It Came From Korea: My Super-Quick Intro To Korean Horror Films

Published on September 29th, 2010 in: Culture Shock, Current Faves, Halloween, Horror, Movies |

By Jim R. Clark

Korean Horror Films, or K-Horror, are horror films made in South Korea. Not North Korea!

kim jong

K-Horror films have enjoyed a surge in popularity starting around 1998, and subsequently winning worldwide acclaim in international film festivals and among horror film fans.

The only source for K-Horror movies in the US and UK (with English subtitles) is the distribution company Tartan Asia Extreme (Palisades). At one time, they were almost impossible to find here in the states; Tartan would occasionally distribute its movies in some major chain rental stores such as Blockbuster and K-Horror films would rarely be shown on the Sundance cable TV channel. But now, with the advent of mail order movie services such as Netflix, the films are much easier to obtain. (I hate to even say this but now these movies can even be watched illegally in ten-minute increments on YouTube.)

To describe these films, let’s start by talking about what they’re not. In general they are not focused on gore and snuff-torture, such as many current American and Japanese horror films, or on super-hero type villains and cardboard victims such as the tired Jason, Freddy, or Saw franchises. There are no cookie-cutter plots, but rather mysterious and suspenseful in-depth stories. Here, there are ideas that are scary and powerful, not buckets of fake gore and CGI effects.

K-Horror films invoke the concept that it is the not knowing what is chasing you that is scarier than whatever it is that is actually chasing you. Sure, you will find explosions of violence and blood here and there, but it is, for the most part, in quick flashes and not of primary importance. Also thankfully absent in Korean horror movies is the awful American habit of combining sex with violence and murder. Instead, you are drawn into a world completely different from your own, a culture that is at the same time traditional and futuristic, spiritual and superstitious.

I do not claim to be an expert on this genre myself, and I think to really be one, you would have to be a Korean living in Korea. That being said, I can at least, share with you what I know and offer you a tiny peek into the Korean horror film window and highlight some of the best ones.

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