Spooktober: 9 Must-Watch Live-Action Asian Horror Movies! (With Arsene Lucifer and Kyrios)

[Repost from last year’s much more ambitious Spooktober. I really want to talk about those collabs soon.]

We got a long one today, folks. Joining me are two fellow bloggers and much bigger movie buffs than I am, Arsene Lucifer and Kyrios! They are amazing reviewers who usually go for the lesser known gems in movies, and I implore every one of you to check them out!

With that said, continuing this Spooktober event, I have asked the two of them to provide three of the favorite Asian horror movies they’ve ever watched, as well as three of my own. This is not a list of what is scariest or what is best, but a list of the tastes of three different people. Variety is what keeps my blog alive!

Without further ado, these are our picks for must watch Asian horror movies!

Arsene’s Picks

Sup! I’m Arsene Lucifer, and I want to give a huge thank you to the one, the only Luminous Mongoose! Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share some Japanese horror movie recommendation to your readers! My selection of Japanese horror films are unorthodox, but it’s also made them linger on my mind long after I finished them. Out of the realm of traditional horror as they might be they do offer unique takes within the horror genre.

Hausu (1977)

Hausu’s got the generic setup of a group of girls going on a trip, and staying at a house that turned out to be haunted. Sounds pretty typical for your average horror movie, until you see it. It’s a strange combination of lighted comedy, and completely over the top horror scenes that don’t belong in one movie. Yet, it’s part of the strange appeal that is House. From all the characters playing up to their names; you got Prof who is an intellectual, Mac who likes to eat a lot, Melody who is a musical prodigy, and so forth. Quirks like these are litter throughout the movie making it one odd piece of Japanese horror cinema.

What’s most striking about this movie is not the absurdity of the story, or it’s insane horror scenes, but the inventive nature of its visuals. There’s no other horror movie this colorful, and visually distinct. From the animated overlays of a Ghost cat to extreme color correction with dozens of other visual techniques leading to sensory overload. On technical level it’s also pretty impressive with it special effects. One in particular being a sequence where you see a girl getting eaten by matresses is shot below through a glass surface, and seeing her demise from below. This is highly recommended to watch with a group of friends because the sight of seeing a girl getting eaten by a Piano is one worth sharing with friends.

Blind Woman’s Curse (1970)

Directed by Teruo Ishii, Blind Woman’s Curse is the most subdue in its horror elements out of my picks. Playing out like a traditional Yakuza movie from Nikkatsu; you can expect the feuds between rival clans, former Yakuza going straight, and a slew of other traits common in their Yakuza films. Set in the 1900s during Japan’s industrial revolution the setting makes it stand out among the hundreds of Yakuza films set post WW2. As common in these films, it jumps around multiple characters in slow a pace while providing some humorous moment. However, you’ll get a few twists to throw you off guard in the direction it’s heading like the blind woman, and her unexplained supernatural abilities.

After it began shooting, Teruo was told by the highers up at Nikkatsu studio to add in horror elements in what other else would have been another Yakuza movie from Nikkatsu. Admittedly this tidbit would lead one to believe any horror elements is simply shoehorned in, but quite the opposite. The downplayed horror aspect are a natural fit to the movie adding a twist to the usual Yakuza movies of this era. Not only that, but it’s able to keep the horror elements shrouded in mystery eventually overtaking its grounded story. Some of this include an odd stage play with eating children, or a dead body coming back to life to further help it mask reality with the supernatural.

One last thing, if you have Amazon Prime in the US you can currently stream Blind Woman’s Curse on there. If it strikes your interest, check it out.

Noroi: The Curse (2005)

I’m not a fan of found footage horror movies. Too many of them are confined to a single setting, or look too polished to be found films. Noroi: The Curse is one of the few found footage horror movies that I not only enjoy, but am more than happy to give a recommendation. The basic premise for Noroi: The Curse follows paranormal investigator Masafumi Kobayashi researching a supernatural curse in Japan. Eliminating the common problem of being confined to a single location as it moves around to several locations, and actually looks like it’s shot on a camcorder. Building up the scary atmosphere through a slow pace earning it scares without the usual cheap tricks, or jump scares.

