Asian Horror Films

Godzilla (1954)

Godzilla (1954)

The title of this movie should not be a stranger to anyone –the iconic giant monster is so famous that he is even known to people who have never seen a single Godzilla film (and there are many). The film series eventually transcends the horror genre and creates its own giant monster category (known as ‘kaiju’ in Japan –or more specifically, dai-kaiju), but it must be remembered that the very first Godzilla film was designed as a horror piece. In this movie, the giant monster was depicted as a mysterious but powerful destructive force that wrought death to the countryside. Aside from the amazing cinematography and effects for its time, Godzilla is still a great benchmark of how to do a proper monster horror movie.

The Housemaid (1960)

The Housemaid (1960)

This classic Korean film is a combination of domestic drama and psychological horror. When a family hires a housemaid, they quickly learn that they have gotten something far more than what they have bargained for. What makes this worse is that the daily stresses and problems of their everyday lives have made them too oblivious to notice anything strange about the housemaid, and even when they notice it, they are too tired and busy and question it further. Since this is a horror story, it does not take very long before boundaries are crossed and everyone is quickly brought to the limit. The film is incredibly heavy, with most of its darker undertones coming from the main characters instead of some outside force. At the same time, it is also a classic social commentary that pokes at the society’s way of handling domestic issues.

Onibaba (1964)

Halloween (1978)

This post-war period film is about a couple of women who resort to killing in order to survive. It is not too common for a suspense-horror film to show the movie from the perspective of the killers as it takes away any form of tension for the victims. But instead of making the viewers worry for the sake of their victims, the film focuses on the delicate and fragile relationship between the two women. Basically, the film is a countdown for how long until their volatile situation blows up on them –which it eventually does, and in a very heavy and disturbing manner.

House (1977)

House (1977)

This film makes it to our list not only for its horror value , but for the way it serves as one iconic example of how different films can be when they are made on the other side of the planet. Director-producer Nobuhiko Obayashi went to his then-preteen daughter, Chigumi Obayashi, to help him create a horror film. This movie is the result (Chigumi gets writer credits for House).

In the movie, a young girl and her five friends visit the house of her aunt for a quick vacation. But instead of having a relaxing time, they encounter a very malevolent and violent entity that wishes nothing but to kill them all. While the premise is the kind of stuff that fuels many cabin-style horror movies, the effects on this film was intentionally made to look unrealistic. It is this imbalance between the absurdity of the visuals combined with the horrific violence that tempers the overall mood of the movie.

Ring (1998)

Ring (1998)

Despite the movie being less than a couple of decade old, one can easily point out Ring as one of the most powerful horror movies ever made in Asia. This horror movie has helped re-establish how scary the supernatural can be. It is so influential that the movie has brought a resurgence of horror movies in the global region as well as inspiring many scenes in western films (there is even an entire Hollywood retelling of the Japanese film series).

While purist fans of the book in Japan may complain that the film adaptation may have changed a lot of details (character gender identities most notably), the movie is indeed for more frightening than the original book. In Ring, there is a cursed video tape that is said to kill whoever watches it after a period of seven days unless the viewer copies the tape and forces someone else to watch it.