Tales of the paranormal still fascinate many people, and it’s still among the most popular of genres in both literature and film. Vampires, werewolves, demons, and psychopathic murderers are typically the monsters we think of, but ghosts are the king of the horror characters. Easily the most famous and recognizable, ghost characters in films have that specific creep factor that make all of us not only scared, but make us think about the dead.
The scariest ghosts, by far, hail from Asian horror movies. You know the type. The type of Asian ghosts that I’m talking about, are the ones who are basically skin and bone. The ones that have long black hair, porcelain white skin, black sunken eyes, and a gaping black-hole of a mouth. The ones that crawl out form pitch-black tunnels and contort their body shape into eerie figures and shadows. From the ghost girl in The Ring franchise, to the westernized Shutter, Asia continues to spawn ghostly hits which U.S. audiences can’t ignore.
No matter how frightful these ghosts are. Asian ghosts have expanded their franchises into the U.S. markets and have recently become one of the Hollywood trends in its horror genre. Asian ghost characters have brought success to not only reviving an old westernized ideal of what horror could look like, but have also done well in capturing new audiences.
Who knew Asian ghosts could make us fear the ordinary mundane things, like a television? Below is a list of not only the scariest Asian ghosts, but also the most well-known Asian ghost characters.
15. The Ring “Ringu”
Let’s begin strong with the most famous Asian ghost character—Sadako, from Ringu. Based on the book by Koji Suzuki, this earlier Japanese version of the hit American adapted film, The Ring, is creepy in the extreme. We should all be familiar with the premise of the story, which is after watching a mysterious videotape, people begin to die gruesomely. First, their faces are twisted in photographs and in the Japanese version, some individuals become insane after witnessing the death of their friends or loved ones. The video becomes an urban myth. In the Japanese version, Sadako takes the place of Samara. The ghostly demonic figure that is Sadako, a revengeful spirit, and the lost daughter of a psychic, is portrayed disturbingly. Everything from the way she looks, like the long strands of her black hair which cover her face, to the iconic way she crawls out from the well and the way she stands is sure to give you nightmares.
14. Whispering Corridor
This film came out in 1998, when South Korean cinema exploded, following the liberalization of censorship in the aftermath of the end of the country’s military dictatorship. This film is not only a strong social commentary on authoritarianism, but also conformity in the rigid South Korean education system. The main focus of the terror is formed through several female students finding the body of a dead teacher, who claimed, while alive, that a former student was dead but is seen attending the school. The eerie plot thickens when the main protagonists start to think that one of their “friends” may be the revengeful student spirit. The film can be seen as outdated. But with appropriate timing of suspense, the ghostly character works. The actual figure for the most part is seen as an ordinary student. What makes her frightening is the fact that she passes as human. Audiences don’t suspect that the character is the ghost until the very end, where there’s a frightful twist.
A photographer and his girlfriend run over a young girl. Instead of helping the victim, they decide to flee the scene. The couple is then haunted by the memory of their deadly encounter, and soon, a lot of odd things started happening when photos started to contain strange ghostly shapes and figures. On top of that, the photographer’s friends begin to die in mysterious circumstances. The female victim which was hit and forgotten, comes back as the ghost with vengeance and is absolutely gruesome. Following the same style of the ghost in Ringu, the ghost in Shutter is just as pale and creepy. She also dons the same black stringy hair. She has dark sunken eyes and, with perfect moments of suspense, she creeps on her victims by appearing in one place and then in another. She appears in shadows, but the best moment is when she unexpectedly appears on a photograph. As the photographer leans ever closer to see his developing photo, the face of the ghost pops-up.
12. The Grudge
Before there was the crafted American version starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, director Takashi Shimizu thrilled Japanese audiences with Ju-On. This is basically a story about a young nurse who learns that the house she’s visiting is cursed. The house is essentially cursed by two brutal murders that happened. The nurse eventually realizes that anyone who sets foot in the house, which is inhabited by two vengeful spirits, meets a bloody and disturbing end. Unfortunately, for the nurse, she’s the next in line. The ghost…or ghosts in Ju-On pack a punch. Not only can you check of your list of creepy, pale, dark-haired women who crawl and contort, but now you can add a creepy child. The child is, of course, pale with dark hair, but also has a trademark gaping pitch-black mouth. Again, the movie was made back in 2002 and the ghosts’ appearance can seem a bit outdated, but both characters maintain their job in scaring their viewers.
