When the weather gets hot, we usually cool down with ice cream, lemonade, or a trip to the beach. In Korea, however, they watch scary movies in the summer! This is because Koreans believe that the best way to cool off on a hot day is to watch spine-chilling horror films. In honor of this tradition, we’ve compiled a list of Korean horror movies that you can watch to scare you this summer.
1. The Wailing (2016)
The Wailing follows a series of killings in Gokseong, a small village in the mountains of South Korea, where a mysterious infection breaks out that causes the villagers to become deranged and violently kill their families. Jong-goo (played by actor Kwak Do-won) is a policeman who investigates the killings, only to be drawn into the madness on a quest to save his daughter Hyo-jin (played by actress Kim Hwan-hee).
This film received widespread critical and commercial success, earning $51.8 million USD at the box office on a budget of only $8 million. It was also shown in the Out of Competition section of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, making The Wailing a definite must-see movie.
2. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
The plot of A Tale of Two Sisters focuses on a recently released patient from a mental institution named Su-mi (played by actress Im Soo-jung). After returning home with her sister Su-yeon (played by actress Moon Geun-young), she begins unraveling a series of disturbing events that occurred in her family’s past. This brings the girls at odds with their stepmother, Eun-joo (played by actress Yum Jung-ah).
Though the psychological horror film is almost two decades old, it continues to be praised as one of the greatest movies to come out of Korean horror this century. The film is also an adaptation of a well-known Joseon-era folk tale, "Janghwa Hongryeonjeon" (장화홍련전) making it a thrilling way to experience a part of Korean history and culture.
A Tale Of Two Sisters is still the highest-grossing horror film in Korean history. Its popularity even ended up leading to an American remake, named The Uninvited (2009).
3. Seoul Station (2016)
Seoul Station is an animated zombie film that takes place in and around the eponymous Seoul Station, where a young runaway woman, Hye-sun (voiced by actress Shim Eun-kyung), must try to survive in a world that sees her as disposable whilst a zombie epidemic breaks out.
This animated film serves as a prequel to the iconic 2016 zombie film Train to Busan, and has been praised as a commentary on South Korea’s societal issues through the desperate nature of its characters’ lives pre-outbreak.
4. Gonjiam: The Haunted Asylum (2018)
Gonjiam: The Haunted Asylum is a found footage-style horror film that centers around a horror web series crew that travels to an abandoned asylum for a live broadcast. However, as they venture deeper into the building, they find that there is more truth to the rumors surrounding the asylum than they originally thought.
Though the film evokes familiarity with audiences through its use of Western character archetypes, Gonjiam has been praised for its camerawork and the relevance of its criticism of vanity and greed. The movie is also based off of the real life Gonjiam Psychiatric Hospital (곤지암 정신병원), which has been declared “one of the most haunted locations in Korea.”
5. Whispering Corridors (1998)
Whispering Corridors follows a school plagued by rumors of a ghost haunting the grounds. After a death and a series of disappearances occurs, students Lim Ji-oh (played by actress Kim Gyu-ri), Yoon Jae-yi (played by actress Choi Kang-hee), and Kim Jung-sook (played by actress Yoon Ji-hye) must find out what is happening in their school before it’s too late.
The film was a surprise hit upon release, and is now known as a classic part of Korean cinema. Whispering Corridors was also part of the explosion of Korean films that occurred after censorship laws were lifted after the end of South Korea’s military dictatorship in 1987.
What horror films will be helping you keep cool this summer? Let us know in the comments below!
Horror movies not your thing? We've also created a list of must-watch Korean films of all genres: