After watching Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder as well as his Oscar-winning film Parasite, one will obviously be tempted to delve deeper into the genre of Korean thriller films. After watching a considerable number of films, one will notice that not only do the directors often dabble with the supernatural and mystic but also seem to have a fixation with zombie apocalypses.
From riveting period pieces to dystopian crime dramas, the Korean film industry is definitely rich in various kinds of films.
When Bong said that the little hurdle of the language barrier was standing in our way of enjoying good films, we couldn’t agree more. With the all-encompassing Korean wave washing over the world, the interest in Korean cinema, K-Pop, K-Dramas and more has risen exponentially.
Netflix, too, has a great number of Korean titles. Recently, with Hwang Dong-hyuk’s series Squid Game releasing on the streamer, it has gone on to become one of Netflix’s most popular shows due to its interesting survival thriller premise.
If you are a Squid Game fan and want to watch other Korean thrillers with bated breath, here are seven such thrillers on Netflix that will interest you:
The 7 best Korean thrillers on Netflix
7. Time to Hunt (Yoon Sung-Hyun, 2020)
Set in a time after the country undergoes a huge economic collapse, the film sees a thrilling heist unravel as Jun Seok, recently released from prison, proposes one last heist to his delinquent friends. The trio, desperate to escape their miserable fate, however, find themselves in a mess when they end up robbing a dangerous and illegal gambling house that hire a hitman to persecute them.
Set in a dystopian South Korea where the Korean Won loses its value considerably, the film has a brilliant ensemble cast who do justice to their roles. It highlights the plight of the youth in an economically ravaged nation that eventually leads to a riveting heist film.
6. The Call (Chung Hyun-Lee, 2020)
A phone call connects two people living in two entirely different times set two decades apart. It’s a call that alters their lives completely. The serial killer provides the path for redemption while putting one of the woman’s past trauma and her life on the line until she changes the course of her fate and the caller’s.
Starring Park Shin-Hye and Jeon Jong-Seo, the film was appreciated by viewers for being a wonderful South Korean thriller. With a riveting plot narrative, despite its slight let-down ending, the film is worth the watch with an unfathomable thrilling atmosphere.
5. Lucid Dream (Kim Joon-sung, 2017)
Choi Dae-ho, an investigative journalist and single father, is busy writing exposes about corruption and bourgeois politicians and executives. He is dealing with a personal tragedy as his son had been abducted three years back. To find some solace in himself, he attends therapy to access his memories by using lucid dreams that might help him find his son.
Starring Sol Kyung-gu, Go Soo and Kang Hye-jeong and more, the film is a fantasy drama that sees a culmination of mystery and sci-fi. The ending of the film seems like a surreal dream as the film delves deeper into the mystery of death and pain.
4. Forgotten (Jang Hang-jun, 2017)
An abducted man makes a return nineteen days later without any memory of the same and his brother is suspicious of this strange behaviour. However, he soon notices bizarre changes in his family which makes him visit the police. He learns of a shocking truth and soon begins to question his “family” as well as his own sanity.
The film is a twisted psychological thriller that has an interesting set of characters and an incredible storyline. Well-crafted with elements of uneasy horror, the film is extremely intriguing with slick action and plot twists.
3. #Alive (II Cho, 2020)
Gamer Oh Joon-woo loses his family to a zombie outbreak that leaves him depressed and confined to his apartment. He chances upon another lone survivor in a building across from whom he starts communicating and desperately tries to stay alive amidst the raging apocalypse.
Although Train to Busan prevails as the best South Korean zombie flick, #Alive reeks of panic, paranoia, frenzy, loneliness, isolation and anxiety with an apocalyptic backdrop.
Given the current circumstance, the film is tailor-made for its time and is a brilliant reflection of the condition of the millennial generation who seek solace in technology within the four walls of the room.
2. Rampant (Kim Sung-hoon, 2018)
This period thriller is set in the Joseon era where an exiled prince comes back home amidst intense political turmoil where the Minister of War leads the coup. However, the entire turmoil takes place amidst a zombie apocalypse and the prince must put up a brave fight against the zombies whilst the minister uses the virus as leverage.
Starring Hyun Bin and Jang Dong-gun, the film boasts of fast-paced action, top-notch cinematography and creepy sequences. With well-stylized sword fights, the violence helps add to the overall tense atmosphere of the film that records a rebellion amidst raging class differences and economic crises.
1. Train to Busan (Yeon Sang-ho, 2016)
One of the finest products of the Korean film industry, the film revolves around the beautiful relationship between a father and daughter.
A divorced workaholic father accompanies his daughter as she visits her mother in Busan. While they are on the train, news about a zombie apocalypse breaks out and the train is overrun by zombies. The father must risk his life and save his daughter while battling against the zombies.
Starring Gong Yoo, Kim Su-an, Ma Dong-seok and Jung Yu-mi and more, the film has a riveting premise that is imbued with love. A father’s selfless sacrifice for his daughter takes the foreground amidst the horror that is unleashed by the premise of the passengers being trapped in a train filled with zombies.