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26 Korean Horror Movies That May Give You Nightmares For Days

Get ready for some sleepless nights...and maybe a bloodthirsty ghost in the corner of your room.

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Warning: Some content in this post may be potentially disturbing.

South Korean horror is often overlooked but shouldn't be — if you saw the wealth of quality K-horror films over the years, you would realize just how big of a contribution it's made to Asian cinema. Its unconventional treatment of scares and the way it isn't afraid to push just how dark human nature can get puts them above and beyond in the genre.

B.O.M. Film Productions Co.

South Korean horror burst onto the scene in the late '90s so although it was a bit late to the game, it sure as heck didn't hold back. K-horror differs from Western horror in the depth of its characters and relationships — which make their eventual fates even more terrifying. Emotion is at the heart of everything. It gets brutal here, with creative, mind-boggling concepts and emphasis on violent revenge; disturbed, anguished characters; and crazy plot twists.

Like Japanese horror, Korean horror focuses a lot on the psychological and the twisted. Family is usually depicted as both the horror itself and the reason to fight back, as family is an important part of the culture. In contrast to American horror, themes reflect and express problems in society, including classism, the education system, and obsession with social image. With great Korean directors helming these films, it's no wonder why American directors name them as influences.

With everything from ghosts to monsters to killers, aesthetic cinematography, and in-your-face scares, Korea has carved out its own distinct place in horror cinema.

So if you're not afraid of a little darkness and a little blood, grab some popcorn and let me show you that you've been missing out with this starter pack to South Korean horror. Be warned though — in Korean horror, the dead do not rest well.

Cine 2000

1. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

B.O.M. Film Productions Co.

We're going to begin with the horror classic that started it all. This movie has the plot twist of the century, the plot twist to end all plot twists. It's one of my K-horror faves and made history by becoming the highest-grossing Korean horror film and the first one to be screened in US theaters. Impressive, right? The story is based on a Korean folktale about, well, two sisters.

Su-mi is released from the mental asylum and returns home to her little sister, her father, and her cruel stepmother. Supernatural events lead to a tragic (and frighteningly realistic) truth that leaves you horrified and unnerved at the needlessly terrible things people can do to each other. The twist demands a rewatch so you can pick out all the clues throughout the film that you missed before. It also has an American remake that, while not as earnest, was a good effort!

Watch it on Amazon Prime and Shudder.

2. Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018)

Hive Mediacorp

This was South Korea's wildly successful contribution to the "found footage" genre. It's also the second highest-grossing horror film — right behind our buddy, A Tale of Two Sisters. There's more. It's based on a real-life place: the abandoned Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, which is one of Korea's most haunted locations, and also pinned as one of the freakiest places in the world by CNN Travel. Need I say more?

The film follows the crew of a horror web series that travels to the hospital for a livestream. As they realize they are surrounded by something truly terrifying, it adds a level of intensity that will steal your breath. It's applauded for its likable characters — which spells bad news for us, considering once you get attached, watching what becomes of them makes for a grim experience.

Watch it on Amazon Prime and YouTube.

3. The Doll Master (2004)

Filma Pictures

Dolls are creepy. I can write a whole thesis on that. So a movie about them is nightmare material (this is nothing like Chucky). This one's great for its eerie atmosphere (like all good films set in haunted places). The doll museum's lonely aura makes it feel like you should watch this one on a cold, rainy night with some tea and a blanket — which you should, actually. The deaths are creative too. Who thinks up these things?

A group of strangers are invited to a remote doll museum to be models for the doll maker. The museum is a sprawling and creepy estate, the doll collection is macabre, and the hosts clearly have secrets. There's also a chained man in the basement. Oh, and characters talk to dolls like they're real. So yeah, it's a "nope, I'm out," from me.

Watch it on Amazon Prime.

4. The Mimic (2017)

Studio Dream Capture

This one focuses on the relationship between a mother and a child she uses as a replacement for the one she lost. Kinda messed up. Also, this child may or may not be human. Even more messed up. If you like classic ghost stories, this is a perfect one, the kind that leaves you with a sense of something terrible behind you.

Hee-yeon's toddler, Jun-seo, went missing five years ago and the family moves to the countryside to heal. Legend says there's a creature there that mimics human voices. One day, Hee-yeon finds a lost little girl in the forest and takes her in. The girl, as you can tell above, is super cute. But her voice is creepily similar to Jun-seo's (nope, nope), which makes Hee-yeon become more attached rather than apprehensive (which she should be?!). Soon, you begin to wonder exactly what this little girl is.

