When you think 'Asian horror' there are a few horrifying faces that immediately pop into your head, whether you like it or not. From long-haired revenants to demon babies, let’s recount some of our classic Asian horror villains.
With Sadako vs. Kayako showing in movie theatres, could we be looking at a new trend of 'versus' movies? After all, we’ve got plenty of iconic horror antagonists here in Asia. Perhaps a battle of the demon children could see Toshio (Ju-On) locked in unholy mortal combat with a Toyol (South East Asian child spirit). Or maybe a roaming troupe of Jiang Shi (Chinese vampire) could have a showdown with Mae Nak (female spirit from Thai folklore) while being delivered from South East Asia back to their ancestral homes (we call dibs on the movie rights to that). Unlikely possibilities can become reality — after all, Sadako vs. Kayako pretty much started off as an April Fool’s joke.
But before we try to pitch our own Asian horror royal rumble, it’s probably a good idea to take stock of our catalogue. So here’s a look back at the classic ghosts, demons and monsters that are the horrible pride of Asian horror movies.
No one villain has had so much of an influence on the Asian Horror genre than our girl from the bottom of the well, Sadako. Although a white smock and long unkempt hair might have fueled nightmares long before movies had colour, Sadako’s maiden outing in 1998’s Ringu was so memorable that her look became a recognisable horror movie trope: long black hair + flowing white outfit = pants wetting and emasculation, with certain death optional.
Best Movie: Without a doubt the movie that shot her to fame, Ringu (1998). Its Hollywood remake had nothing on the slow inescapable terror she wrought after climbing out of that television set.
Kayako might sound like a tasty treat to be had with toasted bread and a hot 'teh peng', but don’t be fooled — she’s one deadly, long-haired revenant. With a movie legacy that easily tops most other horror villains, Kayako is the croaking attic terror of a murdered mother, whose hair seeps out from the cracks of her cursed house (which inexplicably seems to attract unknowing tenants — if only it had reviews on PropertyGuru). Will Sadako finally bring an end to Kayako’s reign of terror as video tape curse is set upon house curse? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.
Best Movie: The Grudge (2004) was a faithful Hollywood remake of the Japanese original (Ju-On, 2002) and it successfully introduced Kayako to a much broader audience, paving the way for other Asian horror movies to break into Hollywood, albeit with less impressive results.
It’s not that we’re intent on wringing Ju-On dry of any horrific value, but if we said to you 'ghost boy', we imagine that the first thought you would have (apart from Danny Phantom) would be a creepy, little bluish-white twerp clad only in his underwear, with the propensity to appear behind you, or dash down a deserted hallway at the most fear-inducing moments. It doesn’t help that he opens his mouth only to let out an unsettling screech of a cat being cooked alive in a microwave. As if children weren’t scary enough.
Best Movie: Ju-On: The Beginning of the End (2014) gave Toshio a meatier role in the franchise, as it retold the origins of the cursed house. Toshio becomes the chief antagonist for his hapless elementary school teacher, who gets embroiled in the accursed house’s spiral of death.