Asian horror cinema eschews the normal horror conventions of its Western counterpart, such as predictable scares, expendable Abercrombie & Fitch characters, gory, blood-splattering kills and blonde girls who inexplicably fail to maintain their balance as they run. Instead, it engages its audience by creating a stark, unglamorous reality, laced with an unsettling tone that permeates every single frame of the picture. Asian horror directors often focus on creating a constant sense of dread and slowly building tension. Perhaps the most common and intriguing aspect of Asian Horrors is the concept of evil at hand. Far more complex than masked, knife-wielding social misfits in desperate need of a hug, the “monster” in many Asian horrors is something psychologically intricate, horrid and sinister; its manifestations involve some of the more unusual and terrifying imagery in cinematic history. With that, we present the 5 best Asian horror movies.
5. Audition (1999)
“Kiri, kiri, kiri, kiri, kiri, kiri.” For those who have seen Takashi Miike’s unforgettable, bone-chilling film, those seemingly benign words will induce an immediate cringing, stomach-turning Pavlovian reaction. Audition tells the story of a recently-widowed, middle-aged producer who, at the encouragement of his friend, holds a fake audition to a non-existent TV show to find himself a new mate. After going through several candidates, he discovers a sweet, charming beauty for the potential “role.” Of course, she turns out to be not so sweet… by a lot. In fact, she makes Lorena Bobbit look like a dream date.
Despite the main character’s morally-questionable scheme (which was the catalyst to the entire story), he becomes a sympathetic and likable guy. His “love interest,” however, does not. With each scene, we progressively discover that there’s just something not right about her psyche. Miike deftly builds the tension as we get to the unsuspecting climax, which, unlike many films, does not disappoint. is It must be described as one of the most disturbing final scenes ever burned onto celluloid.
4. The Ring (1998)
The movie that almost single-handedly activated Hollywood’s Asian horror remake factory.
Before there was Gore Verbinski’s The Ring, there was Hideo Nakata’s Ringu, adapted from Koji Suzuki’s novel of the same name. The story revolves around an enigmatic underground videotape full of random disturbing images that mysteriously kills its viewers exactly seven days after they watch it. At the behest of the mother of one of its victims, a reporter investigates the myth of the tape, inadvertently entangling herself and her family in its unstoppable curse.
The highly-original and highly-intriguing concept grabs our attention from the onset and never lets go. The plot unfolds at a methodical pace as the heroine is forced to delve deeper into the unsettling origins of the tape to save her and her family from a seemingly inescapable demise. Along the way, we are treated to some of the best unsuspecting scares in horror cinema. Who would have thought that a pale-skinned, mute little girl could frighten the sweet bejeezus out of us?
3. The Eye (2002)
“I once was blind, but now I can see,” was the sentiment expressed in John Newton’s “Amazing Grace.” But as the Pang Brothers demonstrate in their wildly inventive film, The Eye, maybe being blind is not such a bad thing.
The story revolves around a blind classical violinist in Hong Kong who undergoes a corneal transplant. As she regains her vision, she begins to “see” things that other people can’t, such as mysterious, blurred figures appearing and lurking around corners and random troubled “people” in traumatic and horrific situations. Since she’s still adjusting to her newfound sight, she cannot discern whether what she’s seeing is reality or something else.
Brothers Danny and Oxide definitely provide more “Pang” for the buck in this genuinely creepy film. Not only do they milk every ghostly encounter for everything it's worth by letting it play out to its skin-crawling climax, they also show us the atrocity to which man is capable of committing. They remind us that just because we can't or don't actually see the horror of human nature, doesn't mean that it's not happening behind closed doors all around us.
2. Cure (1997)
Kiyoshi Kurasawa takes the existential question of "Who am I?" to a whole new level. And if the characters in the film are any sort of a barometer for the rest of us, then perhaps it's best that we never find out the answer to that question for ourselves.
We follow a weary Japanese detective as he investigates a series of bizarre and gruesome murders. What makes these cases so unusual is that the murderers of each case were found right at the scene of the crime with no remorse or even memory of what they had just done. They are all regular upstanding citizens with no connection to one another except for one thing: they all carved a giant "X" into the body of their respective victims. As the detective gets further into the case, he discovers one more commonality in an enigmatic and amnesiac transient.
Kurasawa (no relation to Akira Kurasawa) dives right into the heart of a socially and economically advanced nation that still runs on archaic practices and ideals. While it helps maintain beautiful customs and traditions, it also prevents and suppresses a certain amount of natural evolution. Every murderer in the film has a past. And in their past are deep moments of regret, loss and failure that never show up in their daily life. Cure asks the question, "What happens when all that repression is allowed to surface?" The answer is actually understandable, but at the same time, completely reprehensible and truly horrifying.
1.Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
You may be able to choose your friends but not your family, and for the characters in this 2003 Korean film, you’d really wish that was not the case.
Kim Ji-Woon’s psychological horror film follows two sisters who are thick as thieves as they both cope with the recent loss of their mother. But their emotionally-absent father and their cold new stepmother do not make it easy. Nor do the strange events that have been occurring around the house.
The quiet and unsettling tone is established very early on when we see this dysfunctional family together at the dinner table. Kim cleverly feeds us disjointed pieces of the backstory which not only keep the current story intriguing, but also force us to put it all together ourselves. Much like Spielberg did with Jaws, Kim leaves the horror to our own imagination, giving us only glimpses of the “presence” that exists in their house. That, coupled with some disquieting music, helps build an unbearable tension as we learn the true definition of a monster.
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