Watch it on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Shudder.

5. The Piper (2015)

UBU Film

Korea has a knack for adapting Western fairy tales into horror films and turning them into nightmare fuel rather than cute bedtime stories, and this, IMO, is the best one. I love anything based on fairy tales — the darker, the better — and this...this is a dark retelling of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. While the rats are there, this film proves that sometimes, humans are worse. You're spellbound by the father and son you can't help but love — until the spell breaks at the ghastly ending.

Set after the Korean War, we follow Woo-ryong, a flute player, and his 10-year-old son as they come across a village infested with unusually predatory rats with a taste for human flesh. Woo-ryong makes a deal with the chief to get rid of the rats, and though he keeps his end of the bargain, the chief does not. How an act of inhumanity changes a loving, happy father into a broken, revenge-seeking man is heart-wrenching to see.

Watch it on Amazon Prime and YouTube.

6. White: Melody of Death (also known as White: Melody of the Curse, 2011)

DOO Entertainment

The world of K-pop is not always as glamorous as it appears. There is no US equivalent to the K-pop industry, where entertainment companies groom hopefuls to become idols in a group, sometimes as early as 8 years old. Standards are near-unattainable, and suicide among idols is startlingly common. The situation translates well to horror cinema. Add bloody scares set in a place other than your run-of-the-mill haunted house, and an inside look into the world of idols, and the film feels different already.

A girl group struggles to find success, overshadowed by more popular groups. After finding a VHS tape of an old unreleased music video called “White," they take the song and perform it, becoming an overnight success. However, one by one, the members meet horrifying fates. There's something creepy about that tape...and stealing someone else's work is never a good thing.

Watch it on Amazon Prime.

7. Train to Busan (2016)

Next Entertainment World

If you haven't seen this, you need to get on it. This was Korea's original take on the zombie apocalypse, and it brought Korea's cinema to international attention. It's touted as one of the best zombie movies ever made, and you know what? It's true. Also, it's the only horror film ever that's made me bawl like a baby. And it's about zombies.

Seok-woo and his little daughter, Su-An board a bullet train to Busan (obviously) to see Su-An's mother. Then an infected woman gets on and all hell breaks loose. Now trapped, the passengers fight for their lives, realizing they must work together if they are to get out of that train alive. But is the outside better or worse? The tension is high, the setting is unique, and the characters resonate the moment they come onscreen so you genuinely hope your fave will make it — and when they don't, it hits you right in the feels. You'd be hard-pressed to find something better.

Watch it on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Netflix, Tubi TV, and Shudder. There's also an animated prequel, Seoul Station, set one day before the film, by the same director, Yeon Sang-ho!

8. Bloody Reunion (also known as To Sir, With Love, 2006)

Show East

If you want something bloody and have had it with the ghost nonsense, this gory and graphic slasher should be your pick. It's a twisted take on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None that cranks up the torture and has a jarring plot twist. There are enough red herrings to keep you guessing, that damn bunny-masked killer will make you rethink your assertion that bunnies are adorable, and the death scenes will make your frail little heart shiver. Especially the one involving boxcutter blades (*gulp*).

Mi-ja is the caretaker of a now-elderly Ms. Park, who was her former school teacher. She organizes a class reunion with Ms. Park's former students. It becomes apparent that each student resents Ms. Park for different reasons and soon, a bunny-masked killer begins picking them off one by one.

Watch it on Asian Crush.

9. The Closet (2020)

Perfect Storm Film

There's something about the endless darkness of the closet when it's open that feels chilling, like there's something hiding in there that even your imagination can't comprehend. For me, I always imagine that demonic nun from The Conjuring 2. For our protagonists, the horror might be even more sinister.

Sang-won, a widow, moves to a new house with his daughter, Ina. Ina happily says she's made an imaginary friend. Of course, when a child says they've made a friend you can't even see, it's never good news. When Ina vanishes, a devastated Sang-won learns that she is only the latest in a string of children who have gone missing. But is he prepared for whatever malevolent thing is inside the closet? There's a great twist toward the end, and it isn't afraid to dish out scathing commentary on very real societal ills, including child abuse and neglect.

