There are plenty of sensational new horror titles hitting Prime Video this month. But, savvy viewers might have noticed that, alongside its prelude to Halloween offerings, the streamer is home to several of the greatest South Korean genre films of all time. For those looking for a grim way to start their season, I’ve tracked down five of the best South Korean thrillers you can stream on Prime Video this month. From devils to zombies and serial killers—oh my—there is something here for everyone, whether you’re new to Korean genre cinema or not.
Kwon Oh-seung’s Midnight is a modern-day update of Na Hong-jin’s The Chaser. Kyeong-mi (Jin Ki-joo), a deaf woman living with her mother, unluckily stumbles upon serial killer Do-sik’s (Wi Ha-joon) latest victim. She and her mother are consequently in the center of his crosshairs, inciting a non-stop chase through the streets as the two women try to survive the night. In typical Korean genre fashion, Midnight is convincingly ruthless, funny, and heart-wrenching. While not quite as grim as this list’s other offerings, it remains a delight, a no-holds-barred, adrenaline-spiked foot chase with plenty of social commentary to boot.
I Saw the Devil
Kim Jee-woon’s I Saw the Devil is a violent odyssey you won’t soon forget. A personal favorite, this is nihilistic genre cinema at its most extreme. There are few, if any, rays of hope. Violence is juxtaposed with greater violence as the bodies fall, the blood flows, and the innocent suffer. A searing portrait of revenge, grief, and obsession, I Saw the Devil lives up to its title—you’ll leave feeling as if you’ve seen evil incarnate. If you watch nothing else on Prime Video, let it be this.
Bong Joon-ho’s Mother may not have the spectacle of Snowpiercer, the ethos of Okja, or the wicked plotting of Parasite, though taken on its own terms, it might well be his most mature, provocative movie to date. Kim Hye-ja stars as the titular mother, an unnamed woman living in rural Korea. She works tirelessly to support her son, Yoon Do-joon (Won Bin), a young man with an intellectual disability, a conspicuous outcast in their rural village. When a young woman is murdered, the crime is pinned on him, and his mother must prove his innocence. Far from being a criminal procedural, Mother is a gut-wrenching interrogation of guilt and the lengths we go to for those we love. Its ending is as chilling as any horror movie, all but guaranteed to haunt you for days.
Na Hong-jin’s The Wailing wasn’t a sensation in the West without good reason. Arguably the most sprawling, provocative horror epic of our time (and, personally, the scariest movie I have ever seen), The Wailing is drenched in dangerous superstition, unbridled faith, and enough folk horror charm to make even Robin Hardy shudder. The arrival of a Japanese man (Jun Kunimura) in a rural village coincides with a series of violent, mysterious deaths. The inept police force (again, a theme in Korean genre cinema) tries to unravel the mystery, But, in doing so, Officer Jong-goo (Kwak Do-won) is ostensibly cursed himself. The Wailing feels like dangerous cinema, a movie so steeped in evil that it easily latches onto your soul and refuses to let go.
Train to Busan
Train to Busan, strangely enough, injected a dying zombie subgenre with enough life to revitalize it for another decade. Yeon Sang-ho’s zombie epic is emotional, violent, and expertly thrilling. Sang-ho augments his train-bound zombie thriller with some of the best set-pieces of the century (the Daejeon Station sequence is a standout), while being ever mindful of the mounting emotional stakes. Plus, this one doesn’t have a happy ending, staying true to the zombie subgenre’s merciless interrogation of life, death, and the cost of survival.
Those are five of the best Korean thrillers streaming right now on Prime Video. Which of these do you plan to check out? Let me know over on Twitter @Chadiscollins. I’m always down to commiserate after a South Korean title has beaten my soul to death!
Categorized: Streaming Guides