Asian Horror on My TBR and Watchlist

Asian Horror on My TBR and Watchlist

Hi ghouls, long time so see! 👋🏻

I am always looking for ways to diversify my reading and watching habits, especially when it comes to horror. Different cultures have different things that they find scary and it’s always fascinating to learn about past and present social issues that influence stories as well as folklore and mythology. Originally, this post was just about Japanese horror but I decided to branch out and look for horror from all over Asia and from Asian diaspora people all over the world. Asia’s a big place with a huge amount of different cultures so it’s not fair to narrow what I’m looking for down to just one single country.

An unfortunate thing I ran into when compiling this list was a big lack of South Asian horror and almost next to nothing from West Asia or the Middle East. A lot of people still forget that Asia is not just China, Korea and Japan so a lot of what I found is from East and Southeast Asia.

(i did a class on orientalism in literature when i was in university and one classmate complained the whole time that we didn’t look at any chinese literature, which does suck but that’s what she expected it to be. and that’s pretty orientalist in and of itself)

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books

Cover for the book 'Spiral' by Koji Suzuki. The cover shows a close-up photo of a cadaver's foot with a tag tied around the big toe.

Spiral by Koji Suzuki 🇯🇵

It has been a few years since I read the first book in the Ring series but this sequel doesn’t exactly carry on the story of the first book and features mostly different characters. And that’s more than fine with me because I’m not one for rereading books.

The Ring series is more often than not the series people think of when they think of not just Japanese horror, but Asian horror in general so I definitely want to continue on with the series. Whether or not I’ll watch the movies first is a decision yet to be made because those kind of do their own thing. Especially the one that was a weird crossover with the Ju-On series.

Book cover for 'Audition' by Ryu Murakami. A manga girl with long black hair smiles at the screen while holding a syringe. The title of the book is written in red lined letters which then drip down.

Audition by Ryu Murakami 🇯🇵

I’ve already seen the movie of Audition, which is really good and gets hard to watch at the end, and I’m currently about to finish reading another of Murakami’s books, In the Miso Soup, so I’m also curious to see how this one goes. Knowing how the story ends may spoil the twist, but I’m more interested in seeing how it compares to the movie because I tend to be more affected by gore and violence in books than in movies.

If you’ve never heard of this book or the movie, it’s the story of a middle aged widower who is encouraged by his son to find new love. No, really. The widower and his friend set up a fake audition for a movie and interview young women for him to date and he does find love with aspiring actress Asami.

And that’s all I’m going to tell you because even though this book came out in 1997, there’s a big twist and I don’t want to spoil that.

Book cover for 'Silver Under Nightfall' by Rin Chupeco. A strange looking weapon/brooch with bat-like knives on the top fills the cover. I have no idea how to describe this cover.

Silver Under Nightfall by Rin Chupeco 🇵🇭

The only Rin Chupeco book I’ve read is The Girl from the Well but if I am known for one thing, I will throw everything out of the window when I see that someone has written a vampire book. It doesn’t matter to me what it is about, whether the vampires are conventional or not, I want it, gimme gimme gimme.

I’m exaggerating a little there, but I do like the sounds of this story and I keep seeing it be described as a ‘romantasy’ which is a word that sounds good to my brain.

Book cover of 'She is a Haunting' by Trang Thanh Tran. A young Vietnamese girl is shown crying with leaves in her hair and flowers/bugs on her mouth.

She Is a Haunting by Trang Than Tran 🇻🇳🇺🇸

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book by a Vietnamese author from anywhere in the world and I don’t know much about the culture outside of American movies about the Vietnam war, which are obviously biased, but I’m always willing to learn.

I’m especially willing to learn through Gothic books, because I’ve seen this book get compared to Mexican Gothic quite a lot, and that really tickles my brains because Mexican Gothic is one of my favourite books ever.

Book cover for 'Vampire Junction' by SP Somtow. A boy dressed in a stereotypical vampire costume can be seen singing into a microphone.

