Although it seems like the Asian horror boom has since long ended in the West, fervent fans know that isn’t true. The latest installment in The Grudge series is proving that interest still exists. Also, the genre is thriving quite well overseas. The difference now is there is more variety than ever before. No longer are studios riding the coattails of Hideo Nakata’s Ring or Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-on: The Grudge—we have a variety of subjects, more than ever before.
In recent years, films like The Wailing and One Cut of the Dead have earned attention here. But, there are other titles, both old and new, that have flown under the radar. If you’re looking for something new and scary, and you don’t mind subtitles, then check out these ten horror movies from various Asian countries.
10 999-9999 (2002)
Teen slashers never go out of fashion, it seems. Thailand, like other neighboring countries, originally rummaged through native folklore when making horror movies. They eventually looked elsewhere for inspiration. Namely, the Final Destination series that was making serious money overseas.
In the tradition of 976-EVIL, 999-9999 concerns a suspicious phone number that curses anyone who calls it. Anyone unfortunate enough to ring the notorious number, soon ends up dead.
9 Darna Mana Hai (2003)
Inspired by the obscure 1997 American horror anthology Campfire Tales, Darna Mana Hai (or, Fright is Forbidden) sets itself up in a similar way. A group of friends traveling on a long and deserted, backwoods road find themselves stranded after the car breaks down. Until help arrives, they share spooky stories with one another.
Unlike Campfire Tales, this Indian horror movie boasts six tales rather than five. Aside from the six segments, the wraparound contains its own involving subplot about the storytellers, all of whom are in mortal danger themselves.
8 Split of the Spirit (1987)
In this all but forgotten Taiwanese horror movie, a woman is heartlessly murdered by her lover. To exact revenge on those involved in her death, the victim possesses the body of a dancer. To free their friend of the spirit’s hold, though, a man and his girlfriend contact a spiritualist.
Split of the Spirit is not remarkable by no means, but its inventive practical effects and stylish aesthetic keeps it in rotation for fans of vintage Chinese horror.
7 The Vanished (2007)
In this elusive 2006 horror movie from Japanese director Makoto Tanaka (Sing Salmon Sing), a tabloid reporter investigates a bizarre incident in a little town. A child is found dead, but his organs are somehow missing upon autopsy. This leads to a greater mystery where the corpse has literally run off. To add more confusion to this case, the boy died over thirty years ago…
The Vanished is originally titled Ame no Machi (Town of Rain), which is the name of the Hideyuki Kikuchi short it’s based on. It’s a pensive, creeping kind of horror movie that echoes early David Cronenberg at times.
6 Dangerous Seductress (1992)
Sometimes a film is so bad, it’s actually quite ‘good.’ This is the case for Dangerous Seductress (or Bercinta dengan maut in Indonesian), an early ’90s horror movie that has understandably developed a cult following over the years. Although available in the West on DVD, copies are now scarce. However, the movie was shot in English so there’s no need to worry about translation issues if you come across another release.
In H. Tjut Djalil’s outlandish final movie Dangerous Seductress, an abused woman makes a deal with evil and becomes a succubus-like creature.
5 Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge (2007)
In the vein of Donnie Darko, this fantasy-horror movie is based on the novel of the same name by Tatsuhiko Takimoto. It never outright induces scares or summons the sensibilities of a traditional horror movie, but Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge teeters on the edge.
In this romantic oddball of a film, two mournful teenagers come to meet one night when the other is battling a chainsaw-wielding entity. This is no isolated incident as it happens quite often for Eri, a grieving, young woman. Through these trials, though, she and Yosuke become the closest of friends.
4 The Secret of the Telegian (1960)
From the studio, Toho, that gave the world Godzilla is this near-lost 1960 sci-fi/horror treasure that pioneered a lot of future tokusatsu effects. In The Secret of the Telegian, a serial killer uses a matter-transporation device when carrying out his crimes.
Jun Fukuda’s The Secret of the Telegian was originally intended to be released theatrically in the West, specifically the United States. Plans fell through and the movie was sent straight to television. Although it was dubbed in English, this televised version of the film is in black-and-white rather than color.
3 The Housemaid (2016)
Not to be confused with the South Korean movie The Handmaiden, this Vietnamese ghoster is a period film with supernatural elements. Set in 1953 Indochina, a housemaid’s affair with her widowed boss results in the return of the man’s wife, now a displeased spirit.
Vietnam has had a lot of trouble building up its cinema industry. So, when something like The Housemaid comes along, one has to commend those involved. This spooky tale is sometimes a melodramatic soap opera, but compared to other Viet horror movies, it’s a cut above the rest.
2 Séance (2000)
Kiyoshi Kurosawa has dealt with horror since the beginning of his career. Years after Sweet Home was practically locked away by Toho, he gave the world Cure and Pulse. One of his lesser known films is one produced for television.
In the slow burn Séance (originally Kôrei), a woman with supposed paranormal powers helps the authorities find a missing girl. Yet, when the child appears before her, the woman and her husband keep her hidden in their home. This way, the psychic can prove her gift is legitimate. Unfortunately, the girl dies in her captors’ care, and she now haunts the couple responsible for her death.
1 Suddenly in the Dark (1981)
This 1981 horror movie combines several sub-genres, all coalescing into one of the best hidden gems in South Korean cinema. It all starts with a lonely housewife whose husband, a biologist, brings home a young housekeeper. As he’s busy with his work, the matriarch suspects something is not right about her new employee. She not only possesses an ominous shaman statue, the housekeeper may be having an affair with the wife’s husband.
Suddenly in the Dark is a gaslit and supernatural psycho-thriller. Its lead actress delivers an unsettling performance that credits the movie’s evocative, mania-induced feeling. Anyone who loves classic horror should not miss out on this one. Especially since it’s been remastered and translated for a wider audience today.
NEXT: 10 Scariest Korean Movies To Never Watch Alone, Ranked