Horror films are a staple of any Halloween celebration, and no one does horror like Asians.
Whether you’re looking for a slasher gorefest steeped with blood or a psychological horror that will leave you sleeping with the lights on, let NextShark be your guide through the macabre, the paranormal and the grotesque this Halloween season. From South Korea to the Philippines, here are 10 films — in no particular order — guaranteed to leave you squirming in your seats.
Content warning: Many of the films below are extremely graphic. Viewer discretion is advised.
“I Saw the Devil” (2010) – South Korea
Director Kim Jee-woon’s acclaimed action-horror film “I Saw the Devil” is a shockingly violent revenge story.
The film stars Lee Byung-hun as Kim Soo-hyeon, a highly trained National Intelligence Service agent whose fiance’s dismembered body is found floating in a river. Choi Min-sik of “Oldboy” fame plays Kyung-Chul, the sadistic serial killer who deservedly finds himself the target of Byung-hun’s bloodlust.
“I Saw the Devil” is a gruesome, pessimistic game of cat-and-mouse that manages to both disturb and excite, and its conclusion will leave you pondering the ramifications of revenge and whether it has any true winners.
“Bedevilled” (2010) – South Korea
“Bedevilled” is the rare slasher film that makes you empathize with the killer and despise the protagonist.
Jang Cheol-soo’s directorial debut follows Hae-won, a cold, apathetic woman who, after being fired from her bank job, decides to visit her childhood friend at her home on an underdeveloped island. There, she reunites with Bok-nam (Seo Young-hee), a friendly housewife who is worked like a slave by her husband and brutally abused by her family and neighbors.
When Bok-nam is finally pushed too far, she goes on a violent killing spree that may leave viewers conflicted on who to root for.
The Sadness (2021) – Taiwan
Possibly one of the most gratuitously violent films many will ever see, “The Sadness” is not for the easily queasy or the faint of heart.
A pseudo-zombie movie, the film takes place in Taipei as the city rapidly spirals into chaos by a viral pandemic that turns people into sadistic killers hell-bent on causing as much suffering as possible. As their neighbors succumb to the infections, a young couple fight to reunite with one another before they fall victim to the vicious infected roaming the streets – or become infected themselves.
“Incantation” (2022) – Taiwan
A found footage psychological horror, “Incantation” is so unsettling that the film became the subject of a TikTok trend this year where viewers challenged each other to watch the entire film without pausing or looking away.
“Incantation” is narrated by a woman named Li Ronan (Hsuan-yen Tsai), a mother trying to cure her 6-year-old daughter, Dodo (Huang Sin-ting), of a horrible supernatural affliction. She asks the viewer to memorize a symbol and chant an incantation throughout the film, claiming that participation in the prayer will send blessings to Dodo and help lift the curse. As the film travels back to before Dodo’s birth, viewers are shown the source of the curse and what Ronan goes through to cure her.
A shocking revelation will leave viewers with a sense of dread that remains long after the credits roll.
“Dream Home” (2010) – Hong Kong
Another femme-fatale slasher for the list, Pang Ho-cheung’s “Dream Home” is a macabre social commentary on Hong Kong’s inflated property market, which has drawn comparisons from viewers to the 2000 cult classic slasher “American Psycho.”
“Dream Home” stars Josie Ho as Cheng Lai-sheung, a woman with aspirations to buy her own apartment in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour. She is forced to work two jobs to work multiple jobs to support herself and her terminally ill father, and the bank is only willing to offer her a 70-percent mortgage at astronomical payment rates.
As an increasing number of obstacles continue to impede her from purchasing her dream home, Lai-sheung’s frustration reaches a boiling point that sees her going on a rampage in the very apartment building she so badly wishes to live in.
“Perfect Blue” (1997) – Japan
A critique of consumerism and idol culture, “Perfect Blue” is an animated psychological thriller about a J-pop idol named Mima (Junko Iwao, Bridget Hoffman) who leaves her group to become an actor.
Pursued by an obsessive stalker and disturbed by a website written by an imposter that journals intimate details of her life, Mima’s mental stability begins to decline. She starts to confuse her performances with reality, and this is further exacerbated by a series of murders related to her work as an actor, worsening her hallucinations and causing both Mima and the viewer to question whether she is the one responsible for the killings.
“Audition” (1999) – Japan
“Audition” is the ultimate cautionary tale about ignoring red flags.
The film follows Shigeharu Aoyama, an aging widower whose son encourages him to find a new wife. With the help of a film producer friend, Shigeharu holds a fake casting call for young women to audition to be his new wife. Creepy methods aside, Shigeharu is captivated by a woman named Asami Yamazaki. Although all of the references Asami provided lead to a dead end, Shigeharu pursues her, which will eventually lead him to discover Asami’s true nature the hard way.
“Audition” is a horror classic, with disturbing elements of body horror and brutal torture that inspired films like the “Hostel” series.
“Tumbbad” (2018) – India
Shot in the real Maharashtra village of the same name, “Tumbbad” plays on local folktales to craft a frightening narrative that feels both nightmarish and precautionary.
The villagers of Tumbbad have angered the gods by building a temple dedicated to Hastar, a god who was to be forgotten by history after stealing gold from his mother, the Goddess of Prosperity. A man named Vinayak learns of a well that harbors Hastar, which promises riches but threatens to turn any person who touches it into a horrible monster. The desperate man and his son devise a method to distract the forgotten god and steal gold from its loincloth, but greed may prove to be too strong a temptation.
“Macabre” (2009) – Indonesia
A cult classic slasher film clearly inspired by “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Macabre” nails every aspect of the genre fans expect to see.
When a group of friends are tricked by a woman into taking her to her family’s home in the middle of nowhere, they quickly learn that the family plans to have them for dinner — literally.
Led by the terrifying matriarch Dara (Shareefa Daanish), the family tear into the unsuspecting Good Samaritans, who try desperately to escape their cannibalistic captors.
“Kuwaresma” (2019) – Philippines
“Kuwaresma” is a film fueled by familial dysfunction that excels in dispensing discomfort.
Returning home after the death of his twin sister, Luis Fajardo (Kent Gonzales) quickly gets the sense that something isn’t right. His parents refuse to discuss the circumstances of his sister’s death, and he’s visited at night by her ghost, who both blames Luis for leaving her and guides him closer to the truth.
Fans of the paranormal and the uncomfortable dysfunction of Ari Aster’s 2018 film “Hereditary” can enjoy (or suffer through) the best of both in “Kuwaresma.” Although the film does admittedly get a bit convoluted, John Arcilla and Sharon Cuneta, who play Luis’ parents, carry the film with incredible performances that will leave chills down your spine.