Best Asian Horror Films This 2024: Can You Watch Them All?
Asia/ Vibe/ Pop Culture

Scariest Asian Horror Films: Can You Watch Them All?

Horror Films Challenge Can You Watch Them All 2 1

Need an adrenaline rush? The Beat Asia has compiled some of the best, scariest Asian horror movies for your viewing displeasure. Are you up for the challenge?

We’ve gathered some classic and newer horror films that define the genre, featuring movies from Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Indonesia.

While we also appreciate zombie (and other monster) flicks, slasher thrillers, and gore-core movies that will make you question finishing that popcorn bucket, this list dives into paranormal, supernatural, demonic, and found-footage films that focus on the psychological and cultural (including religious aspects). So while this list packs some serious jumpscares and a lot of running, you might not encounter some cliché scenes – such as a boss battle with the monster, final girl escape moments, and creative forms of torture. But emphasis on “might,” we don’t want to give anything away after all.

Without further ado, grab your friends, maybe some popcorn, and grab a blanket – or maybe forget the blanket, trust us – and watch this list at your own risk.

#10: Soul or Roh (2019) – Malaysia

IMDb: 6/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%

Directed by Emir Ezwan, Roh centers around a family living in the forest. The mom, Mak, and her two children, Along and Angah, lead a simple life which is suddenly upended when they take in a seemingly lost girl they named “Adik (or little sibling in Malay).” As she bestows a horrific prediction upon the family, they choose to live in ignorance until they are forced to face the truth.

Most of us have probably considered giving up on this concrete rat race and just living in the mountains, isolated from the hustle, bustle, and stress. But as Roh depicts, life is never simple, and things are never as they appear. With its masterful atmospheric shots, get immersed in the film’s quiet (too quiet) ambiance – one that will leave you thinking whether life in the forest would be like a live version of FarmVille or you'd be vulnerable like never before, watching your back every two minutes, driven nearly-wild with suspicion?

This Malay folk horror manages to evoke the helpless feeling of being alone in the wilderness as danger hovers around and looms over you. Unlike your typical survival thrillers, the question here is not whether you can drink your pee Bear Grylls-style, but who do you turn to? Who can you trust? Beyond unsettling, Roh manages to make its audience nervous within the first minute – and you never feel relaxed until it ends. By the time the end credits roll, you’re already reconsidering that farm retirement plan.

Stream Roh on Netflix.

#9: Eerie (2018) – Philippines

IMDb: 4.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes: N/A

Clairvoyant guidance counselor Pat Consolacion strives to uncover the mystery behind a student’s death, leading her to a former student who also met her demise in the school. Using her unique ability, Pat determinedly works to reveal the school’s secrets even as the strict school principal, Mother Alice, watches her closely.

Set in an old, all-girls Catholic school, Eerie is a mystery thriller that takes full advantage of the haunted-holy-place trope. As some of us have firsthand experience of creepy Catholic schools, we confess that this movie felt all too familiar – and therefore, a tad scarier. Director Mikhail Red sets a dark and (we can’t help it) eerie atmosphere early in the film, slowly building up on the tension until it’s so thick you can practically cut it with a knife. While the film’s reveal and subsequent scenes nearly destroy the delicate accumulation of suspense, it is still worth noting and including in our list. After all, any movie that would make you scared of going to the bathroom is a movie that’s achieved its mission.

Stream Eerie on Netflix.

#8: The Eye (2002) – Hong Kong

IMDb: 6.6/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 64%

20-year-old violinist Wong Kar Mun has been blind for nearly her entire life. After undergoing a corneal transplant, she could finally see again. But since she regained her vision, Mun has been seeing ghosts. Desperate to put an end to the horror, she investigates her cornea donor’s past.

Released over two decades ago, this classic film still holds up. The Eye doesn’t deliver a ton of scares and even features several heartwarming and tear-jerking scenes, quite unusual for a horror flick. But the scares that they did drop were delivered really well. That elevator scene, for one, is something that still haunts our nightmares. Confession time, it’s the reason why we ride the elevator with our backs pressed against the wall.

