The Korean entertainment industry has long been one of the most underrated in showbiz. It was not until Parasite won Best Picture Oscar that it got its due. But as avoid fans of the industry will tell you, the industry has a long and storied history of producing some exceptional content, be it dramas, comedies, or horror. With Halloween just around the corner, now would be the best time to watch some of the best Korean horror movies and shows. As you’ll note, each movie and show has something different to offer, giving you all the more reason to binge these as soon as possible.
The sheer genius of Oldboy is in the fact that has so many sub-genres within it that it can qualify as horror, drama, tragedy, and gore at the same time. Considered widely as perhaps the greatest Korean movie of the past couple of decades, it redefines just how a movie can be scary without resorting to the supernatural.
The lead character is captured one day, and kept prisoner for 15 years, and then released. Within this period, the man has one thing in mind…vengeance. Upon his release, his thirst for revenge worsens as he commits one despicable act after another like eating a live octopus, tearing out all teeth out of a man’s mouth, and bruising people up with a hammer. At times, it is hard not to think of him as a demon-possessed.
Far from having you sympathize with him; the movie does an excellent job in making you resent him and rethink your entire perception about revenge and grudges.
I Saw The Devil
Speaking of revenge and grudges, sometimes you can’t help but root for one to get their proper revenge. Jang is a serial killer that has enjoyed raping and killing women for years now. His latest victim is a pregnant girl, also named Jang. After raping her, he guillotines her, and then scattered her body parts in different streams.
Distraught, her fiancé decides to take things into his own hands. His training allows him to track Jang down after going through an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse. Once caught, the fiancé tortures Jang since he believes he deserves to be tortured just as much as he had tortured his bride-to-be.
There’s gore aplenty in the film, but what promises to keep you hooked to the screen is the consistent questions about what remains ethical and unethical once you’re on your revenge path and want blood no matter what.
Song Kang-ho might be known to most moviegoers as the poor father from Parasite, but this is the movie that made him a household name back in Korea. Playing the role of a priest, he realizes that he’s fallen in love with a married woman. Distraught by the fact that his faith is corrupted, he volunteers as a test subject for a vaccine.
The result of the vaccine is terrifying as he’s turned into a vampire with a strong urge for women’s blood. He resists his hunger and urge for days until he cannot bear it anymore and becomes increasingly violent as a result. He seems to have found his equilibrium until he falls in love with a woman and now has the urge to kill her. He’s torn between what he wants and what he is as he battles his own urges to save the only woman he’s ever truly loved.
Goedam follows a genre that is more well-known for being a Hollywood staple rather than a Korean one. However, Goedam manages to capture the essence of using this genre perfectly well. It also remains one of the scariest pieces of fiction to have aired on Korean television with each episode being just 30 minutes long.
The plot of each episode is different and based on a different Korean folklore tale. From what happens to children that disrespect their elders to wives that cheat their husbands, each episode beautifully crafts a horrifying tale that will haunt you long after you’re done binging them.
Nightmare High is the kind of show that would make Nightmare on Elm Street look like a comedy. That might be a bit of an exaggeration but there’s no denying that this high school drama/horror can leave high schoolers in a state of shock.
It tells the story of an ordinary Korean high school where a new teacher is slated to begin teaching. However, his students now begin seeing visions from their dreams in real life. Most of these visions are manifestations of their worst fears such as public humiliation, betrayal, and failure among others. Whoever or whatever’s causing it, they know what brings out the students’ worst fears in public, resulting in the whole class losing their sanity one by one.
A Tale of Two Sisters
If you’ve ever wanted to convince your parents about why they should stay with one child only, this would be the perfect movie to show them…just kidding. Despite what the name of the movie might suggest, this isn’t primarily a tale of two sisters.
It follows a girl as she is released from a mental institution. She finds her father and moves into the new house. The father has remarried as a result. As she begins to readjust into her new family, she begins having visions that seem a little too real to be just visions. She begins to suspect what role her new stepmother may have had in her mother’s death.
As she investigates, she figures out that her stepsister is being abused by the stepmother and that her father may not have been as innocent as she first believed. As she investigates more and more, you will begin to question everything around like just like she does, giving you a completely immersive experience if you’re a fan of the mystery-horror genre.
The Ghost Detective
The Ghost Detective revolves around the story of a young detective who specializes in capturing evil ghosts and then using them to solve other ghost-related complaints around the city. He’s not alone in this mission as he’s assisted by a young up-and-coming detective just like him.
However, when the assistant’s brother dies and a mysterious ghost appears, the detective learns that there might be more to the sudden appearance of too many ghosts around the city than he may have initially believed.
The supernatural elements of the show cast an eerie shadow throughout all the episodes and there’s hardly a moment where you can keep your eyes off the screen.
The Wailing might be a horror film but there are multiple themes that all combine to make this one movie you have to watch, even if horror films aren’t your cup of tea. A town begins to mysteriously fall sick. The residents believe the Japanese man that has moved to the edge of their town is the one to be blamed.
However, things become a lot crazier when the town turns to a shaman when the sickness develops into death for most of the residents. Desperate and angry, the town is intent to do anything they can to get rid of the illness that plagues them.
The religious aspect presented in the movie is different than the other kinds of religious imagery used in most horror films as evil is presented as a mere reflection of our own biases. This is perhaps best reflected in the fact that Japan’s colonial past in Korea is explored as a key theme in the movie.
The Master’s Sun
To say that there aren’t many more movies like The Master’s Sun would be an understatement. If you’re looking for the perfect series to binge this Halloween this would probably be the best one for you as it has elements of comedy, horror, mystery, and (believe it or not), romance.
It all starts with a businessman who makes it abundantly clear that he doesn’t believe in ghosts. On the other hand, is a woman who is cursed to see all the ghosts in the world and they continue to haunt her. So, when these two meet for a date and eventually become a couple, you can imagine the arguments they have.
The different genres mentioned earlier are present subliminally with each scene eerily shifting tones depending on the situation. With more than plenty of jump scares and spine-chilling visuals, this K-Drama is certain to leave you shaking towards the end.
A Korean Odyssey
Ghosts have existed for centuries, maybe even longer. But now, they’ve started to live among us. Considering how they grow attached to the ever-evolving humans, they have appeared to like them and have figured out a way to become actual humans or to actually appear as them as close as possible.
However, some of them take a darker path where they begin taking advantage of their abilities over other humans. Seon-mi is one girl who can see the evil ghosts since her childhood. Using this ability, she is able to aid others kill the evil ghosts.
However, she soon finds the tables reversed when some evil ghosts begin targeting her when rumor spreads that she has the ability to convert any ghost into a human without them having to wait hundreds or thousands of years.