It’s pretty easy to say on this site that Japanese horror makes up the biggest part of the horror community; most of us watched things like Battle Royale, One Missed Call and Ju-on as we grew up before we even factored Asian content fully into our watching. Followed very closely behind is Korean horror; Train to Busan broke box office records across the world. Death Bell and the Whispering Corridors series are well-loved across Asian drama and film sites, with even more independent film apps such as Letterboxd showing a high preference to films like these; higher average ratings by fewer viewers, much more pleasant reviews and the like can be found all over Japanese and Korean horror.
I admit, even myself, I have a preference towards Japanese horror with Korean horror following very close behind. I don’t watch much out of that, and it’s only let me down once or twice with films I frankly couldn’t stand. When I’ve delved into horror in previous articles, I’ve focused almost exclusively on Japanese horror, bringing to light a lot of films most people have already seen.
However, Japan and South Korea aren’t the only countries present on MyDramaList. MDL features South Korea and Japan, but also China, Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines and Hong Kong.
Through MDL, I have discovered the horror genres and cultures of many different countries and found myself enjoying most steps and rarely placing a foot wrong with the films I’ve seen.
Today, my fellow horror lovers, horror fan newbies or even just people looking to be scared, I’d like to present you with this invitation into Thailand’s horror genre and their culture with some of my favourite films and dramas that I’ve seen so far.
I do want to preface this by saying, Thai horror is very different from the usual aspects of Asian horror. With the example of family and spirits within their horror, it’s more prefaced around family in a different way that Japan and South Korea focus on. Japan and South Korea tend to focus on the breakdown of a nuclear family – a wife, husband and their children. Thai horror focuses more on horror happening to the family, such as a child being possessed, and the parents desperately trying to save them. Think, Dark Water, except a bit slower and focused much more on spiritualism, ritual and family dynamic. It’s a different mechanic, and one that took me very much by surprise when I first started watching – so do be prepared for a much different on-screen horror dynamic than you’re used to.
For this article, I've tried to focus solely on horror and thriller - however, a few horror-comedies were just too good, I couldn't leave them out.
First of all, I want to recommend ThirTEEN Terrors.
Average Rating: 7.9/10 from 266 users
In this thirteen-part compilation series, we follow thirteen different stories. Each episode focuses on a different set of students or a different school's legend, with one or two just following a teenager.
First of all, I'll say not every episode of this was amazing. I found two of them quite boring and really time-consuming rather than finding enjoyment in some form while watching them. Not every episode of this is going to be a hit for you; there's a lot of variation, and the tags on the page don't represent every episode.
With that being said - I very much enjoyed a lot of these. Some of these were very chilling. Some of these were harrowing. Some of these, you rejoice as the students do everything right for a horror situation. There's at least one episode for everyone (and I recommend giving the synopsis of each episode a look first before delving in). With so much variation within the episodes, At first, I thought I'd only like one or two episodes, but I was very pleasantly surprised to find it was the opposite way around.
A lot of these stories left me thinking on these for a long time; some of them especially made me sit and wonder what I would do in a similar situation. I haven't had that for a lot of the horror I've seen; when I finish a drama or film, that's it, I'm done with it, I don't think on it again. Some of these episodes truly haunted me, pun intended, as I went through them; I want to write articles on this series, I want to delve through it, I want to discuss with others what they thought, etc. I usually don't have so much involvement with a series at all.
Only the eighth drama I've finished watching, this is definitely one of my favourites, and one I would most definitely watch again in the future - especially the episodes I didn't like. I do wonder if there was a cultural aspect I didn't fully understand the first time I viewed and I will be coming back once I understand more about Thai culture to give them another go.
(Just so you know - episode 13, The Blue Hour is a remake of the 2015 film The Blue Hour. If you're not too impressed with the show's adaptation, definitely give the film a go!)
Can you make a Thai horror recommendation list without Shutter?
Tun, a young photographer, and his girlfriend, Jane, were driving home after drinking with friends when suddenly they crash into a girl that was walking in the street. Panicking, Tun tells his girlfriend to run away. The next day, Tun discovers mysterious shadows in his photographs, and his girlfriend starts seeing strange things in his house.