Watch the trailer here.

10. Killer Toon (2013)

Filma Pictures

I know the title sounds funny but this is no comedy, people. Another original concept, this film uses webtoons — extremely popular in Korea — as the medium of horror in an unusual blend of comics and real life. The imagery is cool, shifting from comics to reality in murder scenes.

For popular horror webtoon artist Kang Ji-yoon, life imitates art in the worst way when her publisher is found dead in a style that mirrors the death in her latest webtoon down to the last detail. Ji-yoon has no alibi and seems to be hiding something — then is found at the scene of a second murder that also mirrors her work. That doesn't really help your case, mighty heroine. Of course she becomes the primary suspect. But is she really the culprit?

Watch it on YouTube.

11. The Wailing (2016)

Side Mirror

There's no denying 2016 was a great year for Korean horror films — there was Train to Busan and The Wailing, also a huge success. This isn't your average horror film. It's one that disorients you until you're filled with dread. And the last 20 minutes are terrifying, with an ending you'll think about for days.

A plague of murder and illness has spread through a mountain village, in which the afflicted go mad before dying in gruesome ways. Suspicion falls on a mysterious Japanese man who is new. When Officer Jong-goo's daughter begins showing the savage symptoms of the illness, he races to save her — only to discover that the cause may be satanic in nature.

There's no ghost behind this one, guys: it's the prospect of bare evil that stuns both you and the characters. You get the rural Korea experience, and it touches on the strained history of Japanese-Korean relations (any wonder why the village is so quick to blame the Japanese foreigner?). Fun fact: Director Na Hong-jin spent six years crafting this masterpiece!

Watch it on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Tubi TV, and Shudder.

12. Hansel and Gretel (2007)

Barunson Film Division

We all know Hansel and Gretel. This film has the storybook cottage and the candy and cake. But the entire story is reversed. And there's cannibalism but it's not of the kids. Eeeep. This retelling of the Grimm fairytale is equal parts gorgeous and disturbing, the atmosphere drenched in magic. But it plays out like a nightmare you can't escape, reminiscent of the bloody origin of fairy tales.

Eun-soo has a car accident near a forest, where he is rescued by a little girl. She brings him home to her family: her parents and two siblings. They seem picture-perfect but Eun-soo realizes there's something off about them. Then the parents vanish, leaving him alone with the children, who he realizes punish any adult who displeases them in horrifying ways.

Watch it on Amazon Prime and Vudu.

13. The Whispering Corridors series (1998)

Cine 2000

When I said that Korean horror burst onto the scene in the late '90s, this film is what I meant. It's famous for being the catalyst for the Korean horror genre following the end of censorship in the country. It sparked several great, unconnected sequels that all take place in a high school setting. It's also well-known for its critique of the Korean education system. Tough stuff.

At an all-girls private school, there's a rumor of a student who committed suicide. When Eun-Young, an alumna of the school, arrives as a new teacher, it turns out that her old best friend was the student who killed herself, and the hauntings begin. If you want more, my personal fave in the series is 2003's Wishing Stairs. 1999's Memento Mori, one of the first Korean films to depict LGBT characters, is also a great one. You're better off watching these with the lights on.

Watch it on Shudder and Asian Crush.

14. The Host (2006)

Chungeorahm Film

All you need to know about this one is that it was directed by Bong Joon-ho. Oh, you know, the director of 2019's Parasite, the film that made Oscars history by becoming the first foreign-language film ever to win Best Picture. The Bong Joon-ho of 2006 probably did not know that. And don't you dare get this confused with that questionable 2013 movie based on Stephenie Meyer's novel. This one is tragic, thrilling, and funny with a relatable cast and incredible depth.

When a US military official purposely dumps bio-chemical waste into Seoul's Han River, out emerges a bizarre and ugly sea monster that sweeps up little Hyun-seo. Hyun-seo's family is dysfunctional, lovable, and flawed, headed by her bumbling father, who is everything but a hero. Yet, the way they band together to get their little girl back from this freaky monster warms you, showing what ordinary people can do when their government fails them. The opening scene is based on a real act of pollution by US officials in Korea; the film's also a critique of Korean government, pollution, and American presence in the country.

Watch it on Amazon Prime, Hulu, Vudu, Shudder, and Youtube.

