Something strange is happening in South Korea. While Hollywood is churning out dismal remakes and teen-friendly jump scare franchise films, South Korea, for the past decade or so, has been producing intelligent, highly-original and truly effective horror films – including monster movies, zombie thrillers and nerve-shattering psychological mysteries.
The latest is The Wailing, a scary and sometimes funny supernatural epic that mixes police procedural with terrifying occult horror to devastating effect. The film features a bumbling cop investigating a spate of killings that may or may not be linked to a strange man living in the woods, and is packed with incredible set pieces and shocking twists – cementing South Korea’s growing reputation for world class horror. Here are some more that will turn you into a SoKo horrorphile…
A Vietnam war film featuring a platoon of ghosts, this is a genuinely creepy and atmospheric horror film directed by Kong Su-chang, who went on to make 2008’s similarly themed The Guard Post. Imagine Apocalypse Now crossed with The Others and you’ll have some idea of what to expect with R-Point.
The Host (2006)
Director Joon-ho Bong’s fantastic horror thriller, about a tentacled in the Han River attacking Seoul inhabitants, took the Fifties creature feature to new heights with jaw-dropping dazzling effects and real emotional weight, that knocks Hollywood’s big budget 2014 Godzilla remake into a cocked hat. When it was released it deservedly became South Korea’s highest grossing film.
Bong followed up the tremendous success of The Host with this disturbing and provocative thriller, which features as the lead character, an elderly woman (brilliantly played by Hye-ja Kim) seeking the savage killer who framed her son for a particularly nasty murder. After this and the well received Snowpiercer, Hollywood, seeing that they needed a bit of Bong’s unique storytelling skill, have now signed him up for US/South Korean co-production Okja, a sci-fi thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano.
Writer director Chan-Wook Park, maker of classics Sympathy For Mr Vengeance, Lady Vengeance, and Old Boy, here turns his attention to vampires, with a priest being stricken with a bloodlust that doesn’t quite tally with his religious beliefs. It’s unique, devilishly entertaining, and very gory.
I Saw The Devil (2010)
A serial killer thriller like you’ve never seen before, about a vengeful special agent (played by Hong-jin Na from A Bittersweet Life and the remake of The Magnificent Seven) hunting down a very nasty, very lethal psychopath. Director Jee-woon Kim, who directed the South Korean horror classic A Tale Of Two Sisters, puts the audience through the blood-soaked mill here, as cop and killer try to outmanoeuvre the other, leading to a brutal and unforgettable showdown. Rumours are that a Hollywood remake is in the works. I’ll hazard a wild guess that it won’t be as good as the original.
An extraordinary psychological thriller that borders on outright horror, about a woman from Seoul who seeks refuge on a remote island to take a break from the stresses of city life. Big mistake. Without giving anything away, her hoped for island idyll turns into a nightmare of monstrous proportions.
Train To Busan (2016)
Hailed by many as the best film of last year, Train To Busan is a thrill ride of epic proportions, about a viral outbreak in South Korea that spreads onto a commuter train, leaving the motley crew of passengers fighting for their lives against a ravenous horde. Fast, frightening, funny and filled with spectacular set pieces, this is the kind of sleek and stunning blockbuster that Hollywood seems to have forgotten how to make.
The Wailing (15) is released on Blu-ray and DVD on 30th January from Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment Limited