Some of the most underrated films within the horror genre come from Korea, which is sad because they produce some of the best horror movies ever to grace the genre.
Korean horror films often focus more on psychological horror and zombie apocalypse films, which is mostly what is on this list.
However, there are several more action-styled horror movies if that is your preference.
Here’s my hand-picked list of the best Korean movies for your next watch!
The Wrath (2018)
First up on the list is the 2018 Korean horror mystery, The Wrath. Set in the Joseon Dynasty, it pits two Joseon women, the main character and her evil stepmother, against each other.
Sometime before the events of this film, a courtesan of a high-ranking official is brutally murdered, after which she vows to get her revenge on those who brought about her premature death.
Fast forward to the events of the movie, the courtesan spirit is still haunting the family and causes the deaths of the official’s three sons, all on their wedding day.
After the sons die, one of their wives, who is currently pregnant with their child, realizes that there is an evil spirit who has cursed the family and is causing these evil events to occur.
The wife has to try to put the spirit to rest, but it will not be easy. While it is not as good as the original film, it is still a solid Korean horror movie and period film.
The 8th Night (2021)
If you are looking for a more psychological horror film, the 8th Night is perfect.
In this film, the main character is a retired exorcist who must deal with the consequence of accidentally releasing a demon into the world and unleashing it upon thousands of unsuspecting people.
After unleashing this demon, the exorcist is forced to try to stop the resurrection of two mysterious beings who were locked away in separate tombs for two and a half thousand years for their crimes against humanity.
After the first one, known as the Red Eye, is released, it begins making its way toward the other being, known as the Black Eye.
Alongside the cops trying to solve a series of mysterious deaths, the exorcist helps them prevent the Black Eye from being released and reconnecting with the Red Eye, which would lead to the end of humanity as we know it.
This is a great movie, nearly two hours long, and has an intense plot. Horror fans of all types will love this movie as it is one of the best on this list.
I Saw the Devil (2010)
While psychological horrors are great, sometimes you just need a more traditional serial killer horror movie with a revenge plot.
I Saw the Devil centers around a NIS agent, Kim Soo-Hyun, who is trying to hunt down a serial killer named Jang Kyung-Chul after his fiance was murdered.
After locating the killer, Kim Soo-Hyun beats him within an inch of his life before letting him go, but not out of the goodness of his heart.
Instead, he wants the serial killer to know that he is on his trail now, and thus ensues a deadly game of cat and mouse, where Kim is the predator, and the serial killer is his prey.
It is a brutal film that does not shy away from showing blood and gore, and you will find yourself watching some extremely twisted and brutal scenes.
While they may not be the most brutal, they are still quite intense, leaving you wondering what you watched on your screen. So what are you waiting for?
Go give I Saw the Devil a watch!
Train to Busan (2016)
If you are a fan of zombie films, then you will want to give Train to Busan a watch. In this movie, an ex-soldier and his ragtag team must fight to survive in a post-apocalypse world after a zombie epidemic where most humanity has been transformed into blood-hungry, brutal creatures.
It takes place in South Korea and is an intense zombie film.
There are tons of fight and action scenes that will leave your blood pumping as you watch this small group desperately try to create a life for themselves amidst this zombie outbreak.
As you can probably guess based on the movie title, most of the events take place on a train traveling from Seoul to Busan, and the main characters are passengers aboard it.
It is one of the best zombie movies made in recent years and has a unique spin on it, utilizing a speeding train and enclosed area as the main setting versus a large open world that allows the main characters to explore.
Overall, it is worth a watch if you are a fan of zombie films.
Kim Hong-Seon directs Metamorphosis and leans heavily into the paranormal and supernatural, focusing on a family troubled by some shape-shifting demons who can take on the appearance of the various family members.
It is not a unique movie idea, but rarely done in horror.
During the film, one of the brothers is put into danger, and it is up to the rest of the family to help save him, but with shapeshifters present, nothing is quite as it seems, leading to a confusing film.
However, that is a common theme in Korean cinema, especially horror movies.
While it is a confusing movie, it lends itself to the film and makes the film rewatch several times so you can figure out what is going on.
So, if you are a fan of this style of cinema, you will love this movie, which deserves its place as one of the best Asian horror movies.
