I believe most of you have already come across an article with a similar title by JMH314. I commend him for coming up with a great list of overlooked Asian horror films and I take inspiration from his article idea. Although, I noticed how most of the films he wrote about were from Japan so I’ve done my best to mention one film from one country each. It’s a fair trade! Thus, as promised, I present to you 12 Asian horror films that sits behind the iron fence of mainstream gore fests.
1. Tomie (Japan)
OK OK, I’m a hypocrite. After remarking on how JMH314 mentioned most J-Horror films, here I am, starting the list with one from Japan itself. But nonetheless, it’s a kickstarter point because of the featured character I’m going to mention. You’ve heard of Sadako and Kayako, yes? Japan’s very own silky long-haired ghostly slayers? Their names have become quite a household item since Ringu and Ju-on were released chronologically. But have you ever met their middle sister, Tomie? No? Well, based on the manga by Junji Ito (creator of Uzumaki), Tomie is a 1998 film about the murder of a high school girl named Tomie (obviously).
What sets Tomie apart from her well-known sisters is that she isn’t your typical vengeful spirit or tortured soul. She isn’t a ghost in the first place. In the manga, Tomie is described as an entity that embodies the meanings of lust, greed, envy and eternal suffering and she wants nothing more than to bring chaos and violence to the people who fall in love with her. She is self-destructive yet she can survive anything and can even regenerate, making her own existence a curse itself. The film follows a detective investigating a string of murders and an art student treated for amnesia. Having no memory of the three month period around Tomie’s death, the art student believes something supernatural is the cause.
2. Giữa hai thế giới a.k.a Between Two Worlds (Vietnam)
Between Two Worlds is a 2011 Vietnamese psychological horror that follows a young and beautiful woman who commits suicide because of depression. Fortunately, she didn’t die and ended up marrying a wealthy man, making her hope that life would be better. The film makes the whole chance scenario look like a normal process that can happen to anyone. What a shame. Living it big, she starts to encounter paranormal instances in her new home that somehow has a strange connection to her husband. Bet she didn’t expect that.
Vietnam isn’t really well-known for their horror films and if you’ve kept your eye on the news, back in 2007 the country’s authorities actually warned film makers against the making of films of the genre. So, their list is quite limited and the exposure to their industry is minimal. I’ve yet to watch Bay cap 3 (High School Trap), a Vietnamese teen slasher film that was banned from Vietnam theaters back in May 2012.
3. The Healing (Philippines)
I think I’ve previously mentioned how the Philippines has lost its touch in delivering original horror plots and the small number of really good films it has to bring the film industry’s back on its feet. One of the films I give credit for lifting the Philippines a bit higher on the shelf is last year’s The Healing directed Chito S. Roño. The film begins with Seth and her father, who had suffered from a stroke, waiting in line to be cured by a rumored faith healer, Manang Elsa. Non-believing at first, Seth and everyone else in their town were astounded when the father had regained his strength and begins to party and go back to his old drinking ways.
One thing led to another, Seth’s neighbors, friends and even her son all ask for her help to take them to be healed by Manang Elsa. Just like Seth’s old man, everyone else was healed the following day but then, Seth starts to notice the strange changes in their behavior. Until one night, one of the healed neighbors stabs a passer-by and then slashes her own neck. From here, the murders begin and those who were healed were the ones committing it. The Healing is full-on supernatural, accompanied by disturbingly fun and frightening scenes and a plot twist that impressively unfolds towards the end.
4. Whispering Corridors: Voice (South Korea)
Voice was the fourth entry in the Whispering Corridors series and was released in 2005, debuting three actresses and the director itself. The film takes on a unique move as the progress of the story is shown from the perspective of the ghost itself. The main character is murdered in the beginning by a music sheet cutting her throat and being a spirit who can’t move on, she seeks the help of her friend who seems to be the only one who can hear her. The story progresses as we see how the ghost goes through several flashbacks, twists and turns to unravel the identity and motive of her murderer.
But something else walks amidst the astral plane with her, another spirit haunting her and the school. Honestly, I enjoyed Voice more than any of the Whispering Corridors films because of the direction the filming crew took and confusing plot that will leave you mindf*cked towards the end. The film is not frightening per se as the approach is from the ghost’s point of view but it is disturbing because we witness how spirits who were killed prior end up having no memory of what was done to them and who did it and we see how the mystery unfolds and intertwines amazingly.
5. Coming Soon (Thailand)
If Japan is known for its lovely ladies like Tomie and Sadako, Thailand has their very own beauty queen of fright. Shomba is the main star, or so you can say, of this 2008 Thai horror film. It centers on Shane, a debt ridden theater projectionist who bootlegs a much-hyped Thai horror to earn some money.
The film in the film (film-ception) is about a vengeful spirit of a crazed woman who was hanged after getting caught red-handed for abducting and blinding children. His friend, who decided to tape the movie first, suddenly disappears in the theater one night and is found inside the movie with his eyes gouged out. With the bootlegged film missing, Shane begins to encounter Shomba, the malevolent antagonist of that film, in several places and embarks on a mission to uncover the terrible secret behind the haunted movie.