The Eye’s third act, however, is truly unconventional. Most horror fanatics are used to films that pack a punch all the way to the end. In fact, the best ones are the movies that haunt you long after it ends. But this film took its foot off the gas and allowed the audience to ride smoothly until the end, which is why – while we love this film – it doesn’t rank as high as its counterparts.

Stream The Eye on Netflix or Disney+

#7: Incantation (2022) – Taiwan

IMDb: 6.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 75%

Based on a true story, the story follows Li Ronan who went to a remote mountain village with her boyfriend Dom and Yuan, Dom’s cousin. They broke a serious taboo while trying to document the ritual and the consequences continue to haunt Ronan six years later. With her daughter’s life in grave danger, Ronan does everything she can to protect her child, even if she must go back to where it all started.

One of the newer films on this list, Incantation starts with Ronan addressing the audience directly. We found this to be somewhat different from other found footage films as she commands people watching to follow her chants and instructions, knowingly speaking to an audience as opposed to similar films wherein the characters speak to a potential audience. We’re all familiar with the intro: “If someone finds this…”

Incantation, however, has the audience reeled in and hooked within the first minute of the movie – and we’d be lying if we said this methodology yielded zero effects on us. The chant, Ronan assured, is meant to protect the audience and as it (and the rune) frequently pops up throughout the movie, it’s nearly impossible to get them out of your head.

Starting from that first scene, the film never lets up as the tension exponentially builds. The movie goes back and forth between Ronan’s current situation with her daughter, Dodo, and their careless mistake six years ago, pulling the audience from both ends. On one end, you want to feel bad for the young mother who’s run ragged as she tries to save her child while she also tries to heal herself from the trauma. But her younger self would leave you feeling frustrated, and her present self is not perfect either. When the movie ends, you either hate her or admire her tenacity. Some scenes benefited from the extended stillness and the audience was forced to marinate in the tension, but we feel the film – with its running time of 111 minutes – ran a bit too long.

Stream Incantation on Netflix.

#6: The Medium (2021) – Thailand & South Korea

IMDb: 6.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%

A documentary team travels to Isan, Thailand, and interviews Nim, a shaman (or the titular medium) who serves a Goddess, Ba Yan. When a family member, Mink, starts behaving strangely, the family suspects she’s the next in line to be Ba Yan’s medium. As the film goes on, it’s clear that Mink is possessed – but is it by Ba Yan?

The Medium starts off slowly, with some short unnerving scenes here and there. Once the possession progresses, however, and more details come to light, the audience is taken on a rollercoaster ride. With its many twists and turns, the film never lets you relax for even a second. The scenes get wilder and more insane; you’re forced to the edge of your seat and viscerally recoiling simultaneously.

As Nim does everything in her power to save her niece, the audience is forcefully grabbing the rollercoaster harness, praying like hell that the ride will end soon. But prayers may not be enough and even if you’re not a person of faith, this film leaves you feeling powerless as the life of every single character is left to fate and the will of the Gods. It’s like riding a coaster that throws your cart into complete darkness. Is your faith stronger than fate?

Buy The Medium from Google Play.

#5: Ju-on: The Grudge (2002) – Japan

IMDb: 6.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%

As far as summaries go, this film may have the simplest one. On IMDb, Ju-on: The Grudge is about “a mysterious and vengeful spirit [that] marks and pursues anybody who dares enter the house in which it resides.”

Considering horror film standards, the summary may seem ordinary. But the movie managed to deliver scares that continue to haunt its audience decades after its release. For the most part, the audience can’t feel anything but helpless as this ghost with a…grudge (yes, we went there) terrorizes everyone it comes across.

Wrong place, wrong time…and that may be the end of you. How scary is that thought? Most people believe that karma is real and bad things (like ghosts haunting you) would never happen if you’ve done nothing wrong. We also would like to think that there are safe spaces that we could run to if we get scared. For some, there are churches and prayers. But one universal port in the storm is under the blanket, so could you imagine what it would be like if that place wasn’t safe? No wonder this movie has traumatized generations – including us, unfortunately.

