5 Notorious Asian Horror Movies Scarier Than Western Horror

You could argue that Asians are ten steps ahead of Hollywood in producing the most nightmare-fueling horror movies. Asian horror has been proven to be uncontrived, replete with simmering tension, and hyper-aware of the cultural context that feeds on one’s fear of something being too real. If you like slow-burn, unsettling horror movies, try watching these 5 Asian horror movies that are scarier than any Western horror!


1. Kairo (2001)

The 2000s was a period of rapid technological change, and with it were plenty of misgivings and wariness surrounding the use of technology– Kairo plays on this technological distrust as well as Japan’s true-to-life hikikomori (severe social isolation) phenomenon and flips the Internet into a gateway for vengeful souls that prey on loneliness. 

Why You Should Watch: The Internet knows this critically-acclaimed Japanese horror film best for its eerie scene regarding a certain wobbly, slow-moving ghost lady emerging from the dark. Many applaud this film for letting go of needless jumpscares that plague the genre; Kairo is chilling and nightmare-inducing in its own way.


2. Noroi: The Curse (2005)

This Japanese found-footage classic still holds up today and is shoulder-to-shoulder with the uptick in retro-style Asian horror games that may have just taken inspiration from movies like Noroi. A paranormal investigator documents several unearthly cases and uncovers the sinistral entity behind them, but it’s made known early in the film that our protagonist has disappeared.

Why You Should Watch: Noroi is more disturbing and upsetting than it is scary. If you like movies that have an open ending that you can’t draw your own conclusions from so you end up needing an “Ending Explained” video essay, you should give Noroi a go. 


3. The Medium (2021)

Many Thais, much like their Chinese ancestors, believe in worshiping ancestral spirits who, in turn, offer blessings and protection. The film is a Thai mockumentary set in a mountainside village where the deity Ba Yan resides. When the local shaman’s sister denies Ba Yan as a Christian convert, she unknowingly invites malevolent spirits into their lives.

Why You Should Watch: The Medium is not for kids or the faint of heart. The film has a range of mature themes and trigger warnings beyond gore and death. The Thai culture and the subculture of shamanism prominent in Thailand’s provinces add depth to the story and instill a deep-seated fear among Asians who share common experiences of mysticism, shamanism, and superstitions. 


4. The Wailing (2016)

A mysterious illness plagues a small remote town in South Korea, causing villagers to engage in mindless violence that results in the death of their families. Like The Medium, The Wailing brings faithlessness and religion into a new, darker light nestled in the milieu of Korea’s most common religions: Christianity, Buddhism, and Korean Shamanism. 

Why You Should Watch: Right from the beginning, you are reeled into the shocking, mostly upsetting mysteries of a rural town. This film is beloved for its well-executed drama, horror, and dark humor. The director of the film, Na, made sure that every scene was climactic to keep the audience at the edge of their seats 99% of the time.


5. Kuwaresma (2019)

Filipinos believe that during the Holy Week, when one mourns for Jesus Christ’s death, evil spirits become stronger and more powerful. Directed by Erik Matti, Kuwaresma takes flight with this superstition. A college student returns home to grieve his twin sister’s sudden and mysterious death, only to find his not-at-all-sorrowful parents and a demon inhabiting the family house.

Why You Should Watch: Though there is a roster, there aren’t a lot of Filipino horror movies that can terrify you as effectively as J-horror, but Kuwaresma is well-executed and flaunts the cast’s acting chops, hauntingly beautiful cinematography, and that unpredictable twisty ending. You can watch it on Netflix.

If you’re looking for slasher/ survival movies, check out these 5 Asian survival game shows to watch after Squid Game. Trying to get into Chinese horror films? How about these 5 Chinese horror flicks to watch this Halloween?

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