6. Nightmare (China)
Not to be confused with another horror film of the same name and country. Just like Vietnam, Chinese authorities constantly bombards the film industry with warnings and strict rules on enforcing directors to stray away from so-called extreme horror and skinning it until it’s left with a psychological drag. Trying their best to harvest different themes with the method of horror, Nightmare is a 2011 film that embodies the determination to deliver legitimate scares despite the limitations.
The films follows a doctor, Fang Lei, who suffers from violents dreams and suspects that she might be a frequent sleepwalker. She is haunted by the memories of her parents’ deaths and is stalked by the usual long-haired ghost girl. As things get complicated, she runs into an old friend, Angel who is married to her once first love, Zhou Feng. Unfortunately, Zhou disappears and suspecting foul play, Fang Lei’s nightmares get worse and she starts to lose herself.
7. Possessed (Malaysia)
I’ve just recently acquired this film and I’ve yet to watch it, so expect a review on this soon. Possessed is a 2006 Malaysian film that centers on two sisters, Amber and Lisu, who travel to Malaysia from China to pursue their modelling and singing careers. Until one day, Lisu goes missing and Amber falls into a coma. Sent back to China for treatment, Amber wakes up after five months and has no recollection of her past and anyone else.
Her boyfriend decides to take her to Malaysia to help regain her memories. Once there, she starts getting nightmares and stumbles upon a photo of her and Lisu. Now determined to search for her, she encounters William who claims himself to be Lisu’s ex-lover. Bizarre things start to happen as Amber starts having visions of her sister and her nightmares become more violent.
8. Invitation Only (Taiwan)
This is by far one of my favorite slasher horror film made. Taiwan was actually proud to release Invitation Only and marketed it as the country’s very first Slasher. So, expectations were high prior to its release. The motives of the plot is original and disturbing and it takes a complete turn on conventional antagonists. And for the guys, you’d be surprised that this film was actually Maria Ozawa’s film debut. Spoiler Alert: She shows more than just bewbs. If you watch it, you’ll see what I mean. Invitation Only is 2009 Taiwanese horror that features Bryant Chang as Wade Chen.
Wade works for a rich CEO, Mr. Yang and one day, he rewards Wade’s work performance by sending him to an exclusive party on company money. Wade attends the party and his life instantly changes in a span of a few hours into the night. Until the guests at the party are somehow strategically hunted down and killed (gloriously) by a masked murderer. There’s more to the story and I don’t think my description can justify it.
9. Haunted 3D (India)
In 2011, India spoke high of Haunted 3D and marketed it as the country’s first “stereoscopic 3D horror”. In all honesty, I don’t favor 3D at all and I don’t think it can enhance a horror film or any other film in any aspect. Somehow, it just isn’t my thing.
The film is about Rehan, who was sent by his father to investigate a mansion for real estate business purposes. His investigation includes Rehan staying at the mansion for a few days before it is sold off. But mysterious things happen one night and Rehan is determined to uncover the truth behind the hauntings.
10. Ghost Child (Singapore)
Just recently released last March, Ghost Child is Singaporean horror that stars Chen Hanwei and Carmen Soo. It revolves around a widower named Choon who is soon to marry Na, a woman whom he saved from Indonesian bandits. As she moves in with Choon and Choon’s teenage daughter, she brings with her a strange urn.
As usual, strange things start to happen and Choon’s mother suddenly gets injured for no reason. Choon’s daughter, Kim, first suspects the hauntings were the doing of her dead mother but when she discovers the “urn” and its contents, Kim attempts to get rid of it.
11. The Witness (Indonesia)
In association with the Philippine production house, GMA films, The Witness is 2012 horror-action films that follows Angel, a Filipino hotel assistant manager, who moves to Jakarta to be with her family. There, she is suddenly haunted by a recurring nightmare of man committing suicide. One unfortunate day, her whole family is massacred and she is suddenly chased and shot down by a killer.
Although, she manages to survive and has a vivid memory of the perpetrator. Angel then starts to see apparitions of her sister and the events that led to their death and with the help of a detective, she follows the trails of her sister’s apparitions that eventually lead to the killer himself.
12. Dead Sands (Bahrain)
OK, this entry is a little misleading due to fact that the film hasn’t released yet and is scheduled to show sometime this year. Nonetheless, I have to commend it due to it being the first horror film to come from the Arabian Gulf (which is still a part of Asia, mind you). Hailing from the Kingdom of Bahrain comes the first full-fledged zombie horror film.
The film follows seven strangers brought together by chance in the uproar of a viral outbreak. As the story progresses, the characters must “survive not only a horde of the undead but their own differences and prejudices as well.”
Honorable Mentions: Ju-on: White Ghost (Japan), Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait (South Korea), The Victim (Thailand), The Closet (China), Good Will Evil (Taiwan), Ghost On Air (Singapore)
End! I hope you enjoyed the concise post of my list of obscure Asian horror films. Now I must challenge you, dear reader: tell me something that I don’t know yet and comment below your short list of overlooked Asian horror films. Ganbatte-ne!