombies, the second section explores the personal lives of the real cast and crew, and the third section depicts the chaotic shooting of One Cut of the Dead from behind the scene. The horror movie has a sequel and a french remake in work. You can watch the movie on Prime Video.

17- 23:59 [2011]

23:59 follows the tale of a platoon of recruits in 1983 who are about to complete training on a jungle island. They hear a ghost story about a madwoman living on the island who has died at 23:59 [11:59PM] and that her spirit would haunt the camp. As the plot progresses, several strange occurrences happen among the camp members. Gilbert Chan directs 23:59 and you can watch it on Netflix and Prime Video now.

16- Ugestu [1953]

Before Ringu established itself as one of the most successful Asian horror movie in 1999, Ugestu was released and was regarded as a masterwork of Japanese cinema and a definitive piece during Japan’s Golden Age of Film. It is set in a war-torn civil Japan, where a peasant farmer and potter risk leaving his wife and young son behind to make money selling pottery and is seduced by a spirit that makes him forget all about his family. The movie helped popularize Japanese cinema in the West and influenced Japanese film. Ugestu gathers a phenomenal cast of Masayuki Mori, Machiko Kyo, and Kinuyo Tanaka, Kenji Mizoguchi directs it. You can watch it now on Prime Video.

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15- Macabre [2009]

The 2009 horror film- Macabre is based on a 2007 short film and follows a group of unfortunate travelers who come across a beautiful and distressed woman named Maya, who has been robbed and stranded, only to discover later that she’s from a family of cannibals who belong to a secret society attempting to gain immortality. Macabre has been pegged as Indonesia’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The movie is bloody and fairly scary. It has an all Indonesian cast, namely Shareefa Daanish, Imelda Therinne, Arifin Putra, Ruli Lubis, Ario Bayu, and Sigi Wimala. You can watch it now on Prime Video.

14- Reincarnation [2005]

The 2005 Japanese horror film centers on a hopeful actress who lands a role in a film that takes her, the cast, and the crew to a hotel where the present collides with the past. The 95 minutes movie was directed by Japanese director Takashi Shimizu and it is streaming on Prime Video.

13- Alone [2007]

Alone is a 2007 Thai horror film that stars Thai-German pop singer Marsha Vadhanapanich. Her appearance in Alone marks her first film role in 15 years. The movie depicts the story of twin sisters Pim and Ploy, who are both conjoined at the stomach. However, they soon both fall for a boy. Jealousy sinks in things take a different turn. A surgery to separate from each other leads to one of them passing away. Many years after the event, the ghost of one of the deceased twins starts to haunt the other. Alone was a commercial success in Thailand and became the 21st highest-grossing film of 2007. It has been remade thrice in India with different Indian actresses portraying the character of Pim and Ploy from the origin movie.

12- Dumplings [2004]

Dumplings is written by Hong Kong novelist, screenwriter, and reporter, Lilian Lee, directed by Fruit Chan, and produced by Peter Chan and Eric Tsang. In the movie, a former actress seeks the help of a local chef who cooks dumplings believed to be effective for rejuvenation. However, the secret ingredient for the rejuvenating dumplings is revealed to be unborn fetuses. Dumplings 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. It is available for streaming on Prime Video.

11- Suicide Club [2001]

While it is pretty uncommon for Japanese horror movies to deal with essential or controversial subject matters, Suicide Club shifts its focus onto suicide and the idea and reasoning behind mass suicides. The director, Sion Sono, deals with these subjects within a gruesome horror movie that truly earns its cult following. The film takes place over six days, exploring a wave of seemingly unconnected suicides that strikes Japan and the efforts of the police to determine the reasons behind the strange behavior. The director takes a satirical approach but doesn’t shy away from the true horrors as random groups of teenagers start killing themselves in gruesome ways. Watch it on Prime Video now.

10- A Tale of Two Sisters [2003]

A Tale of Two Sisters falls under a good Japanese ghost story. It follows the story of a teenage girl, Su-mi, who returns from a mental institution after being treated for shock and psychosis. She is tormented by horrific nightmares of ghosts of her family’s dark past. The director of the horror movie, Jee-woon, successfully weaves a tale highlighting mental illness while also delivering the terror necessary to become one of Asia’s best horror movies. The South Korean film is a memorable ghost story crafted through inspiration drawn from the infamous Janghwa Hongreyeon jeon folktale. As typical with an Asian supernatural movie, the ghosts are terrifying and scares effective. A Tale of Two Sisters is available on Prime Video.

