I’m a huge Asian horror fan—I’ve seen horror films from all over Southeast Asia. While Japan tends to lead the way in horror, I’ve seen some fantastic films from South Korea. Everyone’s choices will be different and I’m sure there are movies I don’t have on my list that you would have on yours. These are my personal favorites out of all of the films I’ve seen.
A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)—written and directed by Kim Ji-woon, this is a weird story about two sisters, one of whom was recently released from a mental institution. Their father is at a loss as to what to do about the girls and the obvious animosity between them and their step-mother. Step-mom’s own mental status quickly becomes called into question. There is little gore, but Sisters still manages to be a frightening movie with some very cool twists.
Phone (2002)—this is Ahn Byeong-ki’s twisted take on an urban legend. A reporter investigating a child sex ring goes into temporary hiding, only to have herself and her family stalked by a ghost who is out for blood. Love, obsession, illicit sex, pedophilia, jealousy, revenge and one hell of a creepy possessed little girl make Phone a movie to watch.
I Saw the Devil (2010)—another one directed by Kim Ji-woon, Devil stars the amazing Choi Min-sik as a serial killer being stalked and tortured by the fiancé of one of his most recent victims. The fiancé finds the serial killer, but lets him go, repeatedly, after inflicting some kind of pain. It is a cat and mouse game that doesn’t go as intended. It ultimately begs the question “what makes a psycho?” as the fiancé seems to become like the killer he seeks revenge on.
Oldboy (2003)—while some may not consider Park Chan-wook’s movie as horror, what happens in Oldboy is pretty horrifying. Based on the manga by Nobuaki Minegishi, Choi Min-sik stars as a man imprisoned for fifteen years in a private prison with no idea why. After his release he finds the man responsible and discovers the reason for losing fifteen years of his life. Unfortunately the punishment hasn’t ended with his release. This is a wonderfully twisted movie with some very disturbing subject matter.
Death Bell (2008)—imagine having to sit for the most difficult exams in the school year but instead of advancement your reward is that a fellow classmate isn’t murdered. That is the premise of Death Bell, where being an elite student is probably not the best thing. Written and directed by Yoon Hong-seung, the film puts the lives of students in danger and a disembodied voice tells the class that a student will die for every question they get wrong. Talk about pressure!
Thirst (2009)—Park Chan-wook’s first real horror film is based on a book by Emile Zola. The film follows a priest who volunteers to be infected with a deadly virus so that doctors may find a curecurecure. The priest survives after receiving a blood transfusion but has become a vampire. cure. His new existence tests his morality to its limit and beyond when he falls in love. It’s not necessarily the best horror film and there are some plot holes, but what I love about this movie is the very different take on the usual vampire story.
Lady Vengeance (2005)—another film by Park Chan-wook and starring Choi Min-sik, Lady Vengeance follows the story of a woman recently released from prison for a crime she didn’t commit and her quest for revenge against the real culprit. She finds the relatives of his victims and offers to help them get revenge, as well. The film is part of Park’s Vengeance Trilogy, but is also a stand-alone story that is disturbing, bloody and tragic.
Epitaph (2007)—an almost anthology by the Jeong Brothers that centers on a prestigious hospital in Japan-occupied Korea. Medical student Jung Nam is one of the characters that tie three stories together about love, loss and how the human mind, with the help of the supernatural, handles that loss. Epitaph is frightening and bloody, but also very tragic.
Chaw (2009)—a black comedy that deals with a small town who must suffer the consequences when a man-eating wild boar goes on a killing rampage. A sheriff, an ecologist and a famous hunter are all on the trail of Mother Nature’s monster and they are desperate to stop any more killings. It is reminiscent of Jaws (1975) but with a boar….and it is just a lot of fun to watch.
Whispering Corridors 3: Wishing Stairs (2003)—a remote girls’ boarding school has an outdoor staircase with twenty-eight steps. When a girl climbs the staircase counting out loud an extra step appears and a spirit appears and grants a wish. When two friends compete for a spot in a prestigious ballet school, one of the girls wishes to get the spot. Unfortunately it’s a case of “be careful what you wish for….” She gets the spot but for a high price. When another girl tries to undo the first wish evil is unleashed. It is dark and somber look at friendship and betrayal.
Well, there’s my list. Let the discussion begin!