Korean horror movies are in vogue today thanks to the release and success of Parasite, one of the most famous films thanks to the victory of several Oscars. In addition to making outstanding thrillers, South Korea also appears to be particularly adept at producing horror films. Numerous clichés of famous American horror films are at odds with the style of horror discovered in Korean cinema. Violence is treated in an artistic way, choreographed. There is no particular villain in these films. Everyone can be the bad guy.
Directors such as Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook have made a name for themselves in the Korean horror scene, using the category by producing their own films in an original way. Korean horror films provide hallucinatory views on the human condition. Here is an essential list of the best Korean horror movies to see made in the past few decades.
A Tale of 2 Sisters (2003)
A Tale of 2 Sisters is a drama and horror film inspired by a Joseon Dynasty folk tale. The film follows a newly released patient from a psychiatric institution with her sister, only to meet her stepmother and the spirits that haunt her home, all of whom have ties to the family’s troubled past.
A Tale of Two Sisters is one of the darkest and most puzzling Korean horror movies. Hollywood chose to remake it under the name The Uninvited. The film is quite creepy due to its use of color and music, which is a bit different than most horror movies. Surprise ending.
Acacia is a Korean horror film directed by Park Ki-Hyung about a happy couple living in a suburban area of the city who cannot have children. They go to the orphanage and adopt Jin-Seong (Mun Oh-Bin). After giving birth to their first child, the focus on Jin-Seong gradually fades, prompting him to leave, and the disturbing events begin, all starting with the acacia tree Jin-Seong played with.
The film’s soundtrack and sensational photography both heighten the tense mood produced by the story. Plus, the lead cast’s performance is impressive, especially Mun Oh-Bin, who provides a compelling and creepy role as a little star.
2003 revenge thriller Park Chan-wook‘s “Oldboy”. Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) was imprisoned in the exact same space for 15 years. He has no idea who imprisoned him or why. One day, he is released spontaneously, which starts the search for those who ruined his life so that he can enact his revenge. Along the way, Dae-su falls in love with a young chef, which complicates his preparation for revenge.
This is a film full of twists, turns, conspiracies and lies; when you think you understand where the movie is going, Park turns your expectations upside down. Park is an exceptionally gifted director and records the subtlety and complexity of revenge, a style that he expands into the rest of his Revenge Trilogy, which consists of “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” and “Lady Vengeance”.
Wanting Stairs (2003)
Yun Jae-yeon, the only female director on this list, directed the 2003 ghost story “Wishing Stairs,” which takes place in an all-girls art school. It is the third film in the “Whispering Corridors” series, however it has no connection with the previous 2 films.
In “Wishing Stairs” if you walk up a particular flight of stairs and find the 29th staircase, you can grant a wish. Meanwhile, a fierce competition rages between friends Yun Jin-sung (Song Ji-hyo) and Kim So-hee (Park Han-byul) as they vie for places in a major ballet academy. Jing-sung tries the stairs technique and discovers it is true, so he wants admission to the dance school. But nothing is as it seems. Jing-sung quickly regrets his actions. This is not simply one of the Korean horror films about an urban myth, but a story about jealousy and the violence of competition.
The Red Shoes (2005)
The Red Shoes is a Korean horror film influenced by Hans Christian Andersen’s 1845 short story of the same name. The film follows Sun-Jae (Kim Hye-Su), a girl who has recently separated from her partner, who receives a pair of damn red shoes at the train station that spread bad luck to everyone around her.
The film’s success in merging the two subgenres ofsupernatural horror and crime story keeps interest high all the time. The color and the music add to the force of the scenes and choke the audience along with the characters. The cast works well too.
The Host (2006)
Bong Joon-ho from “The Host” does what Bong does best: fuse horror with a psychological core and a broader social message. An American researcher orders the disposal of formaldehyde in the Han River in Korea, harming the regional community. The fish are disappearing and the frogs that occupy the river are starting to look a little weird.
One day, a mutant amphibian animal emerges from the river. Among those affected is the merchant and scoundrel Park Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) who runs a delicacy stand with his son Hyun-seo (Go Ah-sung) and dad Hee-bong (Byun Hee-bong). . They are separated in chaos and Hyun-seo ends up being imprisoned in the sewer systems with the beast. Bae Doona and Park Hae-il team up, despite their difficult family dynamic, to save the youngest member from a terrible fate.
The Horror movie based on a true story is inspired by a real chemical spill from 2000, when an American undertaker really got rid of formaldehyde by throwing it down the drain. This occasion not only ruined the Han River, it also motivated anti-American faith in the nation, as Americans made it seem like they didn’t like their host nation; they saw it simply as a disposal site.
Despite the name, Bong Man-Dae is not a South Korean performance of a famous fairy tale. The film focuses on the family of Hyun Soo (Shin Se Kyung), who runs a small, affordable cosmetic surgery studio. As a result, Hyun Soo’s friends turn to her to change their appearance. After that, numerous strange events occur which appear to be related to his youth.