Vampire Junction by S.P. Somtow 🇹🇭

Look at that cover. Just look at it. If I didn’t know what this books was about I would still pick it up because it’s everything I’m looking for

  • Diverse author ✅
  • Rockstars ✅
  • Vampires ✅

This is the greatest book cover in the world and I will not hear any dissenting opinions.

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movies

The poster for the movie 'Men Behind the Sun'. The poster shows soldiers against a sunset with the sun covered by a black circle with Chinese characters and the number 731 in it.

Men Behind the Sun / 黑太陽731 (1988) 🇭🇰

This Hong Kong movie is kind of an oddity because it is a historical film about the war atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army at Unit 731 during WWII, but it is also an exploitation film that shows those atrocities in very graphic detail. Unit 731 is known for being a secret biological weapons experimentation unit that conducted illegal and cruel human experimentation. The perfect piece of history to make a horror movie about, I guess.

Naturally, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding this movie due to its content and Japanese audiences seeing it as anti-Japanese propaganda. Hong Kong critics stated that the movie’s appearance as an exploitation film negates any historical accuracy or educational value, American critics called it gruesome with poor writing, it was banned in Australia, and the director received death threats. But the controversy doesn’t stop there: the director claimed to use actual autopsy footage of a young boy and was accused of animal cruelty for a scene involving a live cat seemingly being eaten by rats, but he has denied this and stated that the cat was just made to look wet with honey and theatre blood that the rats licked off and was then given a fish for his troubles.

The fact that I want to watch this says a lot about me in retrospect.

Poster for the film 'It Lives Inside'. A young girl stands against a black background while holding a jar and lit in red. The shadows on the floor around her look like hands. The title of the film is laid over her in capitals with Indian script underneath (I don't know which one I'm very sorry)

It Lives Inside (2023) 🇮🇳🇺🇸

Unfortunately, this is one of the very few South Asian horror movies I could find that wasn’t a comedy in some way. Netflix in the UK has a large selection of Indian and other Desi movies but most of the horror movies available are horror comedy which wasn’t really what I was looking for. And Google wasn’t any help either because if I typed in “South Asian horror” I just got a bunch of Japanese things instead.

Admittedly, I don’t know anything about Indian folklore and mythology outside of what is part of Hinduism but since this is about something I’m not familiar with, I’m sure it could be treated as a learning experience. From what I’ve seen in the trailer, and the movie summary, this movie deals a lot with heritage and teenagers from non-white backgrounds wanting to shed their heritage to fit in with other people.

Poster for the film 'Thirst'. A Korean couple (man and woman) are shown with the man upright and the woman upside down with her hands around his throat and her legs either side of his head. In the bottom right corner, the film's Korean title is written in red Hangul

Thirst / 박쥐 (2009) 🇰🇷

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a non-Western vampire movie but this one was directed by Park Chan-wook who also directed Oldboythe Handmaiden and Snowpiercer so I may have pretty high hopes for it. Especially since it stars Song Kang-ho who was the lead in Oldboy and gave a phenomenal performance in that movie.

90% of vampire media I’ve experienced myself has been very European (which makes sense because vampire folklore originated in Eastern Europe) and that even includes Japanese vampire things like Vampire Knight and Castlevania, so I’m interested in seeing how a Korean director tackles it. I will admit that I’m not the most knowledgeable in South Korean cinema but I can’t turn down anything with vampires in.

That pales in comparison to how much I know about the other Korea’s cinema..

Poster for the movie 'Pulgasari'. A large scaly monster is shown at the top with a white T-shaped box with Japanese writing is underneath.

Pulgasari / 불가사리 (1985) 🇰🇵

If you know about this movie, you’ll know that the circumstances surrounding it are wild as hell. If you don’t, I’m more than happy to tell you.

Pulgasari is a North Korean monster movie based on a story from Korean folklore. But that’s not the wild part. The wild part is that the South Korean director, Shin Sang-ok, and his wife, Choi Eun-hee, were kidnapped in 1978 by North Korean intelligence and coerced into making the film by Kim Jong-il who was a huge movie buff. Some of the staff from Japan’s Toho Studios (the makers of Godzilla movies) participated in creating the special effects as they were tricked into thinking they were going to China, and even Kenpachiro Satsuma who was Godzilla’s suit actor in the 1980s and 1990s was brought along to play the Pulgasari monster. Shin and Choi later escaped from their handlers while in Vienna and fled to the United States.

