South Korean Gems to Love: International Horror

With it’s dark, dramatic themes and tones taken straight out of the grittiest thrillers, South Korean horror films have got it going on. The acting is always amazing and the cinematography is more raw than a lot of films in the American catalogue. With the recent Oscar win by Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, these films are now being pushed more into international fanbases. Which ones stuck out to us? Hint: It’s a lot of zombies. 

Train to Busan

A woman trapped on a train of zombies
She’s gotten herself in a pickle. (image credit: Next Entertainment World)

Train to Busan excels at a concept lost on many stereotypical zombie movies. It’s got a heart. Well, it’s also got rotting flesh and teeth, but that isn’t the point. Train to Busan emphasises humanity in this terrifying glimpse at being stuck on a train in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. The main character, Seok Woo, needs to find his daughter. While this might seem like the typical setup for a Liam Neeson flick, we assure you, it’s much deeper than that. The film explores human connection and fragility in times of fight or flight, and the lengths we’ll go to for the people we love.


This south korean family sitting on a jank floor took home four Oscars.
Did this movie deserve to win at the Oscars? Let us know. (image credit: Barunson E&A)

While not a tried and true horror film, it’s hard to deny why this film took home four Oscars and is considered one of the best films of the decade. This film explores the subconscious class divide in South Korean culture and holds a lot of symbolism to unpack. As with the rest of the films on this list, it also features great performances from the protagonist family and the family they become intertwined with. In short, Parasite covers a struggling family looking to crawl out from the slums and into normalcy. The lengths that they go to get there are what make this a thrilling watch.


Zombies on rooftops are a scary thing.
These zombies aren’t here to make friends. (image credit: Lotte Entertainment)

We’ve already raved about #Alive in our review, but there’s always more to say about Cho Ilhyung’s brilliantly performed zombie romp. The gamer perspective is loosely touched on in zombie films, and this does a great job of showing what a pro-gamer may do if zombies decide to trap him in an apartment complex with sparse resources. The social media messaging behind #Alive modernizes it greatly and shows how many of us may react as well.

The Wailing

This south korean gem is the scariest one you'll find.
The Wailing will leave you speechless and confused. (image credit: 20th Century Fox Korea)

2016’s The Wailing is possibly the scariest, goriest, and most thought-provoking south korean feature on this list. The film follows a string of homicides linked by a village newcomer and superstition. At almost three hours, this is the longest film to grace this bunch, but the horror definitely warrants the longer runtime. In fact, the film holds a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has been critically acclaimed for its nonstop terror and dark comedic elements. 

Have you seen any of these films? Do you agree with our list? Sound off below in the comments!

By John Castro

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