15. The Red Shoes (2005)

Tartan Films

Here's a fun and bloodcurdling take on Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale of the same name. The story speaks on vanity and its horrid opening scene sets the tone — a girl who finds the shoes, wears them, then gets her feet cut off (see GIF)! On her way home one night, Sun-jae discovers a pair of lovely high heels on the subway (they're pink in the film instead of red for some reason, but just bear with it). She takes them home, only to discover she's brought home a curse as well. The shoes put their wearer under a malignant spell. When her best friend steals them and meets a ghastly death, Sun-jae digs into the history of the shoes, trying to find its original owner.

Watch it on Vudu, DramaCool, and Shudder.

16. Horror Stories (2012)

Kim Won-guk / Min Jin-Soo

Horror Stories is an omnibus of four shorts by different Korean directors. The overarching frame is similar to One Thousand and One Nights, in which a girl tells stories to survive against a killer. In this frame, Ji-won, a high school student, is abducted by a handsome mute boy who tells her that he can't sleep unless he's scared; only then do his psychotic urges calm. Right, so he's cute but just a little bonkers. He promises her he'll release her if she tells him scary stories.

There are children dealing with a sinister presence, stepsisters fighting to marry a man who may be cannibalistic, and a group of survivors fleeing from a zombie horde. One of them also takes place on a flight, where a flight attendant faces a serial killer alone, which really keeps you on your toes.

Watch it on Asian Crush.

17. Death Bell (2008)

MBK Entertainment

If you want some blood and gore to refresh your palate, might I offer up this little film? South Korea takes its education seriously and exam season is always stressful for students. Here, the stakes are even higher when a group of high school students who are taking an exam prep class find themselves in a test for their lives instead. They become trapped in the class by a lunatic who forces them to answer a series of riddles. For every question they get wrong, one of them will die (and not in a very quick way either). As the students panic, the motives of the killer are slowly revealed.

While Death Bell isn't a ghost story, it does dance around the supernatural. But the kills are grisly and people die in rather innovative ways. So regardless, you'll have fun!

Watch it on Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Shudder.

18. Cinderella (2006)

Mini Film Inc.

Another fairy tale remake! Of course, this doesn't have any princesses and happily-ever-afters. It's based around Korea's obsession with physical appearance, resulting in the country being the plastic surgery capital of the world (even foreigners flock to Korea for non-invasive procedures!). Here, plastic surgery is reimagined as horror.

Hyeon-su's mother, Yoon-hee, is a successful plastic surgeon. Her friends happily undergo different procedures to alter their features. Afterward though, they commit suicide by cutting their own faces, and Hyeon-su must confront the common factor: the fact that all the surgeries were done by her mother. Even with ghosts, there's an impressive amount of body horror and gore for those who like that kinda stuff. There's also a plot twist and a question: How far are you willing to go to be beautiful?

Watch the trailer here.

19. Thirst (2009)

Moho Film

Are you tired of Twilight? Ready for something darker and bolder? Try Thirst, which makes the former look like child's play. It's an original take on the vampire film that forces you to acknowledge the animalistic urges hidden inside all of us. It's sexy and nihilistic yet surprisingly poignant. Despite vampirism, the characters are not exempt from their very real human fears and responsibilities that help us sympathize.

Sang-hyun, a respected Catholic priest, awakens from a failed medical experiment as a lustful and bloodthirsty vampire. He tries to remain faithful to his values but compromises them when he has an intense affair with his friend's wife, Tae-ju, leading to an illicit love story full of betrayal, sex, and blood. Not sure that'll end well. Fun fact: The Korean title means "Bat" and it's the first mainstream film to feature full-frontal male nudity!

Watch it on Amazon Prime, Vudu, Shudder, and YouTube.

20. The Cat: Eyes That See Death (2011)

Lee Jun-dong / Lee Dong-ha

We've had dolls, technology, and it's time for domestic pets. We follow So-yeon, a claustrophobic woman who works at a pet shop. One day, a customer, who owns a cat named Bidyani, is found dead. So-yeon takes Bidyani in but starts having nightmares of a ghost girl with cat eyes. As more cat owners die and Bidyani becomes more aggressive, even showing a taste for blood, So-yeon realizes a pattern: the victims have been dying in enclosed spaces. Bad news for a claustrophobic.

