International Horror

Hello Everyone! Welcome back to my blog! The past few weeks my class has been working on a very exciting project.


Our project “Monster in the Mirror” has challenged us to create our second PLP film, centred around one of the best film genres ever- Horror!!! As a huge film buff with an admiration for scary movies I was absolutely ecstatic to begin this project. 

Throughout our research and filming process I feel I’ve learned a lot about the qualities that make a strong horror film. While these qualities are fairly universal, I have began to notice that culture and country of origin greatly impact a creepy flick. I thought it’d be incredibly interesting to compare Western or “Hollywood” horror films to South-East Asian horror films, to begin to understand how the horror genre contrasts internationally…


There’s no denying that both Hollywood directors and South-East Asian directors create absolutely terrifying films. What I’ve discovered (after a very long movie marathon) is that their approaches to horror tend to be slightly different. 

Many Hollywood movies commonly draw inspiration from literature. Whether the movies are inspired by folk tales or adaptations of novels, Hollywood horror films tend to build off of well known stories. 

Building off of common themes or ghost stories can greatly improve an audience’s connection and fear of a film. Which is likely why many Hollywood movies additionally utilize tropes.


Pulling from previous understanding of a “type” of situation or character makes your film instantly clearer and (if used correctly) stronger. Audiences can easily identify what’s going on.  Tropes, particularly in Hollywood horror are commonly seen in a negative light. Which is usually because tropes are easily confused as clichés. In reality tropes are actually thematic storytelling devices, meant to expand a plot rather than just simplify or dramatize it.

Hollywood horror films are additionally direct. The fear and “horror” is very shock based and upfront. From the very beginning of most Hollywood horror films, we are instantly aware of the killer or monster. The gruesome moments and characters are upfront and centre, they are the focus of the story.

A film I watched that embodies this idea of “up front” fear is the incredibly successful “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” directed by Tobe Hooper.

While gorey and violent “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is additionally built of off common “true” stories and realities in the U.S at the time. The “Sawyers”, the cannibalistic family that prey on the protagonist Sally are a heavily parodied version of a classic American family. The film additionally reflected on the rise of serial murder, drawing inspiration from killer Ed Geine.

The combination of shocking scenes and well known relevant topics and commentary contributed to the power and strength of this American horror film.

The method of scaring the audience is what separates most Hollywood films from South-East Asian horror films. While Hollywood utilizes disgust, gore and intense suspense, most South-East Asian directors take a subtler approach.

While South-East Asian horror films still utilize similar horror devices or qualities,  there is a lot of focus on building a creepy and unsettling atmospheres.

Many films use the experience of the protagonist to build a sense of dread and despair. The uncomfortable atmosphere mixed with supernatural elements utilized specifically in Japanese and Korean films manufactures some incredibly terrifying stories.

A South Korean film I watched in preparation for this post, Na Hong jin’s “The Wailing” definitely encapsulates and prioritizes an unsettling atmosphere.

The film additionally uses supernatural elements, such as hexes and evil spirits to add mystery and fear to the film.

“The Wailing” was incredibly unsettling and as someone that doesn’t find most horror scary, I was pretty terrified (I had nightmares). The lack of jump scares and predictable horror elements, caused a different form of suspense to build. While there weren’t as many violent scenes or action moments, I was engaged throughout the entire film. The disturbing nature of it made it almost impossible to turn off (trust me I wanted to!)

While I love both Hollywood and Sout-East Asian films equally, I do believe that South-East Asian films have qualities that are incredibly unique and effective. In fact many directors in America have remade popular Asian films such as “Ringu”, “The Grudge” and “Shutter” due to their incredible success. There’s also been a significant rise of psychological and supernatural films in Hollywood over the past few years, which very likely could be inspired by successful elements and tropes of Asian films. 

Overall it’s incredibly fascinating how horror transforms based off of place. How similar yet different the horror genre can be throughout the world. 



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