10 Asian-Led Horror Films to Watch This Halloween and Beyond

Chill your bones this Halloween with films featuring Asians and Asian stories.

Chill your bones this Halloween with films featuring Asians and Asian stories.

asian-led horror films

by Urbi Khan
October 28, 2022

Legendary horror films like Japan’s Ringu and Audition and Korean films like The Handmaiden or The Host have both challenged and changed the genre. But on one gloomy October night, I wondered: where are all the English-speaking Asian horror protagonists? 

Wouldn’t it be interesting to combine Asian diasporic cultures with the cultures of our ancestry when portraying exorcisms and hexings? Or, for once, just be the scream queen? 

Since Asians in Hollywood horror are few and far between, here is a spoiler-free round-up of some spine-chilling films you should add to your movie roster this Halloween season. 

1. Mayhem, 2017 (Dir. Joe Lynch) 

(Available on Shudder, Amazon Prime Video) 
Genre: Horror/Comedy/Action/Corporate Satire

Mayhem combines pandemic fears and the opposite of quiet-quitting.

Derek Cho (Steven Yeun), a consulting firm headhunter, climbs the corporate ladders and trades his bright eyed-nature for a seat at the table. But the tables turn when Derek is fired for a mishandled case pinned on him. On the same day, he and the firm are put under quarantine after being infected by the Red Eye virus, which unleashes all inhibitions of the infected – even causing them to murder. To get out alive and prove his innocence, Derek joins forces with a formerly wronged client as they fight to the death against execs on the top floor and settle the score. 

2. Midnight Mass, 2021 (Creator: Mike Flanagan)

(Available on Netflix)
Genre: Horror/Drama/Religion/Limited series

This limited series from horror maestro Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House) explores the realm of faith on an isolated island, ruled by strong Catholic values. The law is maintained by Sheriff Hassan (Rahul Kohli). He and his son are Muslim and treated as outsiders on the island when they go to the mainland on Fridays for prayers at the mosque instead of going to church on Sundays.

When a young charismatic priest arrives on the island, mysterious occurrences occur, beginning with a herd of dead cats along the island’s shore. Despite the unexplainable horrors, the priest revitalizes the islanders’ faith. Soon, the island becomes divided and falls victim to the sinister presence looming over them – eventually making an enemy of a Sheriff whom they did not trust in the first place. 

3. Umma, 2022 (Dir. Iris K. Shim)

(Available on Amazon Prime Video)
Genre: Supernatural/Thriller/Horror/“Mother-Knows-Best”

Amanda (Sandra Oh) is visited by an uncle from Korea on her off-the-grid farm in New Orleans, where she lives a controlled and restrained lifestyle with her daughter, Chrissy (Fivel Stewart). With him, the uncle brings the cremated ashes of Amanda’s umma. After the arrival of her mother’s remains, Amanda is haunted by spirits in every corner of her home. 

While controlling the whimsy of her daughter to not go away for college, Amanda is haunted by memories of her abusive childhood. As the spirits ravage Amanda’s once-stable life, she realizes that she is repeating her mother’s mistakes.

4. Evil Eye, 2020 (Dir. Elan Dassani, Rajeev Dassani)

(Available on Amazon Prime Video)
Genre: Supernatural/Thriller/Horror/“Mother-Knows-Best”

Sarita Choudhury as Usha in EVIL EYE

Sarita Choudhury (Seema Patel in And Just Like That…) heads this supernatural drama of love turned sinister due to intergenerational trauma, part of the horror anthology Welcome to the Blumhouse

Usha (Choudhury) is a superstitious woman, and traumatic memories of her old boyfriend haunt her waking hours. But she occupies herself with setting up a marriage for her daughter Pallavi (Sunita Mani, GLOW). Pallavi eventually meets the enigmatic Sandeep, and Usha finds him too good to be true, especially when his questionable past is revealed. As time passes, Usha is convinced that Sandeep is the reincarnation of her ex-boyfriend, who seeks to end her daughter’s life.

5. The Humans, 2021 (Dir. Stephen Karam)

(Available on Crave)
Genre: Psychological/Drama/Comedy/Family Holidays

Based on the Tony-award-winning play, the film features Steven Yeun, Amy Schumer, and Beanie Feldstein as members of the Blake family, who gather for an awry Thanksgiving dinner. 