When you know the creators of Ringu and Ju-On make their next film, you can believe that the ghostly depictions are sure to make you jump. Released in 2001 and remade with the same title in 2006 for the American market, it centers on a story set in Tokyo, Japan. In this disturbing thriller flick, three people face a mystery when a young man appears as a spectral computer image. The plot basically centers around ghosts invading the living world via the web. There are two parallel story lines within the film. One focuses on a man who works on computers and the other is focused on an economic student. When the ghosts start to make their presence known, they don’t disappoint. Dark shadows, faces that pop-up, and misshapen bodies are all part of the allure that are the ghosts in Pulse. Just be sure you don’t look on your computer screen too long.
10. Dark Water
Dark Water is a 2002 Japanese-released horror film directed by Hideo Nakata. The film’s premise is based on Dark Water written by Koji Suzuki. The main character is a divorced mother who moves into a rundown apartment with her daughter and experiences supernatural occurrences including a mysterious water leak from the floor above. When an unexplainable strange pattern appears on her apartment ceiling, she begins to have recurrent visions of a strange ghost girl and of a red bag she used to own. This makes the mother fear for the sake of her sanity. The ghost in this film, for once, isn’t pale. She still rocks black hair but the ghost’s complexion is brown and muddy. Due to how she died, the ghost girl’s features are bloated and look as if she came from a bog. Wherever she goes, she leaves a trail of water and puddles. If you’re a good swimmer, this should come in handy.
9. Into The Mirror
Into the Mirror is a 2003 South Korean horror film about a series of grisly deaths in a department store that all involve mirrors and the troubled detective who investigates the cases. After accidentally causing the death of his partner during a hostage situation, an agent quits the force and works for his uncle as the head of security at an immense shopping mall. All the dead victims are employees at the mall. They commit suicide in unconventional ways, which involve mirrors. The more clues the agent stumbles on, the stranger the truth becomes. It seems like the man in the mirror is definitely not who he’s shown to be. The ghosts in these films aren’t typically scary-looking in the traditional sense, but is extremely creepy. As one victim bends down and looks away from the mirror, her reflection doesn’t seem to follow through. Nothing’s scarier than your own reflection being possessed by a ghost.
8. One Missed Call
Possessed cellphones predicting their owners’ untimely deaths is a great horror plot which never goes out of style. In this film, friends receive chilling calls on their cellphones from themselves is just the beginning of the chill factor. They listen in horror to their own bizarre deaths, which eventually occur. The main protagonist tries to solve the mysterious call about the death of her friend. Bodies of other friends start piling up after, they too, receive the same voice mails of themselves. The protagonist finally discovers that a vengeful spirit is the source of the terror and the terrifying messages and murders. However, all the calls and messages seem to be strangely connected to her. In this film, the ghosts with the pale faces and black hair and precise timing are back once again. Bloody eyes, bloody mouths, stringy black hair, and little contorted figures add the right amount of scare.
7. A Tale Of Two Sisters
After being institutionalized in a mental hospital, a Korean teen reunites with her beloved sister and they return to live at their country home. The girls’ widower father has remarried and the siblings are immediately resentful of his new wife. As the sisters try to resume their normal lives, strange events plague the house. This leads the terrified sisters to try and exorcise their home of two dark forces—their evil stepmother and a vengeful entity. The film leads to many surprising revelations and a shocking conclusion. Scarred bodies, blood seeping up from the floor, scary visions of bodies being dragged, and doors that lock on their own add the necessary elements to heighten the ghostly suspense. When the ghost finally appears, instead of being pale, she is instead dripping wet and dark. The ghostly figure still rocks her iconic long black hair and makes her move by crawling slowly towards her victim.
