By: Patricia Yap
Among the plethora of movie genres that exist, horror is unlike any other because nothing quite like it beats the dreadful yet exciting feeling of prolonged suspense and an eerie plot that makes one anxious enough to peep the screen in between the gaps of their fingers.
And just like the genre that can’t be beaten, the kings that produce them are the Southeast Asians. Through rich and deeply rooted histories, the Southeast Asians weave their every culture into modern horror that does not simply scare but leaves an unsettling feeling that follows for ages.
With this, SEA Wave presents in no particular order its High Five Southeast Asian Horror film recommendations—all available for easy access on Netflix!
Shutter (2004) — Thailand
Shutter is a classic Thailand horror film that, despite its old age, leaves audiences traumatized (and away from their cameras) for days. After a couple (Jane and Tun) kills a woman in a hit-and-run accident, the pair repeatedly sees a sinister figure in all of Tun’s new photographs slowly becoming clearer and clearer. Concerned that the figure is the vengeful spirit of the woman they killed, Jane does some digging and unearths a shocking truth that goes far beyond that fateful day on the road.
Although the plot seems simple, do not be fooled. The execution and delivery of this show guarantee sleepless nights ahead, and I for one can vouch for this. I remember watching Shutter in high school and I could not shake off the feeling that a presence was following me for days. Even though I’m older now, I still don’t dare to watch the movie again.
23:59 (2011) — Singapore/Malaysia
Based on an unresolved crime in real life, 23:59 is a Singaporean-Malaysian horror film that follows a platoon of soldiers situated on Pulau Tekong—an island used for national service training—where the crime occurred. According to rumors, a woman was killed on the island at exactly 23:59, a minute before midnight. So when an army recruit was found dead and one soldier started seeing apparitions of the dead woman, their fellow soldiers were forced to confront the island’s terrifying secret.
And wherever you may live, there are tales of evil and strange events happening at “the haunting hour”. After this film, you better sleep before midnight strikes.
Ladda Land (2010) — Thailand
Based on an actual property in Chiang Mai that was rumored to be haunted at the time, Ladda Land is a Thailand horror film that follows the story of a family of five that have just moved into the said building to start anew. But instead of a happy new home, the family is met with a series of paranormal events that send them to near insanity as they simultaneously deal with their financial situation, grievances, and depression.
Deemed a true horror box office hit, Ladda Land won 6 awards at the 2012 Thailand National Film Association Awards. However, there is a noticeable amount of reviews that say the film is lacking in terms of scare and suspense, but the plot ensures that there is more to a horror film than just its jumpscares.
The 3rd Eye (2017) — Indonesia
This Indonesian horror film, The 3rd Eye tells the story of recently orphaned sisters Alia and Abel who venture back to their childhood home after 12 years. Abel claims there is something sinister living inside the house when paranormal events happen. And only after Alia consults with a psychic, her 3rd eye is opened to reveal what horrors lurk within their home.
Using the home as an integral aspect of this film, The 3rd Eye offers an atmosphere that is enough to give audiences a looming and unsettling feeling throughout the movie.
Kwaresma (2019) — The Philippines
If you’re looking for an entry way to explore Filipino horror films, Kwaresma is a great starter. The film follows a family who is haunted by what appears to be the ghost of the youngest daughter.
Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Erik Matti, Kwaresma effectively uses its horror to tackle harrowing societal issues. While some scenes may be difficult to watch, the film rewards with a big climactic reveal that can shock audiences.
With these High Five recommendations, it’s time to step away from your usual Hollywood horror films and dip your toes into the world of Southeast Asian horror.
Hop on now to Netflix and dare to give these movies a watch. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Got any favorite Southeast Asian horror films on Netflix that you wanna share? Comment them below!