Rent Ju-on: The Grudge on AppleTV+

#4: Gonjiam: The Haunted Asylum (2018) – South Korea

IMDb: 6.4/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

At the center of this film is the eponymous Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital which has been abandoned for decades, naturally creating rumors that the place is haunted. After some teenagers go missing exploring Gonjiam, YouTuber Ha-Joon gathers several people to explore the hospital and broadcast their adventure live. The livestream starts like any other, just a group of young adults having fun. But they soon realize that the evils hidden within Gonjiam are not to be messed with.

After the teens go missing, Gonjiam: The Haunted Asylum finally reveals the main characters. They drink, chat about their backgrounds, and even go have fun in the lake. As the audience, you know the scare will happen soon and this light introduction is setting you up to feel even worse when it comes. True enough, things never return to normal once they enter the hospital premises. Making full use of their first-person POV go-pro set-ups, the film manages to immerse its viewers, making you feel every bit of the scares as if you’re there with them. And the scares are not cheap. No spoilers, so you’ll just have to prepare…somehow.

One by one, no one is safe, and you watch them experience the FAFO rule in all its glory. While you want to feel bad, you also know that they shouldn’t have meddled with supernatural forces…just for content. At the risk of sounding like a Boomer, we were somewhat thrilled that they got exactly what they came for. If anything, this movie is just a reminder. Sometimes, the content is just not worth the risk. Keep safe, kids. Oh, and don’t enter Room 402.

Stream Gonjiam: The Haunted Asylum on Netflix. Or buy from Google Play.

#3: Noroi: The Curse (2005) – Japan

IMDb: 6.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes: N/A

With a running time of 115 minutes, Noroi: The Curse is a tad hard to digest, let alone condense into a summary. On IMDb, the film is said to be about a “documentary filmmaker [who] explores seemingly unrelated paranormal incidents connected by the legend of an ancient demon called ‘Kagutaba.’”

This is an ultra-simplified version of the story; the reality is you’re caught in a two-hour boat ride in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – no way out and your head is spinning from the massive waves. After all, the film starts with the end: a house in flames, a missing person, and another person found burnt to crisp in the house’s charred remains. Kobayashi, Noroi’s main character, is then revealed to be a prominent paranormal journalist who was working on a documentary before the incident. The film then proceeds to reveal the documentary he was working on.

Noroi doesn’t have a lot of heart attack-inducing jumpscares. In fact, most of the film stays true to its documentary-style format. The main evil, Kagutaba, is only revealed halfway through the film, and even then, Noroi focuses on its origins and subsequent rituals. Those looking for intense scares may be tempted to leave an hour into the film, but we implore you to watch all the way to the end. Compared to Western standards, this isn’t your typical horror movie. But Noroi relentlessly gives you the creeps and sticks with you after it ends. So much so that even those who don’t believe in demons will flinch in abject horror as Kagutaba spreads evil all around.

Noroi: The Curse may be available to watch on Amazon Prime (select countries).

#2: Ringu or The Ring (1998) – Japan

IMDb: 7.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

One urban legend circulating in Japan is that there’s a cursed videotape that kills whoever watches it within seven days. After several deaths, Reiko (who is a journalist and a victim’s aunt), investigates with her ex-husband Ryuji, hoping to stop the curse before their son, Yoichi, is killed.

The Ring, the original Japanese version, is another classic that has terrified generations. People would jump at the sound of a telephone ringing, televisions were covered with blankets, and children would shriek at the sight of television static. It was that iconic – and it still is. Ringu was released nearly three decades ago, but it continues to define Japanese Horror (J-Horror) to this day.

By using technology as a means of spreading horror – a VHS tape containing the curse, a warning through a phone call, and CRT television sets bringing the curse to life – Ringu made its audience paranoid that the curse would eventually find them as these technologies were ubiquitous already. The movie captured the world’s attention and shone a spotlight on the world of Asian horror. Don’t get us wrong, The Ring makes the cut not just because of its notoriety and legendary status. Even with newer films with fancier effects, only a few can truly say they’re better than Ringu (not even the American version holds a candle). We confess this film was one we were not so eager to rewatch – Ringu’s scariest imageries are etched into our brains – but we had to…for science. And we, once again, relived the trauma of seeing the infamous Sadako.