Just like many well received found footage horror movies this is just as polarizing. Sharing many of the same issues of its contemporary. From an abundant of shaky cams, random camera zooms, and multiple infodumps. Yes, it will also have those moments where you question why characters are still filming that is common in these films. However, it offers up great performances that you’ll forget these are actors in the film. The music limited usage is expertly worked to create a foreboding atmosphere. Alongside the expanded lore behind the curse itself offering red herrings to throw you off from it endings. These strengths elevate Nori from your found average found footage flick.

Those are my Japanese horror movies recommendations. Hopefully you’ll one of them if you haven’t seen them.

Kyrios’ Picks

Heya fellas, its your boi Kyrios ‘ere from Energized and Salty! If you haven’t heard of me before, I’m a ani/film blogger that specializes in reviewing and analysis two pieces of media (though I definitely plan on branching out as my blog expands). My particular interests lie mainly in action, drama, horror, and sci-fi, though I’d often take into account other genres if the anime/film in question is competent enough.

Ju-on: The Grudge

Ju-on acts as your standard haunted house movie, except with a twist. The Grudge is the third instalment in the popular Ju-on franchise and continues the tale of two spirits, Kayako and Toshio, as they torment anybody afflicted with their curse. This is a curse that not only kills anybody unlucky enough to stumble into Kayako’s domain, but also those related to them. Not only that, but witnessing Kayako or Toshio taking their victim’s lives, is a death sentence. It’s such a nice setup for a horror flick because it perfectly establishes from the very start that nobody is safe, keeping audiences on the edge of their seats.

This film is terrifying, yet relies on more inventive uses of jumpscares than what Hollywood has grown accustomed towards. Very rarely would you get a shot of a ghost’s face popping into the camera while a loud, unnerving sound accompanies it, like you would in 90% of horror films over saturating the market. Here, you’d often get moments of complete, petrifying silence m followed by the slow, menacing reveal of the entity as it creeps towards the camera. There are numerous moments like this in the franchise, which earns it its respect. There’s nothing more irritating than having something leap out of nowhere in a futile attempt to scare you. That’s not horror, that’s a glorified prank! Anyways, the whole idea of the Grudge films is that you’re basically watching characters get haunted by the curse. These haunts are all presented in creative and spine-chilling ways, ranging from having Kayako spawn multiple replicas of herself to entrap the victim in the corner, to witnessing Toshio constantly play tricks on an unsuspecting human. Nothing feels too repetitive, and you’re essentially bracing yourself for what the next scare will turn out like. The notion of the characters feeling a lot like actual human beings, makes it simpler for viewers to sympathize with them. No one in Ju-on feels as if they deserve it, they’re all innocent individuals that simply fell into the wrong place at the wrong time. And that makes their eventual fates more effective. Ju-on is a true modern horror classic, a testament to how frightening spirits can become when they prey on the innocent and appear to be practically unstoppable. Because there is nothing scarier than something that just won’t die, much like the direction the Ju-on franchise is going this very moment.

Coming Soon

Here’s a fun little piece of trivia for you: Coming Soon is the title of a film within this movie (insert obligatory Bwammm sound effect here). Its basically a movie about an old wicked lady who tortures and kills children, only to one day meet her maker as the villagers exact vengeance for the crimes she’s committed. The film is then sent to theatres. One night, a projectionist by the name of Shane, notices something odd about the film reels. He and the rest of the film crew then finds themselves haunted by the vengeful spirit of the old lady from the movie and a cascade of scares soon follows.

Coming Soon follows the same exact formula that most Thai horror flicks adhere to. Its jammed packed with a myriad of jumpscares, has a derivative mystery element involving some supernatural entity, and is even structured the same, narratively speaking. Coming Soon doesn’t diversify itself from this, instead embracing this method to its advantage. The one unique aspect of this however, is its setting. Very rarely would a film utilize a theatre as the setting for a standard jumpscare playground, so witnessing this in person is a breath of fresh air. Props for that I guess. Despite this, it works well as a horror flick that you could easily pop a couple of bags of popcorn and watch with your mates. So, if you’re into ghost flicks filled with scares and terror, then this has everything you’d desire.

Train to Busan

I’ll be upfront about this, Train to Busan doesn’t really do anything predominantly different from your average zombie extravaganza. As a fan of horror myself, you’d be surprised to find out that I feel nothing but contempt towards this subgenre. It’s been done to death and thousands of replicants have been spawned pretty much every year, and this isn’t even considering its presence in other mediums (especially video games).