6. The Ghost (Dead Friend)
So this horrifying pic is basically about a college student struck with amnesia who then tries to piece together the events of her life. On top of having memory loss, her friends suddenly begin dying off in mysterious water-related episodes. Connections are then starting to become clear between a dark secret from her past and the present. Basically, a bunch of girls go to a spring where one who can’t swim gets pushed in. One of the girls tries to save her but while doing so, both the victim and savior switch souls. The spirit of the dead girl terrorizes not only the clique of girls, but also the one who has her body. This ghost in this flick is pretty much a walking water-dripping corpse. What makes her scary is that she’s only seen by only a few and makes her presence known through water, random red-eyes that haunt the victims, and of course, lots of black hair strands.
5. Ghost Of Mae Nak
In this 2005 Thai folklore-based horror film, a displaced spirit is unleashed when an ancient bone relic is removed from her grave. A newly-wedded couple is then thrown into the story when they move into its abandoned home. The feared phantom known as Mae Nak initially safeguards the couple. However, in return for her protection, the couple realizes the spirit expects a terrible price in return. The film’s spirit is deeply rooted in Thai religious folklore. The appearance of the ghost is not as different as the others, with long black hair, pale skin. However, the ghost does have some s*x appeal. You might say she’s probably the hottest scary spirit out of the bunch. She rocks a ragged two-piece garment and has tattoo-like markings. Even though this is mostly an action-horror flick, the scariest part about the ghost is how she kills the victims she haunts. From beheadings to being burned alive in a morgue, the ruthlessness of this ancient Thai spirit is immense.
4. The Maid
The Maid is a 2005 Singaporean horror film. A maid-for-hire arrives from the Philippines and acclimates herself to the customs of the Chinese Ghost Month. The maid finds work and is employed by an operatic family with many secrets. They give her a place to stay in their dilapidated shop house. During her stay with the family, eerie things begin to happen. The main character comes across a burned corpse which happened to be the previous maid from the year before. The ghost appears as a burnt corpse with charcoal cracked skin and always has a veil of red over the ghost. Yet, Instead of a menacing ghost trying to harm the protagonist, the spirit works with the protagonist in helping to get the new maid out. There’s also another ghost which is the real monster of the film. The viewer doesn’t know he’s a ghost until he’s stabbed by the protagonist in defense.
This is a 2005 Japanese horror film. The story centers on a hopeful actress who has won a role in a film that takes her and the other film members to a hotel where the present soon collides with the past. There, the actress comes face-to-face with a slew of restless spirits. The film, she’s taken on, is being shot on the exact site where the true story of a crazed professor’s murderous rampage that left 11 victims, including his young daughter, dead. The actress is then caught in terrifying visions guided by the professors daughter. Here, the ghost is a creepy child dressed in a cute yellow patterned dress. The ghost, of course, has long black hair and always carries a demonic doll. The doll’s face contorts and at times, shatters on its own. The doll will then expose a bulging life-like human eye. The doll could give Annabelle a run for her money.
2. Ghost Train
Released in 2006, this Japanese ghost-centered film is basically about a possessed train ticket that kills people. All become strangely marked with black eyes and other black markings after finding the ticket. The main characters start to learn that the train ticket has been returned to the lost-and-found multiple times and the people who returned the ticket were the ones who have also died. Possession, killings, dead bodies, and a bloody stillborn are all mixed in to this drama to create a fearful package. As the story unravels about the ticket, the protagonists find out about a female who died by being hit by a train after giving birth. The ghost is pale and with signature dark hair. At times, the face isn’t seen. The spirit walks with scraggly, long, black hair covering its face. When the face appears, the face is grey and pale. The ghost’s pupils are black.
1. Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman
The best and scariest-looking Asian ghost of all time has to go to the Japanese film Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman. In this film, a story about a disfigured woman is spread through a Japanese town. An earthquake causes a corpse matching the entity’s description—a woman with long black hair, a trench coat, carrying scissors while wearing a white mask, breaks out of a closet in an abandoned house. As that occurs, a teacher suddenly hears a voice ask, “am I pretty?” Every victim is encountered with the same question before their disappearance, or death. Disappearances prompt schools to send the students home in groups, escorted by members of the staff. The main feature of the ghost, the most frightening part, (besides her pale skin, and long black hair) is the woman’s disfigured mouth. When the spirit opens its mouth, the lips look like they’ve been ripped apart, leaving an uneven gory grin.