Horror! What a wide and frightening genre that always leaves the audience with something to think about. In recent years, there has been a spike in international horror releases, a highly notable film is Parasite (2019) directed by the incredible Bong Joon-ho. Due to its success in western countries, more Asian horror films and series have received global praise (that was much overdue).
As an appreciator of fine cinema, I wanted to recommend some easy-to-access Asian horror films and dramas that hold a special place in my heart!
*All can be found on Netflix*
Squid Game (2021- )
created by Hwang Dong-hyuk
Quite possibly the most-streamed series in Netflix’s history, Squid Game is a brilliant example of the revolutionary Korean horror movement. With a mix of comedy, gore, passion, and an analysis of wealth, this series has everything anyone could ask for. As seen in Parasite, new-age Korean films delve into topics like wealth and capitalism, blurring the line between fantasy and reality. While the events in Squid Game seem intense and cruel, there is also an understanding that the whole “rich forcing the poor to kill for their amusement” isn’t too far off of where we are today. That’s what makes Korean horror so special.
Girl from Nowhere (2018- )
I am not joking when I say this is probably my favorite show of all time. Girl from Nowhere follows Nanno, most likely a demon of some sort, as she travels from Thai school to Thai school delivering the karma deserved to one or more of the students there. Something interesting about this series is the absence of a single creator or director. Each episode is directed by a different Thai filmmaker, showcasing the wide range of talent in Thailand. Girl from Nowhere does cover more graphic and serious topics, so I would suggest reading the descriptions of each episode before watching. However, the stories in each episode are beautiful and everyone loves a good revenge story. (Lucky for us too, season three has been confirmed!)
Alice in Borderland (2020- )
directed by Shinsuke Sato
I have to be honest, I have not watched Alice in Borderland yet. This show has been on my list for a very long time, and from the parts I have seen on various social media platforms, it is going to live up to all of my expectations. One of the main characters, Arisu, finds himself in an alternate version of Tokyo in which he and his friends must compete in various games to make it out alive. One thing about Japanese film (and literature) is the incredible visuals that accompany rich stories. It is very hard to be disappointed by Japanese horror, so we already know Alice in Borderland is going to be great!
Train to Busan (2016)
directed by Yeong Sang-ho
This is another one I haven’t fully watched yet, but it’s way too good for me to hold out any longer. In the other Korean horror films mentioned, the villains or monsters are the rich and those who take advantage of the poor, but in Train to Busan, we get some good zombie representation. Taking place on a speeding train, Gong Yoo and his daughter must survive the constant attacks of zombies due to an outbreak in the heart of South Korea. As this film has been out a little longer than the others mentioned, I have heard some wonderful reviews and am very excited to experience a zombie apocalypse but on a train!
#Alive (2020) directed by Il Cho
Sweet Home (2020-) directed by Lee Eung-bok
There we have it! A very surface-level look into Asian horror, but everyone needs a starting point. My hope is that international creators, directors, producers, casts, and all of the lovely people working on these pieces continue to be appreciated for their efforts. It’s easy to write off shows that require subtitles or dubs, but as the genius, Bong Joon-ho expressed in his Oscar’s acceptance speech:
“Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”