While the film is your garden-variety horror film, it's a great choice for when you just wanna turn your brain off and spend the night with something fun. Plus, the fact that the ghost girl has yellow eyes that have a vertical slit pupil like a cat’s adds an original touch to an otherwise common trope.

Watch the subtitled trailer here and the Japanese one here.

21. Loner (2008)

damool Film

This film tackles the concept of hikikomori, reclusive people who completely withdraw from society, retreating to their rooms and isolating themselves. It can be taken to the extreme, with individuals not coming out for months or even years, and while not a phenomenon known in America, it is a real social problem that plagues Japan especially. This film has an ending you won't see coming. There's also a ton of gore and vermin(!), that keeps you wincing at the screen.

Soo-na lives a happy life with her uncle until her bullied best friend commits suicide. Devastated, Soo-na, once a bright girl, becomes a hikikomori and begins doing disturbing things like talking as if someone else is in the room with her. And she never opens the door. As vermin appear on her body and murders occur in the house, her uncle becomes desperate to help her.

Watch it on DramaCool.

22. Don't Click (2012)


Consider this film Korea's homage to Japan's Ring franchise. One thing's for sure: haunted technology will never not be scary. A strange video labeled as the "forbidden video" circulates online, coming to the attention of Jung-mi, who uploads her own content. She contacts her older sister's boyfriend, Joon-hyuk, who works in cyber crime, to download the video for her. Of course, once she watches it, her life turns into a hellish nightmare, leaving her sister, Se-hi, and Joon-hyuk, to save her before the curse takes her.

Watch it on Amazon Prime and DramaCool.

23. Epitaph (2007)

Film Dorothy

Reminiscent of A Tale of Two Sisters, this film is noted for its beautiful cinematography and haunting setting: a hospital shrouded in secrets. It shows three tales all set in a hospital in Seoul 1942, when Korea was still occupied by Japan, so you see a piece of Korean history too. It's gothic and romantic — you know, until the blood and gore kicks in. We have a medical intern falling in love with a corpse; a surgeon who discovers his wife has no shadow; and the most spine-tingling tale IMO: the arrival of a new patient, Asako, who was the only survivor of a car crash that took her parents. She is now tormented by the ghost of her dead mother (who is hella creepy to look at so I don't blame you, Asako). But why?

Watch it on Amazon Prime.

24. Dead Friend (also known as The Ghost, 2004)

Popcorn Film

Karma's great when it's dished out to people who deserve it. When it's dished out to you though, and you don't even know what for? Not so great. That's what happens to our protagonist, Ji-won, a bright high school student suffering from amnesia. She has nightmares of a ghost, and as her old friends begin dying, with one even confined to a mental hospital, she slowly remembers that she used to lead a clique and wasn't always the sweet girl we see now.

It turns out that Ji-won may have done something terrible in her past. The twist ending is what catches you off guard, and changes the rest of the film — certain scenes gain more significance, and what you may have ignored before will become a clue. That alone makes it a fun watch!

Watch it on Vudu.

25. Living Death (also known as Possessed)


College student Hee-jin comes home when she hears that her 14-year-old sister, So-jin, has gone missing. But Hee-jin's mother, a religious fanatic, refuses to work with the police, believing that praying for So-jin will be enough to return her. When a neighbor commits suicide and leaves a will for So-jin, Hee-jin starts to fear that her sister may have been possessed and having nightmares about her dead neighbor.

Rather than relying on a bucket of jump scares, this movie's horror lies more in its creepy atmosphere and character drama. It also explores themes like religious fanaticism and grief.

Watch it on Amazon Prime

26. And finally, #Alive


Just your classic zombie apocalypse movie, released in 2020, right on time to be pandemic-ally relevant. This movie was shot and produced before COVID-19 struck the world, so it's a total coincidence that the protagonist's struggle to keep himself safe from infected zombies feels eerily similar to lockdown. It hits close enough to home to be unnerving, but not so close that it stops the escapism that you're looking for in a horror movie.

And— contrary to what we're used to in American zombie movies— these zombies run really fast.

Watch it on Netflix

You might as well start a marathon of these tonight — who says Halloween is the only time for scary stuff? I absolutely love horror movies and I've included many of my faves here, but if you think there's anything I missed, let me know below and I'll add them to my watch list! Scaring yourself to death is so much fun, isn't it?

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