During dinner, the family tries to suppress conversation about their regressing physical and mental health. The most open and introspective among the Blake family is Richard (Yeun), the youngest daughter’s partner, who sticks out like a sore thumb as he confesses to the family that he suffers from depression. 

With the aid of camera magic, bordering on the haunting frames of Hereditary, the night grows long as things go bump in the dark. The conversation shifts through elongated cracked walled hallways, leaving the family to wonder — when will Thanksgiving end?!

6. Searching, 2018 (Dir. Aneesh Chaganty)

(Available on Netflix)
Genre: Psychological/Thriller/Drama/Social Media

In this meta-thriller, set entirely on computer screens and smartphones, every parent’s worst nightmare comes to life through a sinister trip through cyberspace. Lines between reality and fiction are blurred, especially if you watch this film on your laptop. 

The audience are voyeurs to David Kim’s (John Cho) life. He meticulously documents everything, especially his only daughter Margot’s life. When Margot disappears, and the police investigation leads astray, David obsessively searches through her laptop to put together the puzzle pieces, revealing a daughter that he never actually knew. 

7. It’s a Wonderful Afterlife, 2010 (Dir. Gurinder Chadha) 

(Available on Amazon Prime Video)
Genre: Romantic-Comedy/Dark Comedy/Campy Horror

From the creator of Bend It Like Beckham comes this dark and campy British rom-com starring Bollywood icon Shabana Azmi and Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water). The film opens with the search for a serial killer who takes the lives of their victims with a “killer” chicken tikka masala and cooking utensils.  

One night, a seemingly innocent mother, Mrs. Sethi (Azmi), comes face to face with the ghosts of the murdered in her house. They accuse her of being their killer. Her life is turned upside-down as her focus is taken away from setting her daughter up for marriage, for whom prospective matches have been unsuccessful. Soon, a young sergeant (Sendhil Ramamurthy, Never Have I Ever…) investigating the murders comes poking around Mrs. Sethi. Will Mrs. Sethi ever get to have a wedding for her daughter?

8. The Green Knight, 2021 (Dir. David Lowery)

(Available on Amazon Prime Video)
Genre: Fantasy/Adventure/Medieval/Horror

An Arthurian legend comes to life through Dev Patel (Lion) as the head-strong nephew, Gawain, of King Arthur. Gawain fights his way through the maze of a kingdom divided, in search of the Green Knight and his axe to forge his path as a hero in the court of Camelot. 

The film, directed by David Lowery (A Ghost Story), consists of scenes with witches casting spells to graphic medieval-style beheadings and ghosts calling from beyond the grave. It’s sure to give you chills. 

9. Encounter, 2021 (Dir. Michael Pearce) 

(Available on Amazon Prime Video)
Genre: Thriller/Drama/Alien Invasion

In this psychological thriller, the truth plays out like a desert mirage. Malik Khan (Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal), a decorated American Marine with PTSD, takes his two sons, Jay and Bobby, away from their mother’s home when she falls sick, telling them that they are going on a road trip together. 

After an altercation with a police officer, Malik confesses to his boys that they are not on a trip, but on a rescue mission as an alien parasite invasion, which has infected their mother, has taken over the world. Malik vows to protect the boys, as they leave their childhood behind to follow their father. But the real question: is the threat real, or is it all in Malik’s head?

10. Nope, 2022 (Dir. Jordan Peele)

(Available for rent on any VOD streaming services and select theatres)
Genre: Horror/Thriller/Neo-Western/Alien Invasion

In a world that can only be created by horror innovator Jordan Peele (Get Out), the Haywood siblings (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) try their hand at fame and fortune as they chase evidence of aliens. The two attempt to capture evidence after the horses on their ranch vanish during what can only be a UFO sighting. 

Next door, rival Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun), a theme park owner and former child actor on a famous sitcom, tries to profit off of the alien phenomenon. But little does Jupe know that the sinister presence holds a monopoly over his childhood memories. 

Fun fact: Jupe was not originally written as Asian-American, but Peele and Yeun reworked it to be “more authentic and true” to the Asian-American experience!

Like this post? Follow The RepresentASIAN Project on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to keep updated on the latest content.