The film is a denunciation of the excessive use of cosmetic surgery and all its negative impacts by cleverly using disturbing framing, lights and colors. Despite a couple of holes in the story, the film is well laid out. The cast performance is also among the best in the Korean horror movie scenario.
The Evil Twin (2007)
The Evil Twin deals with 2 women who fall underwater: only So Yeon (Park Shin Hye) is saved and remains in a coma for 10 years. When she wakes up, one by one of those responsible for her sister’s death I inexplicably disappear, raising suspicions about her.
Park Shin Hye’s performance, in which he played 2 characters convincingly, is the pinnacle of the film. In addition, the exceptional use of music, camera positions and lighting are functional to understand the extreme environment and generate tension. One of the Korean horror movies worth watching.
Death Bell (2008)
The plot of the Korean horror film Death Bell tells the mass murder of 20 trainees in a school class due to the results of an exam. Among them are the rebellious Kang I-na, her best friend Yoon Myong-heo and the classy clown Kang Hyun. Beom sees a ghost and teacher Hwang Chang-wook discovers scars on his hand. The class is interrupted by a TV showing student Min Hye-yeong trapped in a glass slowly filled with water. A voice announces that they are part of a deadly game with questions that will be asked to the class; failure to reply in time will result in the student’s death.
Despite including all the vital parts of a Korean horror film, the film also warns against South Korea’s fixation on academic success, where college exam failure is among the main reasons of suicide. The lead actress, Nam Gyu Ri, made a fantastic acting debut with her performance, which gave her further opportunities in the profession.
Park’s 2009 Korean horror film “Thirst” is a touching, engaging and gory vampire story that offers a new perspective on the subgenre. Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho) is a priest who is secretly in love with a wife named Tae-ju (Ok-bin Kim) and this undermines his faith. In an effort to show his commitment to God, Sang-hyun volunteers to be the guinea pig for a vaccine against a fatal infection. The experiment goes wrong and turns into a vampire. Sang-hyun struggles to prevent her craving for human blood, but ultimately fails to curb her appetite.
When Sang-hyun feeds, he is not simply violent; really makes an impression. “Thirst” has perhaps the most popular sex scene ever seen in a horror movie. Tune, who played the role of the villain patriarch in “Parasite,” once again stars as a vampire full of apathy for his new state of being. Sang-hyun comes in direct contrast to Tae-ju, totally free and sensual, who wishes to exercise power over those who question her.
In “Possessed”, Hee-jin (Nam Sang-mi) returns home after his younger sister So-jin (Shim Eun-kyung) gets lost. Waiting for her is her mom (Kim Bo-yeon), who refuses to call the authorities to search for So-jinn. Meanwhile, a neighbor commits suicide. As Hee-jin dreams terrifying and increasingly bizarre, policeman Tae-hwan (Ryoo Seung-ryong) ends up being dragged deeper and deeper into a terrible case.
This is another Korean horror film that, like “The Wailing”, deals with shamanism in modern Korea and contrasts with more modern Catholic beliefs. “Possessed” is fraught with tension and causes audiences to question their beliefs about what is actually happening on screen. This is not a film that wants to provide simple answers, but rather wants to entangle audiences in its web until the very end.
A woman lives on an island with her abusive husband, who manages next door neighbors and a small child. When an old friend (Hwan Geum-hee) comes to visit, Bok-nam sees an opportunity to escape with his daughter to Seoul. His plan doesn’t work. Equipped with a scythe, she goes on a rampage against those who have harmed her.
Both Bok-nam’s revenge and the sexual, physical and psychological abuse she endures every day are hard to watch. However, this is a cunning reversal of the rape-revenge subgenre, a film that wishes you to really get into Bok-nam’s head to understand his violent intentions much better. A Korean horror film that has won a number of awards on the festival circuit.
Killer Toon (2013)
Kim Yong Gyun, who also directed The Red Shoes, is the first Korean director to make a film with a webcomic idea called Killer Toon. The A horror film based on a true story, it centers on the popular manga artist Ji-Yun (Lee Si-young), whose life was suddenly turned upside down by the strange suicide of her editor-in-chief. A series of horrific murders ensued soon after, and the way they were carried out was exactly as Ji-Yun had actually described, raising some major concerns.
Killer Toon has a storyline that greatly links truth and fiction, which can greatly baffle audiences if they don’t pay enough attention. Furthermore, the film does not have numerous jumpscare, however the considerable use of animation techniques increases the cruelty of each scene.
The Wailing (2016)
“The Wailing” is a paranormal horror focusing on Christianity and the struggle between God and the devil. The series of murders is linked to the arrival of a Japanese boy (Jun Kunimura) who resides on the edge of the city. As the number of corpses increases and his son ends up being contaminated, policeman Jong-goo (Kwak Do-won) begins to dig into the facts behind the disease. She is desperate for a remedy, and her family eventually relies on a shaman.