Train to Busan however, genuinely stunned me with how enjoyable of a ride it was. Its narrative is a fast paced, energetic thrillride from start to finish, where every scene is packed with non-stop tension, action and chases. The premise centres on a recently divorced workaholic and his daughter as they’re thrown into the middle of an outbreak on their way to Busan, where civilians and military personnel from all over South Korea are being turned into ravaged, mindless renditions of themselves through an infection.

What I absolutely admire about this film is how it focuses solely on how human beings would act during an outbreak. Humans would become untrustworthy of one another, some would be unwilling to help others, and many would embrace their inner selfishness to spare their own lives from the undead. It’s a very “human” flick, one that accesses both the flaws and praiseworthy aspects of mankind to craft a story rife with emotion and sorrow.

For the first time, I found myself rooting for the protagonists and having my heart strings tugged upon as they perish. I’d be hard pressed to find anybody that doesn’t end up with teary eyes by the end of this. Hell, even I, a man with a heart of steel, had a tear roll down my cheek at one point. If you like a bucketload of thrills and feels in your zombie flick, don’t pass the chance to watch this.

Anime fans may also be reminded of Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress while viewing this spectacle.
My Picks

These guys are great at breakdowns, so I feel kinda weird having shorter recommendations, but I still want to share what I got!

Pee Mak

This is actually leaning more towards comedy than horror, but the aesthetic of the movie as well as some legitimately tense sequences makes me want to include it. Thai folklore is very similar to my country’s folklore. The tropical setting and simple village life really reminds me of the provinces in my own home country. Plus, it’s just plain entertaining.

Pee Mak focuses on a group of friends who come home from a war to meet one of their friend’s wives who had just given birth to their friend’s baby. They reunite, all is happy, but the friends start having doubts about her wife, who is acting strangely and weirdly threatening. The beautiful combination of tension and humor is what makes Pee Mak such a fun watch from beginning to end, and I highly recommend watching it.

The Road

Can’t let my home country go unrepresented! The Road may have a slow start atypical of any ghostly horror movie, but after the first 30 mins., the plot kicks in and becomes a very tense psychological horror/thriller with supernatural elements a la Silent Hill. Heck, I’d say this captured the spirit of Silent Hill more than the actual Silent Hill movie did.

It’s really uncommon in our country for a horror movie primarily driven by psychological drama to be so successful, and so I just had to include it on this list. The twists are all very fun and built up realistically, thanks primarily to the strength of the plot. The cinematography is beautiful as well, with each shot being visually striking, and nothing is shot without reason or to pad for time. It all feels very deliberate. Most of the time, when actual ghosts are on-screen, they are never in focus or at the center. It’s always in the corner of the shot, just to drive home that feeling of paranoia and giving doubts to the viewer about what’s real and what is just a figment of the character’s imagination.

Ringu

Come on, did you really think this wouldn’t be here? It’s the most classic of Asian horror movies alongside The Grudge, and for good reason. The idea of a cursed tape starts here, and it hasn’t died since. The mystery of Ringu is one that was as captivating to watch as I did the first time, though this time, I wasn’t six years old and covering my eyes with a blanket.

Truth be told, due to the several times I have been exposed to Sadako in all forms of media, the scares weren’t as strong for me upon rewatching, but I cannot forget the utter terror I felt as a child when I first watched it. That dread you feel when you open up a TV and hoping it wasn’t on static, and the jumpiness you have whenever a telephone would ring in the house right after watching. There’s no replacing that base terror I had as a child, and for better or worse, Ringu will stick with me for a long time.

And that’s it, our 9 must watch Asian Live-Action Horror Movies! Again, special thanks to Arsene and Kyrios, please make sure to check out their content, they’re all as amazing as the recommendations they made here.

Have a Spooky Friday!

6 thoughts on “Spooktober: 9 Must-Watch Live-Action Asian Horror Movies! (With Arsene Lucifer and Kyrios)

  1. Coming Soon, and The Road sound like my kind of horror movies. The premises alone in them are enough to get me hook. Now, if I can actually find some kind of viewable copy of them I shall be good for a night of good horror movies to watch.

    Got to admit, Kyrios, and LUMINOUS put my picks to shame haha. You guys are more straight up horror while my picks were all over the place with their tone, and styles haha.

    Liked by 1 person

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