Stream on AMC+ or Shudder. Or rent from AppleTV+.

#1: Shutter (2004) – Thailand

IMDb: 7/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 63%

After getting involved in a car accident, a young couple – Tun and Jane – finds mysterious shadows in their photographs. As the ghostly figure continues to appear in their photographs, they investigate this phenomenon and discover that your past will always continue to haunt you.

Shutter, in terms of scares, can more than hold its own against numerous horror films across Asia. While several scenes in the film rely on predictable jumpscares, they can undoubtedly still make your blood curdle. After all, if they happened to you in real life, would you still react nonchalantly? Or would you run for your life and scream your lungs out? It’s not so easy to act tough if you think this could happen to you. Fortunately, though, as the film reveals the backstory, you may relax a little. This list has seen its fair share of malevolent spirits, some more arbitrary than others in their quest for revenge, but Shutter leads us to believe in karma. In fact, at some point, you may even say: “Deserve.”

If we compare critical success, other films clearly rank higher than Shutter. But we find that its iconic reveal was immensely effective, having rendered multiple generations traumatized. Yes, including us. After 20 years, this Thai horror classic is still etched in our minds…and body pain is never the same again. Polaroids, too.

Stream Shutter on Amazon Prime, Kanopy, or Hoopla, or rent on AppleTV+

Notable Mentions:

With the vast number of options for good Asian horror films, it was truly a challenge to narrow the list down to 10. We have several runner-ups that also deserve recognition and we’ll be including some on this list. We advise you against dismissing these, there’s a reason why they’re also included. Maybe just think of it as a “Choose Your Poison” situation if you’re determined to only watch 10 movies.

Coming Soon (2008) - Thailand

With a poster like that, how could you not expect a truly terrifying movie? If you prefer films that will have you screaming, covering your eyes, and jumping in shock then this film is right up your alley. Coming Soon will not leave you hanging in terms of horror – from beginning to end, this film is chockful of scares. The movie-inside-a-movie format doesn’t always work out, but as the title implies, this was integral to the story. For those who watched this in the cinema, like us, we understand your trauma.

Stream Coming Soon on Amazon Prime or rent on AppleTV+.

Satan’s Slaves (2017) – Indonesia

This 2017 remake of the 1980 version of the same name was the highest-grossing local film that year. Directed by Joko Anwar, Satan’s Slaves is centered around a quintessential Indonesian family in the 80s. The matriarch is ill and the family experiences some strange horrors in the time leading up to her death and after. This movie doesn’t hide its intentions with a title as in-your-face as “Satan’s Slaves,” but the scares are perfectly executed.

Stream Satan’s Slaves on AMC+ or Shudder or rent on AppleTV+ or Google Play.

Impetigore (2019) – Indonesia

Another Joko Anwar masterpiece, Impetigore takes the audience deep within the Indonesian jungles. Unlike most films that tend to build on a context or story, this one starts with an attempted murder in the most unlikely set-up: a highway tollbooth. Before the audience can even react or begin to understand what’s going on, the attacker is dead. Beyond the initial shock, however, Impetigore delivers some serious scares, well-crafted cinematography, stunning wayang kulit puppetry, and gore that will make your skin crawl. We’d say refuse any inherited mansions in the middle of nowhere, but as the film reveals, you can never truly escape a curse.

Stream Impetigore on AMC+ or Shudder or Hoopla or rent on AppleTV+ or Google Play.

Get the latest curated content with The Beat Asia's newsletters. Sign up now for a weekly dose of the best stories, events, and deals delivered straight to your inbox. Don't miss out! Click here to subscribe.

Sign up to receive updates on what's going on in the city. Don't miss out on exciting events, news, and more. Sign up today!

By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice
Thank you for subscribing! Click here if you were not redirected.