My Rating: 8.5/10
Rating: Not Yet Rated
Duration: 1 hour, 37 minutes
Release Date: September 9, 2004
So most people will have likely already seen this one - Shutter is the highest-ranked Thai horror film on the site and also the one with the second-highest average rating - it loses only to Pee Mak, which has an 8.2 rating. Fair to say, it's one of the most popular Thai horrors on the site.
Shutter is one of the group of Asian horrors that were so popular they were remade by the West and got their own American versions. I was one of the ones who saw the American Shutter first and had no idea it was even an Asian film at first. When I first joined MDL, I found it by chance, realised that there was, in fact, a Thai film of it, and dived right in.
This was the film that made me realise that, actually, most American versions of films suck pretty bad. In both films, I'm given the exact same plot, the exact same format, different characters, but in the American, I was given jump scares. In the Thai, I was given a wonderfully tense atmosphere, that had me on edge, and with my gut twisting the further the film went along.
Shutter is an amazingly tense film that focuses on the evil of humans, revenge and well-deserved justice. Dark, slightly twisting, and with a wonderful ending, if you haven't seen Shutter yet or only seen the American, definitely give the Thai a try. (In fact, when I finished the Thai version, I even went back onto IMDb to seriously drop my rating of the American - 4 years after I watched it.)
In the Rattanakosin Kingdom, Mak (Mario Maurer) leaves his pregnant wife Nak (Davika Hoorne) to join the war and meets four soldiers who become his best friends. During this time, his wife Nak struggles to give birth to their baby.
When the war ends, Mak invites his friends to visit Phra Khanong and meet his beautiful wife, Nak. Meanwhile, rumours fly around town that Nak is a ghost. His four friends and villagers are trying to tell Mak that his wife is already dead.
I mentioned when talking about Shutter that it lost its place as Thailand’s best-ranked horror on the site only to Pee Mak, and well, it deserves your view also.
I shy away from horror-comedy quite often; a lot of Western horror-comedy has left an awful taste in my mouth, and so I viewed horror-comedy as all the same and only sprung for Pee Mak as it was one of the Asian horrors on Netflix I had yet to watch – and, boy, was I thankful I chose to hit play.
This is absolutely brilliant in its humour. When things get a bit tense, there’s a perfectly humorous scene to catch you off guard. In fact, this is one of the few films where I’ve truly laughed out loud, cackled out loud – at some points, so loud my neighbours banged on the wall to tell me to shut up.
Horror wise, this isn’t massively strong, but considering how much horror-comedy usually shies away from horror, the way Pee Mak does it is just brilliant.
A little chilling, brilliantly humorous and with some heartbreaking twists, this is definitely my absolute favourite film I’ve watched from Thailand so far.
A horror anthology consisting of five stories:
Novice: a teenager takes refuge at a Buddhist sanctuary after committing a crime
Ward: a biker has to stay overnight in a hospital room with a strange man after an accident
Backpackers: a Japanese couple hitchhikes across Thailand until; they accept a ride from the wrong person
Salvage: karma visits woman who has successful business fixing up cars that were involved in fatal accidents
In The End: the movie crew working on a horror sequel experience a night of real fear.
So, I tend to shy away from compilation films. Whilst I very much enjoyed ThirTEEN Terrors in its compilation, the other Thai horror compilation film I’ve seen – Still – was horrific and not in the good horrific horror way. When it came to Phobia 2, it was a case of, it’s a film on Netflix that’s Asian and horror and I haven’t watched it yet.
This was one of the best decisions I have made in my Thai horror watching career.
Each section of this was brilliant. There was a good mix of horror segments and horror-comedy segments and heartbreaking moments – in fact, one of these shorts actually made me cry. All the directors and screenwriters have such talent and clearly have such respect for the horror genre.
There’s nothing bad I can say about this film, and honestly, all these segments, I would love to see in full-length films (but they do all work perfectly in their small segments).
And that's the four medias I recommend for starting with Thai horror.
There are many, many more that I love and I included some more in bonus but none are as stand out for me as the four listed are.
The Thai horror drama continues to amaze me, send me in new spirals of horror ideals, and I adore it.
What are your favourite Thai horrors?
What do you recommend I watch or would recommend for someone new to try?
What do you think of the ones mentioned?
But please do be warned, I do have a love-hate relationship with Thai horror.
While some are just brilliant, some are absolutely terrible, so be warned you may consume some bad or rough average films.