But the situation is much more complex and an exorcism cannot solve things. “The Wailing” is a ghost movies, zombie and devil film that, regardless of a 156 minute run time, never gets boring. As soon as under the colonial power of Japan and Korea suffered a series of atrocities at the hands of the Japanese. This, in addition to the actions taken by Japan during World War II, reflected the conflict between the two nations, which is shown in “The Wailing” through the character of Kunimura.
Train to Busan (2016)
Seok-woo Seo (Gong Yoo) is a workaholic who has a difficult relationship with a small child. In an effort to fix things, he takes him on a trip to Busan. This vacation quickly becomes deadly when one person starts spreading the zombie virus all over the train. Travelers are being transformed at an alarming rate and survivors attempt to save themselves. With such limited space, survival becomes increasingly difficult as they get closer to Busan.
Zombie movies were hugely popular, but eventually saturated the horror world and became more absurd than scary. Yeon Sang-ho’s 2016 film “Train To Busan” gave the zombies the hit they needed and made them scary again. The claustrophobia of rail vehicles makes “Train to Busan” different. These characters do not roam a vast city infested with the undead. Rather, “Train to Busan” is a film that takes the fear of a pandemic and concentrates it in one place.
The Handmaiden (2016)
Park Chan-wook is among the fantastic visionaries of our time. He speaks a specific poetic language in much of his work and, through an extravagant sexual psychology, he is able to explore the invisible sides of the human being. Park’s 2016 film, “The Handmaiden,” is a 3-part story of greed, desire and betrayal, featuring beautiful photography by cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung.
When a handmaid named Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) arrives at Lady Hideko’s (Kim Min-hee) extravagant estate at the behest of Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo), is captured by the darkness. Here things are never as they appear. On the one hand, Sook-hee and Fujiwara are planning to take Hideko’s family fortune. On the other hand, as Sook-hee gains Hideko’s trust, an unexpected love blossoms with disruptive force. This is just the beginning. The complexity of the story and everyone’s participation gets more convoluted with each chapter, and Park’s ability to keep you hooked for 144 minutes is impressive.
Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018)
“Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum” is among the best and scariest Korean horror films in recent years. It follows the developers of a paranormal YouTube channel who reveal that they are venturing into the Gonjiam Asylum desert to capture a ghost and try out an electronic camera. They want to reach a million viewers in their live stream and will do whatever it takes to get it.
What makes “Gonjiam” so effective is the way it overturns the audience’s expectations. It is primarily shot from a first person perspective, however the camera is not in the hands of a single individual. By offering each character a camera, director Bum-shik Jung has the ability to focus on multiplying the gaze in the most terrifying scenes. “Gonjiam” successfully blends sound, video shooting and urban myths to develop a film that is truly scary.
The film takes place in 1527 while King Jungjong rules (Park Hee-soon). A deadly epidemic has damaged the nation and there are reports of a man-eating beast. The king goes into action to capture and uncover the truth about whoever is responsible for these criminal activities.
The following is a bloodbath. The beast, based on the haetae, an animal with a lion’s head, a single horn and scales, is quite enormous. Director Heo Jong-ho declares that “Monstrum” is a film based on a true story: During the Joseon Dynasty, there was a report about something that was eating humans not long after a deadly plague spread across Korea.
Warning: Do Not Play (2019)
In writer / director Kim Jin-won “Warning: Do Not Play”, there is an urban myth about a film shot by a ghost. At the same time, Park Mi-jung (Seo Yea-ji) is an up-and-coming director who has a hard time finding motivation for her next job. He tells a friend that chaos appeared during the filming of his film, causing numerous deaths.
As Park searches for answers, everyone she encounters warns her of the dangers of investigating further. Still, Park posts a confidential message online, asking anyone with information about the film or where it was filmed to connect with her. The film’s director, Jae-Hyun (Jin Sun-kyu), responds, however her shaggy appearance and strange habits only make her more curious.
The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale (2019) 2019
‘s “The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale” has a comedic tone comparable to Shin ‘ichirō Ueda’s “One Cut of the Dead”. When a pharmaceutical company evaluates a new diabetes drug, it unintentionally develops a zombie infection. More than anything else, the patriarch of the Man-duk family (Park In-Hwan) wishes to save his family from the lower-middle class. His wife, Nam-joo (Ji-won Uhm), is a stern figure, who continually irritates him for financial resources, along with his 2 children, Joon-gul (Jung Jae-young) and Min-gul (Kim Nam- gil), and daughter Hye-gul (Lee Soo-kyung) who completes her eccentric clan.
A homeless man in a bathroom is bitten and becomes a full-fledged zombie, but when Man-duk is ripped a piece of flesh from his body, he experiences something extremely strange. He is not becoming a meat eater, however a more youthful variant of himself. This gives him a business idea: to persuade people to pay to be bitten.