The 10 Best Korean Horror Movies

While South Korea is primarily known for producing kick-ass action/revenge movies, what this list presupposes is... maybe they also make fantastic horror films?

Korean Horror

5. Thirst (2009)

Park Chan-wook never fails to deliver the goods regardless of which genre he’s playing in, and in 2009 he delivered his bold and thoroughly refreshing take on the vampire film. In this one, a priest volunteers for a procedure that turns him into a horny bloodsucker who embarks on an affair with his friend’s wife. This leads to a predicament, however, as he’s conflicted between honoring the values he’s always held dear, or giving into his newfound bloodlust. Thirst ponders topics like faith, sexuality, life, and death, while expertly blending horror, melodrama, and comedy to create a vampire movie that’s unlike any other. (Kieran Fisher)

4. The Wailing (2016)

There is a plague spreading through a small, forgettable village in South Korea. The sickness begins as a rash across the body, but it’s an itch you can’t scratch. The infected descend into madness and violently lash out against their neighbors. With their bloodlust satiated, the victims fall into coma and eventual death. Where did this evil come from? Is there a cure? Na Hong-Jin‘s horror is a little bit of everything: a procedural, gore-film, ghost story, demonic war. The Wailing may take its time dishing out its rotten delicacies, but each one satisfies until you’re left full of dread and disgust for the human race. A perfect night out in K-Horror cinema. (Brad Gullickson)

3. Train to Busan (2016)

Train to Busan is a fast-moving movie with fast-moving zombies. Yeon Sang-ho’s apocalypse saga takes place almost entirely on a moving train and other itinerant locations, so it has a sense of perpetual motion that’s as thrilling as it is overwhelming. The group of travelers who are headed from Seoul to Busan when the end of the world hits are diverse in background, including a man and his pregnant wife, elderly sisters, a group of secondary school students, a homeless man, and our central characters, empathetic Su-an (Kim Su-an) and her off-putting businessman father Seok-woo (Gong Yoo). As the bodies pile up and the complete collapse of society begins to seem unavoidable, alliances are formed and tested. Su-an’s the rare horror character who’s so innocent and such a survivor that you’d feel betrayed if she died, which makes each increasingly creative and high-stakes death trap — keep an eye out for a cool bit of zombie mythology involving light and dark — feel all the more gripping. (Valerie Ettenhofer)

2. I Saw the Devil (2010)

Kim Jee-woon‘s ruthless thriller about a secret agent that seeks revenge on the serial killer that brutally murdered his fiance is one of the most draining films I have ever seen. I’ll never forget the experience of seeing it in a packed theater and just sitting there for a few minutes after the credits rolled being emotionally spent as I tried to comprehend everything that had just happened. It’s like being on an extremely violent roller-coaster and every time you think you’ve reached the top it keeps going up. Once you finally do reach the peak the fall comes harder and faster than expected. Outside a random moviegoer came up to me, hands on top of his head, mouth agape and said, “Floored. I’m absolutely floored. That movie floored me.”  I didn’t say anything back, but he knew I felt the same way. (Chris Coffel)

1. The Host (2006)

If you’re still getting Bong Joon-ho’s monster epic mixed up with that questionable adaptation of a book by the lady who wrote Twilight, stop what you’re doing right now and fix that. If you’re in the United States, the movie is currently free to stream on Hoopla, TubiTV, and PlutoTV. I know those all sound like made-up words but I promise they are streaming services. I’ll wait. Okay, did you watch it? Holy shit, right? This funny, tragic, scary, gorgeous, memorable story is the modern monster film to end all modern monster films. When a humble family’s daughter (Go Ah-sung) is taken by a river creature that’s been transformed after exposure to dangerous chemical byproducts, they’re determined to overcome every obstacle — including a government hell-bent on covering their own asses post-catastrophe — to get her back. Almost every scene here is a gem, from the family’s over-the-top orgy of grief, to the emotionally affecting, appropriately monumental ending. (Valerie Ettenhofer)

Red Dots

The octopus isn’t going to eat itself, so maybe you should read more entries in our 31 Days of Horror Lists!

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