Asian horror is widely regarded as being one of the creepiest and most suspenseful branches of the horror genre. Japan, in particular, has a reputation for creating some truly bone-chilling movies and video games (check out our list of the 5 best Japanese horror games).
Korean horror, or K-Horror, has also developed a reputation for producing some of the greatest horror films of recent times. Korean horror movies tend to focus on psychological aspects and the anguish of characters, as opposed to the more “hack and slash” and “blood and guts” type of movies that have saturated the genre in recent years. Read on for our list of the 5 Best Korean Horror Movies.
5. A Tale of Two Sisters (장화, 홍련)
No list of the best Korean horror movies would be complete without A Tale of Two Sisters. The film was directed by Kim-Jee-woon and produced by Oh Jeong-wan and Oh Ki-min. Released in 2003, this is the highest-grossing Korean horror film of all time.
A Tale of Two Sisters follows the story of two sisters (funnily enough…), one of whom has just returned home from a mental asylum. The two sisters, Su-mi and Su-yeon, find themselves in a hostile and dysfunctional family environment.
Their stepmother, Eun-joo, is particularly aggressive and unkind towards the girls, on one occasion locking Su-yeon in the closet. Su-mi confronts Eun-joo on numerous occasions in order to defend her younger sister.
Mystery surrounds Eun-joo in every action she takes, and her exploits evoke episodes of psychosis in the two girls as they learn more about her and the dark secrets that relate her to the family’s past.
Combine this plotline with some haunting ghostly visuals and a beautifully chilling film score, and A Tale of Two Sisters easily becomes one of the best Korean horror movies of all time. If you are looking for an introduction to K-horror, this is the place to start.
The film was also remade for American cinema in 2009 as The Uninvited. Despite this version being very good, I would still recommend seeing the original Korean version first. At the time of writing, A Tale of Two Sisters has an 85% Rotten Tomatoes rating, and an IMDb score of 7.2/10. You can view the trailer below.
4. The Wailing (곡성)
Despite its fairly recent release in 2016, The Wailing is already K-horror classic that has received international recognition and has the legendary director Ridley Scott wanting to create a remake.
Directed by Na Hong-jin, The Wailing follows the story of a police officer who has been sent to investigate a mysterious illness that started spreading in a village in the South Korean mountains shortly after the arrival of a reclusive Japanese man.
The disease first manifested itself as a rash among the villagers, but then escalates into blood-thirsty and homicidal behaviour before causing the affected person to die.
The officer’s quest to find a solution to the deadly disease takes him into the path of a wise and powerful Korean healer.
Despite the movie’s main theme, The Wailing offers a great insight into Korean values and life in the mountains, and does an excellent job at creating suspense and atmosphere throughout. This film is a must-see for anyone looking for the best Korean horror movies. Check out the trailer below for more information.
3. Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (곤지암)
Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum is the most recent of the films on this list, being released in 2018. It was directed by Jung Bum-shik and produced by Kim Won-kuk.
The film received widespread international attention and is the second highest grossing Korean horror movie to ever be released, behind A Tale of Two Sisters.
Gonjiam is a found footage horror film, akin to the Paranormal Activity series, and follows a camera crew as they explore the eponymous Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital, after two teenage boys recently went missing whilst investigating the area.
The camera crew are the hosts of a paranormal web series, Horror Times, who have travelled to the asylum to film a live broadcast and showcase the findings to their audience in real-time.
One thing the Horror Times didn’t account for is how dangerous Room 402 is and, as you can imagine, what ensues is a progression of truly terrifying scenes that seem to offer no reprieve for the viewer.
This is definitely one of the best Korean horror movies available to watch right now, and you should definitely check it out if you’re a fan of found footage horror films. At the time of writing, the film has 100% on rotten tomatoes and a 6.1/10 rating on IMDb. You can watch the trailer below.
2. Train to Busan (부산행)
Zombie horror films are usually among my least favorite in the genre, but this 2016 Korean horror film is a delightful exception to your ordinary zombie-themed movie and is widely regarded as one of the best Korean horror films of all time.
Directed by Yeon Sang-ho, Train to Busan is an apocalyptic horror film that takes place on a train bound to South Korea’s second-biggest city, Busan, just as an apocalyptic zombie virus has broken out throughout the country.
On the train, there is Seok-woo, the protagonist and divorced workaholic father, working-class couple Sang-hwa and Seong-kyeong, a rich and smarmy CEO Yon-suk, and various other weird and wonderful characters.
What sets this apart from other zombie films is the attention to detail and the investment made to create an emotional connection between the viewer and the character.
Train to Busan has an impressive 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating and a 7.5/10 score on IMDb. It is undoubtedly one of the best Korean horror movies around right now and you can watch the trailer below to find out more.
1. I Saw the Devil (악마를 보았다)
Released in 2010, I Saw the Devil is a South Korean action horror film that should, perhaps, be avoided by the faint-hearted.
Directed by Kim Jee-woon, it is highly regarded among horror aficionados and been praised for its evocation of raw emotion and engaging suspense.
The film follows the Korean National Intelligence Service detective, Soo-hyun, as he investigates the brutal murder of Jang Joo-yun, who was killed and dismembered by the psychopathic murderer Jang Kyung-chul.
The detective becomes more involved in the story than he would have first anticipated, and ends up seeking revenge on the Kyung-chul for the atrocities he commits.
I Saw the Devil contains some of the most outrageously horrifying and disgusting scenes that I can remember in the recent history of cinema. As brutal as it is, though, it is equally engaging. This film takes you on an emotional rollercoaster that will you keep you gripped to the screen throughout its duration.
If you haven’t yet seen I Saw the Devil, make sure you are in a good place before you do. As mentioned before, it is not a light-hearted watch. Having said that, it is truly one of the best Korean horror movies ever created and a must-watch for fans of the K-horror genre. You can view the trailer below to find out more about the film.
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