10 Best Korean Horror Movies Released in the Last 20 Years, Ranked
The last 20 years of Korean horror is giving Hollywood a run for its money.
The first conscious attempts to create a Korean horror genre took place in the 1960s, under the influence of Japanese and Western film productions, during the so-called Golden Age of South Korean cinema.
For this, we should thank the filmmaker Kim Ki-young, who explored religious issues, social taboos and psychosexuality through his distinct expressive style. However, it was not until he was invited to the Berlin International Film Festival in 1998 that the broader Western audience became aware of the K-horror phenomenon. Unlike its counterpart, J-horror, which is in a kind of decline, Korean films are on the rise, so it's time to get acquainted with the best of them. Especially with Halloween just around the corner!
10. The Host (2006)
The Host is not your typical horror, but more of a suspenseful monster thriller that provides both scares and laughs. But it's more scary than that, as the film offers a sharp commentary on Korean bureaucratic inefficiencies and political blunders, as well as the repercussions of American involvement. Directed by one of the most celebrated filmmakers, Bong Joon-ho.
9. Cinderella (2006)
We all know how aggressive the beauty industry is in South Korea. So aggressive, in fact, that it formulates beauty standards that lead to body dysmorphia and the marginalization of unconventional-looking people. In such circumstances, plastic surgery clinics thrive, and it is this problem that was addressed in the body horror film Cinderella.
8. Thirst (2009)
Oldboy mastermind Park Chan-wook has produced a vampire horror movie loosely based on the novel by Emile Zola. Thirst follows the story of a Catholic priest who is turned into a vampire by a failed medical experiment. He gradually falls in love with his friend's miserable wife, who also becomes a vampire.
7. Bedevilled (2010)
There are no zombies or supernatural beings in this movie, but it is no less scary. Here, the horror comes from the harsh conservative and patriarchal realities of an isolated Korean community and the protagonist's indifference to her friend's struggles. The amount of violence is terrifying, and the consequences are truly tragic.
6. The Piper (2015)
A reimagining of The Pied Piper of Hamelin, The Piper takes a distinctly dark turn. Set in the aftermath of the Korean War, the story follows a sympathetic wandering piper on his way to Seoul with his young son. They stop in a village and make a deal with the chief to get rid of the ferocious and insatiable rats. But the villagers are not at all willing to pay kindly in return.
5. The Wailing (2016)
It's impossible to describe the genre of this phenomenal movie: After five minutes of unbelievable tension, the situation can de-escalate with comic moments. Just when you think you are immersed in a thriller in the spirit of Memories of Murder, the creepy exorcism scenes begin. The plot revolves around a not-so-competent policeman who investigates murders in a village after the arrival of a mysterious Japanese man.
4. Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018)
Unlike J-horror, whose examples from the 00s are full of the use of the found footage trope, this is not a common device in Korean horror cinema. The events take place in the real-life abandoned Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital, which was demolished in 2018 and has become an urban legend. The plot is typical for found footage horror movies: a horror web series crew goes to Gonjiam to host a live stream. However, things do not turn out so well.
3. The Closet (2020)
The plot of this movie, which cleverly plays on our phobia of open closets, follows a widower and his daughter who have moved into a new house. Only the girl goes missing, and the devastated father meets an exorcist who tells him to look for the girl in the closet... Despite the somewhat clichéd plot, the film is a great social commentary on the problem of parenting and child abuse.
2. The Call (2020)
Another combination of thriller, fantasy, and horror, The Call presents an incredibly intense and clever script that follows a woman who answers a call from her estranged mother's house. Only it's not her mother on the other end of the phone, but an unknown woman who claims to be being tortured. It soon becomes clear that it is not so much space as time that separates them, as the caller lives 20 years earlier.
1. The Medium (2021)
Even though this is a Thai production, it was written by the author of The Wailing, Na Hong-jin, so we couldn't help but mention this incredibly creepy mockumentary with elements of folk horror. The plot follows a filming crew that travels to meet a shaman who claims to be possessed by the local goddess Ba Yan, only it may not be a goddess at all. Though the movie is a slow burn, it pays off with its eerie atmosphere and expressive escalation.