The Host (2006)
If serial killer and paranormal movies are not your jam, then you may like this 2006 monster film created by Bong Joon Ho.
The Host centers around a young girl who is kidnapped from her town by a sea creature, which serves as a metaphor for Korean culture and Western Imperialism.
After the teenage girl is kidnapped, her father spends the rest of the movie trying to free her from the grasp of the monster, alongside the rest of her family, who believe they are the only ones who can do anything to save her.
It is a horror film and a social commentary that uses the young woman and her family to share a message.
It is worth a watch, especially if you want a good creature feature. It is not super heavy on the gore but has a seriously impressive monster and utilizes special and practical effects to give the viewers a great experience. So give the Host a watch; you won’t regret it.
A sequel to Train to Busan, the 2020 film Peninsula, is produced by Yeon Sang Ho and does tie into the character seen in the first movie.
In this movie, the main characters are a squad of survivors led by an ex-soldier trying to recover a truck filled with cash abandoned in the Korean Peninsula.
As you would expect from a zombie movie, the peninsula is filled with rogue militias looking for their next victim, zombies hungry for blood, and some survivors who are simply trying to stay alive amidst all the death and suffering.
Like the first, Peninsula is an intense action film that will keep you wondering if the main characters will make it out alive.
With a high audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, you know that Peninsula is worth watching, and it does a lot of good in its storytelling and action scenes.
So, if you are looking for your next zombie horror film that isn’t just mindless killing, you must give Peninsula a watch.
What is better than a mental institution hiding dark secrets behind its doors regarding horror movies?
If that sounds like the perfect fit for you, then you need to watch Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum, one of the best found-footage movies that Korea has ever put out.
The main characters begin to explore this asylum. While there are only some strange occurrences at first, it quickly turns deadly as evil spirits try to ensure that the group of friends never leaves the asylum.
It is truly one of the most frightening movies on this list, as it creates a ghost-hunting mockumentary feel.
Everything that happens during the movie is shared via a live broadcast to the ghost-hunting team’s viewers, which helps make the viewer feel even more brought into the movie.
Out of all the movies on this list, this is one of the best, with all the actors giving outstanding performances, so be sure to watch it.
The Wailing (2016)
One of the highest-rated films on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 99%, The Wailing is a story of supernatural mysteries and strange events that immediately draw you into the movie.
The plot of this movie takes place in a small town where the main character, a policeman, is trying to solve a string of mysterious killings and illnesses to keep his daughter safe.
This is easily one of the greatest horror mysteries ever, with multiple plot twists that keep you on your toes, so you never feel too comfortable in your current understanding of the movie.
While this movie style can often fall flat, The Wailing pulls it off perfectly, which is why it is highly rated.
Even if horror mysteries aren’t your thing, you will be hard-pressed not to enjoy this movie, as the characters and plot are brilliantly done, and everything ties together perfectly.
It also does not rely heavily on jump scares but utilizes its slow burn and supernatural aspects to keep you interested.
A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
The final movie on our list, A Tale of Two Sisters, is another of the highest-rated Korean horror films ever.
It is a psychological thriller that does not hold back and is not afraid to make you question everything you are witnessing in the film.
Directed by Kim Jee-woon, it is another family movie, specifically about the two young daughters.
After one of them is released from a mental institution, she is reunited with her sister and family, who go to live at their old country home, but the two sisters are distrustful of their father’s new wife.
At first, everything is just a little rocky, but that quickly gives way to strange events that thrust the sisters into a hell they did not want.
It is poignant and beautifully directed, and the plot is intriguing, keeping you snared in the story until the final scene ends.
You are never entirely sure what will happen, which is one of the strengths of this movie, as it makes it an unforgettable experience.
Korean horror movies, while underrated, are some of the best in the horror genre, utilizing psychological and supernatural to a level not often seen in Western horror movies.
While they may not always be as gorey or brutal, they are still well worth a watch.
While it can be difficult to watch horror movies not in a language you know, all the movies on this list are well worth the time.
They all have English subtitles, and some have subtitles in other languages like Spanish, allowing you to enjoy these masterpieces without speaking Korean.
If you enjoyed this article, check out The Most Disturbing Horror Movies Ever for some truly gut-churning horrific horror movies. Until next time, stay scared!