It’s not Halloween yet, but here in Asia, Ghost Month has already started. It runs from August 19 to September 16 this year, while the Hungry Ghost Festival is set for September 2. Per Chinese tradition, it is widely believed that famished spirits roam the living world during this period, searching for food and resources.
Families typically offer food and drink outside their homes. Meanwhile, Buddhists and Taoists light incense, prepare feasts, and release lanterns or paper boats for revered ancestors. For the rest of us who don’t follow Chinese tradition, what better way to celebrate than to binge on Asian supernatural movies? We’ve selected both popular and underrated flicks, but you won’t find the Ring or Shutter on this list! Grab a bowl of popcorn and press play (if you dare).
This gist: a suicidal actor tries to take his life inside his gloomy Macau apartment after his family leaves him, but things go terribly wrong. A retired vampire hunter, ghosts, otherworldly beings take over the dilapidated apartment and soon enough, residents are fighting to survive.
The acting is superb even when the elements are too flashy, and movie-goers have been swept away by the realness of its characters, which is impressive since there’s no sexy protagonist to swoon over. Heavy-laden with grisly visual effects, and nominated for 9 Hong Kong 2014 Film Awards, Rigor Mortis does the Asian Horror movie trope well. (As expected from its producer, Takashi Shimizu, who gave us The Grudge.)
Inception, but make it horror. Breaking the 4th wall, Coming Soon (2008) promises its audience that the movie will make them feel terrified long after the credits. The plot starts with Chen, a projectionist who needs to illegally pirate a movie. His fellow conspirator disappears and leaves behind a camera. Soon enough, he realizes that the ghost in the movie (based on a true story), “Evil Spirit”, is real. Shomba, a frizzy-haired, crazy old witch with a gangrenous leg, starts to haunt him and his associates.
Note: Don’t expect a lot of jumpscares with this movie and instead enjoy “the horror of watching horror movies.”
For an Asian horror flick that hits closer to home, try Eerie, which came out in the Philippines last year. Set in an all-girls Catholic school during the 90s, a student named Erika dies, and her gruesome suicide makes life a living nightmare for guidance counselor, Pat Consolacion.
It might remind you of some myths and legends you’ve read from the True Philippine Ghost Stories books that you hoarded from the school fair. With desaturated shots and its subtle social commentary on mental illness, Eerie will give you the creeps with a touch of nostalgia.
If you want more reason to fear Hungry Ghost month, this is the movie for you. They say never to sign a contract or make any big decisions every 7th month of the Chinese calendar—the souls of the dead pour in from the gates of hell.
In this movie, a Filipina, Rosa, accepts the job to become the Teo family’s maid, with apt timing as she starts right at the seventh month. She breaks every rule in the book and encounters supernatural forces and nightmarish visions of what happened with the previous maid.
In the mood for something equal parts entertaining, upsetting, and downright insane? Liked Train To Busan or Korean horror films in general? Say no more—The Wailing is right up your alley. A Japanese stranger arrives in a rural village, which coincides with a series of grisly deaths.
Jong-Goo, a police officer, scrambles to solve the mystery as his only daughter, Hyo-Jin, becomes infected, too. Suspicion turns into mass hysteria as demonic activity brings disaster to a once-peaceful community. The takeaway? Evil takes on many forms. Sometimes, supernatural, and oftentimes, human.
Nope, we didn’t accidentally put The Maid twice on this list. This one refers to the recent Thailand horror flick. Similar to Netflix’s hit-series Girl From Nowhere, The Maid (2020) delivers satisfying revenge, albeit with extreme violence. It starts out like other films with similar plots where an innocent maid meets a cold family.
After a boring start, it drops you right into the 5th circle of hell. For fans of Girl From Nowhere and similar revenge dramas who are okay to watch R-rated scenes and gore, The Maid (2020) will leave you satisfied with a huge grin on your face. (If it does, we’re scared of you!)
Which one’s on your list this Ghost Month? Let us know! Enjoy (and don’t forget the snacks for both you and the spirits).
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