The best Korean horror movies, featuring (clockwise from top left): 'The Wailing,' 'I Saw the Devil,' 'Thirst,' and 'The Host'

The Best Korean Horror Movies, Ranked

Do you wanna know what’s really horrible?

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More horrible than ass gas at an RFK Jr. press dinner? More horrible than another season of And Just Like That? The scariest, most blood-curdling-est, bone chilling-est, text my mom and tell her that I want to go home-est thing to exist on this cursed rock that we call home?

It’s the South Korean film industry. And it’s horrifyingly good!

Gone is the Western film industry’s stranglehold on horror pop-culture around the world. It has been replaced. There are true terrors to be found in Asian horror films, and South Korea’s contributions have become the bloody red jewels in the charnel crown of frights.

Let’s appraise the best Korean horror films, shall we?

15. The Mimic

A mother holds the arms of her young child while looking perturbed in "The Mimic"
(Next Entertainment World)

Huh Jung’s The Mimic is certain to retraumatize any D&D player who was introduced to the bitey end of a fake treasure chest. What is it about things pretending to be other things that fills us with such absolute loathing? When her son goes missing, a woman discovers a mysterious cave in the middle of the woods. She begins to hear voices inside of the cave … familiar voices. After hearing her son’s voice call to her from the darkness, she has to make a decision whether or not to follow it. Spoiler alert: following the voices is ALWAYS a bad decision.

14. The Wrath

Three women in traditional Korean dress sit around a table in "The Wrath"
(Next Entertainment World)

Yoo Young-seon’s The Wrath is a remake of the 1986 film Women’s Wail. Turns out the gals have a lot to cry about. The story is about a family who falls victim to a bizarre curse. When the sons of the family enter their first marriage, they immediately go on a honeymoon. A permanent honeymoon. The destination? The grave! After hearing about the curse, the bride of the youngest son attempts to rid the family of it before anything bad can befall her husband. Considering that this is a horror movie, bad things be-falling all over the place.

13. The Call

A woman on the phone stands over a figure in wheelchair covered in a blanket in "The Call"

Lee Chung-hyun’s The Call is about two women who live in the same house. Sapphic romance? I wish. Nope, just two gals cohabitating. The only issue is that they are living 20 years apart. And I’m not talking age difference, I mean time difference. The two women connect via a phone call, where the future and the past are intertwined. Naturally, freaky-deaky things start to happen as the women mess around with the tender fabric of temporal reality. As they grow closer together, the actions one woman takes in the past have dangerous consequences for the other’s future.

12. Monstrum

A group of soldiers with torches look up in horror at an offscreen monster in "Monstrum"
(Lotte Entertainment)

Huh Jong-ho’s Monstrum is set during the age of the Joseon Dynasty, where myths and monsters roam the countryside! One monster in particular, known as “Monstrum,” lives on a mountain and spends its time spreading plague and pestilence in the capital. A former general is called upon to investigate and destroy the creature, but he soon discovers that the beast is tangled up in a conspiracy that stems from the royal court. Nothing good comes from messing with royals.

11. The Closet

A little girl peers into a closet in "The Closet"
(CJ Entertainment)

Kim Kwang-bin’s The Closet is kind of like an evil version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Instead of finding a cloven-hoofed James McAvoy and Turkish delight, the unlucky child in this film finds only horror when she messes with the household furniture. After the death of his wife, an architect and his daughter move into a new home in order to start fresh. Eventually, the architect’s daughter goes missing, and a mysterious man shows up to claim that it’s all the house’s fault.

10. Whispering Corridors

One of the girls from Whispering Corridors looking like she's having a bad day
(Cinema Service)

A pioneer of the genre, Park Ki-hyung’s Whispering Corridors launched one of the most successful K-horror franchises to date. They made like SIX OF THEM. Like many successful horror franchises, the films take a dip in quality as time goes on (just think of the Saw movies), but the original is regarded as a modern masterpiece. Set in an oppressive all-girls school, a group of students soon discover one of their teacher’s bodies hanging from a noose in the stairwell. The students begin to suspect foul play of the ghostly sort and delve deep into the school’s haunted past. They may end up finding more than what they bargained for. Some mysteries are better left undisturbed.

9. Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum

The ghost from Gonjiam

Inspired by a real-life haunted asylum, the found footage horror film Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum was written and directed by Jung Bum-shik. The story centers around the team behind a horror web-series who decide that an abandoned mental asylum is the perfect location for their next big story. Tragically, they’re right. The asylum has creepy dolls, rooms filled with coffins, and wheelchairs that creep along by themselves. The creators of the series soon realize that they are not alone in the hospital, and that a spectral presence dogs them at every turn.

