Between despairing buckets of blood, gruelling portrayals of brilliant serial killers and hideously graphic clown characters, the horror film genre possesses entire associations of its own; some we’ve moved far away from, whilst others continue to reign at its very core. Campy classics such as Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Scream and The Blob tread the fine line between horror and comedy, relying on the visceral to enact a bodily reaction. Whilst other cult favourites—think The Nightmare on Elm Street or Jennifer’s Body—simply head straight to the root of (some) of our feminine fears.
But the true horror buff might also seek out an alternative exposition of horror—in the Eastern parts of the globe. For if Western horror expounds on anxieties surrounding that of sex, grief and generational trauma, the Asian films sending a shiver down your spine deal with themes such as internal conflicts of religion, localised folklore and the unresolved weight of colonialism. Others such as J-horror ultimate classic Ringu dealt directly with the universally unnerving knowledge of modern technology’s hold on our society; a concept still relevant to us today.
And with new horror screen options springing up from across all of Asia—from South Korea to the Philippines and Thailand—the scene in this part of the world seems to pose a menacing threat all on its own. So should more ghosts and gore be your entertainment of choice this Halloween weekend, perhaps we might nudge you to look no further. Below, we present you with Vogue Singapore’s curation of the best Asian horror films to stream on your television screen as you snuggle up under those blankets this spooky season.
The Wailing (2016)
A gruelling picture that calls upon its audiences to share in the despondent dread of its characters, South Korea’s The Wailing is a clear showcase of the generational distrust between South Koreans and the Japanese. Winning Na Hong-Jin the Best Director award at the Asian Film Awards, the film follows a police sergeant Jong-Goo (Kwak Do-Won) as he investigates a bewildering series of violent, vulgar murders in the remote village of Gokseong. As the curse-like disease spreads across the entire village, the townsfolk are sent into paranoia, distrust is brewed and the mystery meanders on.
Saving Li Ronan’s daughter, Dodo, is of utmost importance in Incantation, the Taiwanese horror film released just this year. Directed by Kevin Ko, the film’s premise calls upon the heavy longing of a mother for her daughter—but not after she finds herself, cursed for breaking a religious taboo six years ago. As a videographer who documents and debunks the paranormal, the film leans into Ronan’s lens, giving us mere glimpses into the entire narrative: framed by first-person video shots and a protagonist that completely breaks the fourth wall as she attempts to save her daughter.
Cold Fish (2010)
On the cusp of ultimate madness, is the Japanese horror film Cold Fish. Doubling down on the extremities of male pleasure and the horrifying patriarchy that rules in both the public and private spaces, this grotesque picture charts the dreadful narrative of the quiet and unassuming Syamato, who is shunned by his own unfaithful wife and delinquent daughter. He meets fish emporium owner, Murata, who proposes an enticing business deal, that leads to his own involvement in a series of psychopathic murders.
The Maid (2005)
For some, The Maid might sit a tad too close to home. Set in the context of the Hungry Ghost Festival or the seventh month in the Lunar calendar, one fresh-faced domestic worker Rosa Dimaano (Alessandra De Rossi) moves into her new home on foreign land for the first time—to work as a maid in Singapore. Amidst local superstitions and her unfamiliar surroundings, Rosa seems to face terror that is two-fold, before the true horror unveils itself behind closed doors.
An Asian horror classic that’s earned its spot, Shutter might just be your invitation into the scene if it’s completely new to you. A drunken night leads newlywed couple Tun and Jane to a hit-and-run situation—the pretext to why they begin to see strange shadows in Tun’s photos. With jumpscares and screechy moments abound, Shutter brings with it its own bizarre brilliance elsewhere instead: through the shocking plot lines and eerie atmosphere it manages to set up.
The Mimic (2017)
For one that deals with a parent’s unresolved grief after losing a child, The Mimic posits itself as a strong contender. Hailing from South Korea, director Huh-Jung combines the enigmatic nature of urban legends with a story of familial loss. Hee-Yeon (Yum Jung-Oh) is our tragic protagonist who has moved into a house at the foot of Mount Jangsan together with her husband and daughter. She struggles to overcome the loss of her missing son from five years ago, and this sets the puzzling and foreboding pretext as to why she invites a supposedly abandoned girl—whom she meets in the woods—into her family home.
Set in Hong Kong, Dumplings is dark, gory and undeniably chilling to the bone. For a hefty price, Aunt Mei will supply you with the most ethereal dumplings in town—so much so, you’ll be transformed and blessed with a face of ageless beauty. With perverse carnal desires and incestuous relations sitting at its core, Dumplings presents itself as the Sweeney Todd of Asian horror, if you’d like.