Before the success of Paranormal Activity made found-footage horror the next “big thing” in fright flicks, Hollywood’s go-to place for ideas was eastern Asia. Following the 2002 smash hit The Ring, based on Hideo Nakata’s 1998 Japanese success Ring, no fewer than 10 additional wide release American features based on Asian horror films were released up through 2009, with four in 2008 alone. Some – The Grudge, mainly, and The Ring Two to a lesser extent – were big hits, while others like Pulse disappointed at the box office. With critical reception no better than any other horror subgenre (2008′s One Missed Call remake got a pitiful 0% on RottenTomatoes) and dwindling consumer interest, the fad died off after the early 2009 release of The Uninvited.
Although it’s not totally over – the Japanese film Apartment 1303 has a 3D remake coming to limited release and on-demand services this summer – this period ended before many other interesting offerings from the region got the chance to be redone for Western audiences.
Here are ten Asian thrillers worth a look that, for better or worse, were never given a Hollywood do-over…
Country: South Korea
Director: Byeong-Ki Ahn
Byeong-Ki Ahn is a prolific South Korean horror director (you’ll see him again later in the article), and this is his earliest feature film. The story is a sort of cross between Ring and I Know What You Did Last Summer, in which a bunch of old friends from school reunite when the vengeful ghost of a former accomplice begins to kill them off one by one. The non-linear narrative is told as a series of nested flashbacks, with the necessary twists and turns and revelations all along the way. This can make it hard to follow for some viewers on a first watch.
Nightmare is admittedly not the best-made film, as Ahn makes a few typical first-feature mistakes. But the scares are usually fairly effective, with the killer ghost popping up in all sorts of interesting places, and the wild, constantly-evolving story can be quite engaging and surprising. It’s also pretty fast-paced compared to many horror films from the region, which helps stave off any chance of boredom.
This article was first posted on May 27, 2013