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."
Oldboy and Audition are just a few of the Asian horror films on Shudder.
A blind woman getting an operation which gives her the ability to see for the very first time sounds like a feel-good Lifetime movie. This 2002 Hong Kong horror is anything but. It turns out that looking through the eyes of a dead person has some unintended consequences. All sorts of ghosts start appearing, and seeing is believing. Eerie imagery is the name of the game in this film, augmented by an excellent acting performance by Angelica Lee.476186Is this scary?
In this 2002 Japanese horror, newly divorced Yoshimi Matsubara and the daughter she is trying to keep custody of are forced to move into an old apartment. She notices a dark spot on the ceiling where water appears to be getting in. Strange things start occurring; meanwhile, Yoshimi is struggling to balance work and single motherhood. Directed by Hideo Nakata (of Ringu), the film is deliberately slow-paced and tense.
Between ever-building tension and eerie imagery, this film instills a deep sense of dread in the viewer. The film favors creating an atmosphere of fear using subtlety as opposed to jump scares.437169Is this scary?
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.471199Is this scary?
The gritty realism of this 2010 South Korean horror is terrifying in a way different than most other horror films. The film tells the story of special agent Kim Soo-hyun seeking revenge for the murder of his pregnant wife. What makes the film unique is how it puts you into the head space of a true monster. As Soo-hyun starts to become more monstrous himself in his quest to destroy the psychopathic serial killer who killed his wife, the audience is taken with him.
It takes a while for the fear to set in, but when it does, it hits you hard.375156Is this scary?