The top 20 Asian horror films to give you nightmares

Looking for movies to add to your Saturday night scare-athon?

Horror film enthusiasts have only had Annabelle, Paranormal Activity and Unfriended to sate their lust for movie scares. Honestly, none of them are sterling examples of great scary movie-making.

While many might lament that the heyday of the Asian horror movie might be at least a decade behind us, fret not, for during its peak there came about a bevy of pants-pissingly scary entries that are still easily available for your thrilling pleasure.

We’ve put together a list of must sees for the Asian horror movie enthusiast, and anyone who doesn’t want to sleep for a few nights - or a few weeks (or ever). 

Ringu (1998)

Easily the most famous of Asian horror movies, and probably the one that made long haired women in white dresses the last thing you want to see on a lonely night. The Ring, or Ringu in Japan, continues to spawn sequels in an expansive franchise that managed to break into Hollywood.

However, none of its successors have lived up to the bowels-venting horror of the first time Sadako crawled out of a TV. We're sure we're not the only ones creeped out by our harmless televisions after watching that film. 

Unforgettable: The part where the fricking ghost crawls out of a fricking television set.

Wishing Stairs (2003)

Whispering Corridors might sound like a name of a postmodern scandinavian electro-folk band, which is enough to scare us into deleting our iTunes, but the name actually belongs to a series of Korean horror movies. Wishing Stairs is actually the third movie of the franchise - but the stories all function as stand-alone tales, riffing on the same setting - so you won’t have missed anything. Suffice to say that any show involving schoolgirls, magical wish-granting stairs, and dead schoolgirls is a recipe for disaster - and box office gold!

Unforgettable: When Jin-sung becomes a flaming hot schoolgirl… literally.

Shutter (2004)

One of the first and most memorable of modern Thai horror movies, Shutter chronicled the horror of catching ghosts on film when film was still a thing. If you don’t know what film is, ask Dr. Google. Once again, another female long-haired ghost terrorises and slowly kills a group of hapless friends. 

Don’t let the setup fool you, you might not know who to root for at the end of the movie. 

Unforgettable: Getting stuck on a ladder with a ghost crawling down towards you - face first.

Pulse/Kairo (2001)

The Japanese popularized ghosts coming out of television sets and ghosts haunting cell-phones - so why not have ghosts coming out of the internet? Thank you Japan, for making every part of the digital age a possible creepy mess. Kairo is as beautiful as it is relevant, and its substantial cult following resulted in the (predictable) American remake starring Kristen Bell, followed by two straight to video sequels (typical).

Kairo manages to meld apocalyptic horror with the fear of everyday technology into a dread-filled and gloomy package of chills. Although nowadays, if you really want to experience a visceral fear for humanity’s future, all you have to do is scroll through a few YouTube comments…

Unforgettable: Anytime a computer screen lights up.

The Eye (2002)

The Eye is something for Singaporeans to be proud of. After all it was co-produced by our very own Mediacorp Raintree pictures and features Pierre Png. Trivia aside, The Eye and its sequels make up the most successful of the Pang Brothers' horror movie franchises; an achievement crowned by an inferior Hollywood remake in 2008 starring Jessica Alba.

The elevator scene is the reason why we’d rather climb seven floors to get to work than share a lift with a senior citizen.

Unforgettable: The worst elevator ride ever. Trust us. 

Audition (1999)

Bodily mutilation, freakish characters and editing only possibly achieved by a man doped up to his eyeballs on meth? Yup, it’s Takashi Miike alright. Don’t let the lack of a supernatural angle fool you, Audition is horrifyingly horrible, and rightly so. The movie had some audiences walking out (weaklings!) and one particular viewer confronted the director to shout “You’re evil!” at him.

Even the masters of gore, Eli Roth and Rob Zombie, found the movie to be too “grisly”. That’s like bears not being able to eat fish for being too fishy. If people doing terrible things to other people is your thing, Audition might as well be your bible.

Unforgettable: Unfortunately, the whole movie is unforgettable, and you’ll probably regret having watched it.

The Maid (2005)

Wait wait, before you go, “oh not another movie about Singaporean domestic workers”, there’s a few reasons why you should catch Kelvin Tong’s sophomore cinematic effort. 

1. Because the maid in question here is Italian-Filipina actress Alessandra de Rossi (sometime lingerie spokesperson). 

2. The movie is still currently the highest grossing Singaporean horror movie at the box office.

3. It features Chen Shu Cheng - the most veteran of veteran actors in Singapore whose youthful zest itself seems supernatural. Aside from that, it's also a pretty scary movie.

Unforgettable: When current maid and ex-maid meet for the first time.