8. The Silenced

Ju-ran in The Silenced
(Lotte Entertainment)

The Silenced was written and directed by Lee Hae-young, and is set during one of the most horrifying periods of Korean history: the Japanese colonial era. The film centers on a sickly young girl named Ju-ran, who is institutionalized in a sanatorium to recover from her illness. After making friends with a girl named Yeon-deo and undergoing a special treatment program run by the headmistress, Ju-ran starts feeling better, but things take a turn when she notices some changes. For one, many of her fellow patients are going missing. Two, her body isn’t quite the same as it used to be. Ju-ran soon discovers that she is being used as part of an Imperial Japanese plot to aid the war effort, and she’ll be damned if she’s gonna let that happen.

7. Bedevilled

Bok-nam having a bad day in Bedevilled
(Sponge ENT)

Jang Cheol-soo’s directorial debut Bedevilled tells the story of Hae-won, a bank employee who takes a vacation to the remote island where she was raised. She reunites with her childhood friend Bok-nam, whom she realizes is trapped in an abusive relationship with her husband. The inhabitants of the small island are all aware of the the abuse that Bok-nam endures, but they ignore her suffering. Eventually Bok-nam reaches a breaking point, resulting in a cathartic explosion of violence as she takes revenge against the people who oppressed her … with a farming sickle.

6. Thirst

The vampire bandaged after the operation in Thirst
(Focus Features)

The vampire thriller Thirst was written and directed by Park Chan-wook, and tells the story of a Catholic priest and his descent into demonhood. After volunteering for an experimental medical treatment, the devout Sang-hyun (the great Song Kang-ho) finds himself turned into a creature of the night! Desperate to retain his morality, Sang-hyun attempts to subsist on blood-bags that he steals from the hospital. But when he begins a steamy affair with a married woman, Sang-hyun soon discovers that he’s willing to paint morally gray areas with shades of blood red.

5. The Host

The monster on fire in The Host
(Magnolia Pictures)

Directed by the acclaimed Bong Joon-ho, The Host tells the story of a deadbeat dad named Park Gang-du who scrapes together a living by running a snack food stand next to the Han river. Little does he know that an American military pathologist forced his Korean assistant to dump hundreds of bottles worth of chemicals into the river six years ago. In those six years, one of the river’s aquatic inhabitants mutated into a gigantic amphibian horror that is hungry for flesh. After the beast claims Park Gang-du’s only daughter, the father and his estranged family marshal together to get her back.

4. I Saw the Devil

The serial killer with a shotgun in I Saw The Devil
(Magnolia Pictures)

Kim Jee-woon’s I Saw the Devil is K-horror’s answer to Western horror-thrillers like Seven. When a serial killer (Choi Min-sik) murders his fiance, South Korean intelligence agent Kim Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun) sets out on a bloody revenge quest to punish the man who stole his joy. Soo-hyun captures the killer, subjects him to torture, and then releases him in order to catch him again (and again …) to impose some extrajudicial suffering. The serial killer eventually gets wise to the scheme and begins targeting other people Soo-hyun holds dear. I Saw the Devil is a bloody and glorious cautionary tale about the destructive nature of vengeance.

3. The Wailing

A man cradles his ill daughter in 'The Wailing'
(20th Century Studios)

Directed by Na Hong-jin, The Wailing takes place in a remote South Korean village that has fallen victim to a mysterious disease. Rather than a sore throat and fever, this particular malady causes people to go berserk and murder their entire families. When police officer Jong-goo arrives to investigate a murder, a mysterious woman tells him that the sickness has been caused by an evil spirit that has taken the form of a Japanese man who recently arrived in town. As Jong-goo investigates the Japanese man, the murders in the village continue, and his attempts to solve the mystery become more and more desperate.

2. A Tale of Two Sisters

The sisters of A Tale of Two Sisters
(Cineclick Asia / Big Blue Film)

Kim Jee-woon’s A Tale of Two Sisters was inspired by a spooky Joseon dynasty-era folktale called “The Story of Janghwa and Hongryeon.” The film revolves around a pair of sisters, one of whom was recently released from a mental institution and has returned home to her family’s country estate. There, she and her sister are forced to live with their stepmother Eun-joo, a cold and prickly woman who has a strained relationship with their father. Things start going off the rails when one of the sisters begins having dreams about her dead biological mother, and the pair soon realize that the house may be haunted by the restless spirits of the departed—spirits with a bone to pick.

1. Train to Busan

Some survivors in Train to Busan
(Next Entertainment World)

Yeon Sang-ho’s zombie blockbuster Train to Busan has a little something for everyone. It’s got scares for the faint of heart! Action for the violent at heart! And a loving father/daughter relationship for the mushy-gushy at heart! While on a train heading to—spoiler alert—Busan, workaholic dad Seok-woo and his adorable little daughter find themselves embroiled in the zombie apocalypse. After an infected woman sneaks aboard the train and bites some poor schmuck, the pair are forced to fight through the rapidly growing hordes of undead. The other passengers on the train are a mixed bag. Some prove to be invaluable allies, while others would happily throw the pair to the wolves. Zombies. You know what I mean.

(featured image: 20th Century Studios / Magnolia Pictures / Focus Features)

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Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.