9- I Saw the Devil [2010]

I Saw the Devil is a 2010 South Korean action thriller film directed by Kim Jee-Woon and written by Park Hoon-Jung. In the movie, a NIS [National Intelligence Service], a chief intelligence agency of South Korea name Kim Soo-Hyun. He embarks on a quest for revenge when the psychopathic serial killer Jang Kyung-Chul brutally murders his fiancee. The movie’s opening shows an unsettling display and justifies the title, and there’s no shortage of blood sprayed about as both men show just how vicious they can be. I Saw the Devil can be watched on these streaming services; Crackle, Vudu, Tubi, Prime Video, and Pluto.

8- Noroi: The Curse [2005]

In Noroi; The Curse, the Japanese psychological horror movie explores a concept that has been done before but somehow keeps it from feeling like a rehash. The movie tells the story 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 investigator finds himself battling a deadly supernatural force. The 2005 movie is a gritty and relentless movie that helps to reignite the flame of found footage horror. You can watch and stream the horror flick on Prime Video.

7- The Host [2006]

In 2000, an American military pathologist ordered his Korean assistant to dump 200 bottles of formaldehyde down a drain leading into the Han River [a significant river in South Korea]. Some years later, there are sightings of a strange amphibious creature in the waterway, and the fish in the river die off. In 2006, a slow-witted man’s daughter is kidnapped by a massive creature that emerges from the Han River. The movie stars Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doona, and Go Ah- sung. The Host is one of Bong Joon-ho’s early directorial movies before his big Oscar-winning Parasite. It succeeded better in the American market, and it likely would have surpassed the found-footage creature feature. Watch the movie on Prime Video now.

6- Shutter [2004]

Shutter follows the story of a mysterious woman who is believed to be allegedly dead following a car accident that involves a girl and her photographer boyfriend. The boyfriend starts to see spectral images in the pictures he takes. Believing them to be the ghost of the woman they hit, his girlfriend, Jane, searches for answers, but along the way, she uncovers a past that was better left buried. Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom direct the 2004 movie. See the Asian horror movie here.

5- Audition [1999]

Audition is about the story of a widower who puts together a phony audition to meet a potential new romantic partner. After interviewing several women, he becomes interested in a particular woman whose dark past affects their relationship. The movie deals with themes like feminism, misogyny, and child abuse. Audition is available to stream on Prime Video.

4- Dark Water [2002]

The movie scored an American remake which starred Jennifer Connelly and Tim Roth. However, the 2002 movie tells the story of a divorced mother forced to move into a rundown apartment; she and her daughter are dragged into a very wet supernatural horror. As the mother tries to protect her daughter from the waterlogged spirit, she realizes more sacrifices are to be made. Dark Water is a tale of love and loss embedded with everything needed to become one of the best Asian horror movies. You can still watch it online now.

3- The Wailing [2016]

The Wailing is a 2016 South Korean movie directed by Na Hong-Jim. It follows the story of a policeman who investigates a series of mysterious killings and illnesses in a remote Korean village called Gokseong to save his daughter. The movie was both a commercial and a critical success. Where can you watch The Wailing on Prime Video.

2- The Eye [2002]

In The Eye, a violinist [Mun] receives an eye cornea transplant to cure her 18-year blindness. She finds that the gift of sight comes with the ability to see deaths before they happen. It is a haunting movie that focuses on pacing and freaky ghosts to terrorize the audience. The film is also known as Seeing Ghosts and is directed by the Pang Brothers. It is streaming on Prime Video.

1- Tumbbad [2018]

Tumbbad is a 2018 Indian Hindi-language horror movie directed by Rahi Anil Barve; in the movie, the lead character Vinayak Rao searches for a hidden treasure that further leads to a deadly adventure in the 20th century British Indian village Tumbbad. A 22 tracked soundtrack accompanies the film. You can watch Tumbbad on Prime Video.

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Bolaji Akinwande

Bolaji Akinwande is a Music and Culture writer based in Lagos. Nigeria.

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