Whether this movie is any good, I don’t know, but I can’t help but be curious since this movie gets called Juche propaganda and is very, very cheaply made. Although that’s to be expected when a country has almost no film industry and what it does make is almost entirely government propaganda but that’s a different topic…

Poster for the movie 'Godzilla Minus One'. Godzilla can be seen in

Godzilla Minus One / : ゴジラ-1.0 (2023) 🇯🇵

If you’ve been around here for a while, you’ll know that I love Godzilla movies, so when this one was announced it’s no surprise that I started tracking everything about it. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a UK release date just yet and that’s incredibly annoying.

This movie is a period piece, taking place in post-war Japan when the economy was at a low, and then Godzilla appears and makes it all worse. That’s as much as I know about the plot for now, and I’m really hoping for a UK cinema release because everyone just seems to forget about us these days. I don’t know whose fault it is but I’m going to blame the BBFC for slapping all of the Showa movies with A ratings, even though they were made for children.

Poster for the movie 'V/H/S/85'. A shadowy person stands underneath a flight of stairs and a giant metallic skull with a beam of light coming from its mouth.

V/H/S/85 (2023) 🇮🇷🇺🇸

It may be cheating to include an anthology movie here since all the shorts are directed by different people, but one is directed by Natasha Kermani, who is Iranian-American (Iran is an Asian country, remember).

The V/H/S/ movies are a bit hit and miss for me (as are most anthology movies that aren’t Creepshow or The Simpsons‘ Treehouse of Horror episodes) but I am willing to give them a try every time a new one comes out since they give chances to indie directors from all over the world. V/H/S/2 and V/H/S/94 both have shorts by Timo Tjahjanto, who is an Indonesian director and made probably the scariest shorts in the series in my opinion.

I don’t really know what Natasha Kermani’s short is about (or any of the shorts, really), but I am curious to see how this one goes since it’s gotten good reviews so far.

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talk to me!

Do you read or watch Asian horror? Do you have any favourites?

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8 Comments

  1. Avatar October 7, 2023 / 12:43 pm

    I’ve been a big fan of S.P. Somtow for years, and Vampire Junction is wonderful! I’m pretty sure I met him years ago and my copy is signed. What a fantastic list😁

    • Louise
      Louise
      Author
      October 11, 2023 / 12:58 pm

      I’m glad to hear that! I’m planning to pick up Vampire Junction sooner than later 🙂

  2. Avatar October 8, 2023 / 4:07 am

    The audition’s cover kinda throw me off.. the cartoony style of the cover on a horror, im not sure 😳 I’ve been meaning to read the girl from the well, eventually.. I’ll check if I can snag a copy from my library 👀

    The V/H/S movie cover though!! So nice!!

    • Louise
      Louise
      Author
      October 11, 2023 / 1:16 pm

      I’ve got another book by the same author that has a similar art style and it’s definitely an eye catching one 😅 I hope you enjoy The Girl from the Well if you ever pick it up!

  3. Avatar October 18, 2023 / 3:45 am

    Thanks for the recommendations! I love horror and really want to read more translated books.

  4. Avatar November 2, 2023 / 2:11 am

    Thirst and She is a Haunting are both excellent – I hope you enjoy them!

  5. Avatar November 18, 2023 / 6:59 am

    Oh I love Asian horror! As a SEA, I think Japanese and Thai horror are the creepiest, ever! A couple of Thai classic I recommend: ladda land, phobia, and shutter! The Eye is a classic, I can’t remember but I think it’s Hong Kong? There’s also a recent filipino horror, called “eerie”, on Netflix. Indonesia has a classic called Satan’s Slave released in 1980s; it was recently remake in the 2017 and have a sequel released in 2022. The director’s other movie, Impetigore, is also worth a watch!

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