10 Asian “Horrors” You Should Watch

10) Suicide Club – Shion Sono – 2001 (Japanese)

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Pure ridiculousness. Pure Stupid. Doesn’t even really make sense, but still a million times better than a “Western” horror movie that doesn’t really make sense. It has a pretty good message underneath that they’re trying to convey. And an Asian guy doing his best Tim Curry ala Rocky Horror Picture Show impersonation. Brilliant. And totally random. It’s exactly the random bits about the plot that really stick with you and that’s why I chose this to be #10 out of all other bad-ish Asian horrors. An independently made film, Suicide Club gained notoriety for it’s subject matter critiquing popular culture, and general bloody nature. Detectives attempt to uncover the mystery of seemingly interrelated yet unconnected suicides throughout town.

9) Memories of Murder – Joon-Ho Bong – 2003 (Korean) 

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Wonderful. Based on true events following the country’s first documented serial-murders. It’s the Korean version of Zodiac. And does a very good job when it comes to the small-town cops and their not-so by the book tactics. How far do you go to stop a murderer? So many red-herrings and so many possible suspects. Plus the cinematography at times really is very beautiful. You fall in love with the characters too, you can’t really help it. They do an excellent job at making (most) well rounded and un-static as if to say everyone is being affected by the murders plaguing the town.

8) Thirst – Chan Wook Park – 2009 (Korean)

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No Asian horror/thirller list would be complete without a film by Chan Wook Park on it. The director of Oldboy’s and the subsequent Vengeance trilogy’s take on the Vampire movie. A priest becomes a vampire through a failed medical experiment. Just the kind of sick twist you’d expect and of course all the levels of gore and depravity are there. Park excels in blurring the genre line in his films and Thirst is no exception: equal parts thriller, horror and love story, Thirst is definitely worth a look.

7) Oldboy –Chan Wook Park – 2003 (Korean)

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A staple of any Korean film fanatic. Arguably not a horror film but with enough blood, depravity, distributing-ness and twists and turns to fit nicely into the category anyways. A must see. If someone could figure out the end before actually seeing it I’d give them a prize. The break through film for actor Min-Sik Choi, who comes up in a film further down on the list. Based on a Japanese Manga series by the same name, I tired to read it but the film really does such an excellent job with pacing and story that the Manga seemed slow and a bit boring… The plot follows Oh Dae-Su who was imprisoned for 15 years in a nondescript room without any explanation, he is just as suddenly released and given 5 days to figure out the puzzle. The second installment of the “Vengeance” Trilogy.

6)The Good, The Bad and The Weird – Jee-Woon Kim – 2008 (Korean)

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If talking about Korean movies, this film would be closer to number 1, but since this convoluted list is about horror films, it doesn’t really fit. But it would be a bit of a crime not to mention this beauty. Also a good intro to Jee-Woon Kim. Like Chan Wook Park, Kim has made quite a name for himself in the film world. If anyone said they were doing a re-make/reinterpretation of Sergio’s  classic “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” I would scoff. However, this Korean interpretation is excellent and utterly fascinating to watch. Kim excels in blurring the lines between his characters… who is good, who is bad and who is weird? Includes the usual suspects: A Bandit, an outlaw and a bounty hunter all searching after some long lost treasure.

5)Uzumaki – Higuchinsky – 2000 (Japanese)

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Although the Manga is SUPERIOR, the film is also an interesting watch. I swear you will never find anything like this. The film follows a town spinning (sorry) out of control because of spirals.  That’s right, Spirals. Bizarre and wonderful. But the manga really is about 10X more disturbing (the film doesn’t include crazy-zombie-placenta-spiral babies for example). However, I feel that if you hadn’t read the manga first, like I had, this would still be quite a surprising film. I’ll bet you wont be able to look at a spiral the same way ever again.

4)Battle Royale – Kinji Fukasaku – 2000 (Japanese)

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Completely ridiculous. A class of school children are abducted overnight and forced to kill each other off until only one survives (there is an attempted explanation to this). Watch in joy as a class of school children are murdered one by one as “only one can survive”. This is not a movie with any empathy, and is really meant to be kind of hilarious (if you have that sick sense of humor).  I swear The Hunger Games is just a rip-off of this gem, but I mean… North America Steals everything from Japan so it’s not all that surprising. Battle Royale is based on a 1999 novel of the same name so now I know Stephanie Collins stole it since her novel wasn’t even published until 2008. That was a diatribe, but I just want everyone to know!

3) Survive Style 5+ – Gen Sekiguchi – 2004 (Japanese)

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While not technically a “horror” movie, again, it does have horror elements, and violence. This is like a Japanese random version of Guy Richie’s Snatch. With sets that would make Wes Anderson drool. 5 unrelated but interrelated stories. Plus it has Vinny Jones playing a British Hit-man. Wonderful. One of the strangest and best movies I think I’ve ever seen. I really can’t explain the film anymore than that as it would give away some of the brilliant twists and surprises.

2) Tale of Two Sisters – Jee-Woon Kim – 2003 (Korean)

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A true gem. This film was remade (filmed in my hometown, actually) but it was terrible. It lacked all the subtlety and finesse the original did. While Western Films revel in leaving the twist ‘til the end, this film isn’t about the “twist” and in fact several of the “twists” happen before the ending. Very well made, with a creepy Shinning-esque feel to it at times. This is the story of a family haunted by tragedy. This film is made in a Korean-Gothic style so it is very interesting to watch how the dichotomy of space affects the women in the house. If Edgar Allen Poe wrote a Korean Horror film, this would definitely be it.

1)I Saw the Devil – Jee-Woon Kim – 2010 (Korean)

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It was really between this film and Tale of two sisters for the place at the top. I choose this one, however, because of how it makes you feel as the audience. Your sympathies twist and turn and where you stand on what you think is “right” is thrown upside-down, and maybe even out the window. This is a talent Jee Woon Kim really excels at when it comes to filmmaking. This film is about a secret agent (working on a completely unrelated case) whose finance becomes the latest victim of a serial killer stalking the area. He vows to take revenge times a thousand. The serial killer is played by the fabulous Min-Sik Choi from Oldboy. This film is disturbing, disgusting, and just what you’d want from a horror-revenge film.