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YumCha! Picks: 10 + 1 Asian Horror Movies

Written by YumCha! Editorial Team Tell a Friend

So you've already seen The Ring, The Grudge and The Eye, but there are still many more horror movies coming out of Asia. From ghost stories to cult slashers to horror comedies, we've picked ten (plus one) recent horror films for a Halloween marathon of screams, scares and splatter.

1. Bestseller (Korea)
There's nothing scarier for a writer than to be accused of plagiarism, but that's not what makes Bestseller a great horror film. Uhm Jung Hwa gives one of the best performances of her career as a writer who goes to a secluded mansion to escape a plagiarism scandal, only for her and her daughter to be haunted by the scorned spirit of a murdered girl. The mystery unfolds in a fairly predictable manner, but the implication that the dark side of human nature is worse than any ghost makes Bestseller a chilling thriller that will stay with you after it's over.

2. Dream Home (Hong Kong)
If you're looking for a bloody horror this Halloween, Dream Home may well be the choice. Sparing no efforts to fill the movie with blood, director Pang Ho Cheung's 2010 take on a slasher thriller is gorier and more gruesome than expected. Josie Ho excels in her dark role of a white collar worker-turned-serial killer who engages in a murderous spree in order to have a Victoria Harbor luxury apartment of her own. A terrifying satire on Hong Kong's unreasonably high housing prices, Dream Home uses extreme torture and appalling murders to give voice to citywide resentment.

3. Ghost Sweepers (Korea)
If there's something strange in your neighborhood, who can you call? Ghost Sweepers! A league of shamans gathers in a haunted town to battle a mysterious evil in this 2012 horror comedy from Shin Jung Won, who applies the same uncanny mix of offbeat humor, suspense and satire that made Chaw and To Catch a Virgin Ghost so entertaining. The shaman team covers all the bases from Kim Su Ro's traditional amulet-scribbling exorcist to Lee Je Hoon's technology-wielding paranormal expert to that little boy who knows too much – they plot, they bicker and then they run away screaming. Though never scary, the movie is creepy and foreboding, and filled with the East-meets-West mysticism, unfettered energy and surprising haunts and hijinks of an old school Hong Kong horror comedy.

4. Laddaland (Thailand)
Based on an urban legend, Laddaland opens with a familiar premise: an unsuspecting family moves into a new apartment complex, but their happiness is dashed by a brutal murder and a terrorizing string of supernatural incidents. What sets this haunted home horror apart are the detailed characterizations and the way the ghostly scares compound with real-world family and financial pressures. Getting under the skin in more ways than one, writer-director Sophon Sakdaphisit, whose horror pedigree includes some of Thailand's best of the genre (Coming Soon, Alone, Shutter), delivers a spine-tingling tale that won Best Film and Best Screenplay at the 2011 Thailand National Film Association Awards.

5. Lesson of the Evil (Japan)
Ito Hideaki is usually saving people's lives when he's on the silver screen, but in Lesson of the Evil he's killing off spiteful high school students, and many of them. As the teacher from hell of this slasher horror, Ito is unnervingly flippant and charismatic as he manipulates and terrorizes students and fellow teachers at will, and then goes on a positively epic killing spree through the high school. With Miike Takashi at the helm, the film goes completely over the top with the visuals and the violence in the second half, culminating with one relentless spectacle of a blood bath.

6. Mysterious island (China)
What's better than seeing eye candies running for their lives on a deserted island? A group of eight reality show contestants, played by Mini Yang, Anya, Janel Tsai, Li Man Yun, Jordan Chan, Hayama Hiro, Wong Yau Nam and Tsui Tin Yau, set foot on a remote island to search for the ultimate prize. One mysterious event happens after another, driving them closer and closer to death. The best example of the B-movie horror thrillers that find box office success in China, this 2011 sleeper hit packs in the campy thrills and suspense as well as ample sex appeal thanks to an attractive female cast dressed in tight tank tops.

7. Pee Mak (Thailand)
The popular Thai legend of Lady Nak (reportedly based on true events) has been told many times in Thai pop culture. However, Shutter director Bangjong Pisanthanakun managed to turn this oft-told story of undying love into one of Thai cinema's biggest hits by making it really funny at the same time. The concept sounds ill conceived, but Pisanthanakun effectively balances the chills and the comedy by introducing four new characters to the tale. Much of the comedy comes from the way they react to the supernatural happenings, leaving heartthrob Mario Maurer to handle the dramatic part of the story as the straight-faced hero. A hit across Asia, Pee Mak is a lesson in how to make an effective horror film that can scare and tickle its audiences at once.

8. Tales from the Dark (Hong Kong)
Hong Kong's most anticipated horror movie this year, the two-part Tales from the Dark series works around popular myths, customs and cultural taboos based on writer Lilian Lee's best-selling novels. From ash stealing, fortune telling to "villain hitting," familiar yet fascinating Chinese superstitions and traditions pave way for the movie's well-grounded horror that audiences can relate to. Gathering famed directors like Fruit Chan and Lawrence Lau and top actors like Simon Yam, Kelly Chen and Tony Leung Ka Fai, the movie's six short stories bring not only chills and thrills but also a moody examination of the supernatural.

9. Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl (Japan)
High school is a pretty daunting experience for any teenager, and it's even worse in a school like the one depicted in this cult horror comedy. Vampires live among the student body, the school's battling cliques hold wrist-cutting contests (friendly competition, of course) and the school's vice-principal is actually a mad scientist who uses students to experiment on reanimating corpses. Made by the team behind ultra-gory films like Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police, Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl is another cult film with enough red to drive a bull into murderous rage, but it's also a hilarious satire about the struggles in that excruciating level of hell known as high school.

10. White: Melody of Death (Korea)
K-pop meets K-horror in this stylish horror thriller about a struggling girl group that finds overnight fame thanks to a cursed song – but there's a bloody price to pay. Twin directors Kim Gok and Kim Sun's use of bright music, bold colors, hypnotic visions and quick editing create a distinct aesthetic for the film's dark hauntings against a pop backdrop. The story may follow a genre formula with its mysterious chain of deaths and long-haired spectre, but the visuals are striking and the deaths inventive. White also readily sends up the pop industry by portraying the group's self-destruction via jealous infighting and backstabbing, made all the more ironic with a real-life idol (T-ara's Eun Jung) in the leading role.

+1 Sadako 3D (Japan)
We tried to stay away from the long-haired ghosts of J-horror, but we can't resist recommending director Hanabusa Tsutomu's campy revival of the genre's most iconic character. The story doesn't make much sense, and the over-the-top finale turns Sadako into a silly spider-like creature in a game of hide-and-seek. However, Sadako 3D is an absurdly fun update to the formula that takes the character into a new era (think Sadako impersonators and ad screens on the street) for a young generation of thrill-seeking audiences. The in-your-face 3D is just icing on the cake.

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Published October 25, 2013

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  • Region & Language: Hong Kong United States - English
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