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Roh
Photograph: Kuman Pictures

The scariest Southeast Asian horror films to stream in Singapore

With vampiric villains and ghastly ghosts, these scary movies will give you many a sleepless night

Cam Khalid
Written by
Cam Khalid
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Nothing strikes terror into your soul more than Southeast Asian horror films – and maybe your livid mum with her slap-ready palm out. These stuff of nightmares are usually centred on supernatural beings or scary creatures that have traversed legends, folklore, and even pop culture from the region – think pontianak, orang minyak, and aswang. With some well-known classics and cult favourites available on streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Go, you can easily get your scream on from the safety of your blanket – just make sure you don’t hide behind it for the most of the film.

RECOMMENDED: The scariest films to watch in Singapore and the most haunted places in Singapore

Country Malaysia

If you’re not a fan of jump scares, Emir Ezwan's directorial debut Roh might be the horror flick for you. Focused on a small village secluded deep in the tropical rainforest, the low-budget, demonic nightmare follows a family of mum, daughter and son. Things start to pop off when a strange, little girl follows the children home and announces a terrifying prediction of death after days of creepy silence. If this isn’t convincing enough, take Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright’s word for it – he tweeted: “amazing stuff”. It’s also Malaysia’s official submission for the Oscars' International Feature Film category.

Country Indonesia

Another Oscar submission (also the first for Indonesia), Impetigore follows a young woman who heads home to her quiet village in the hopes of unearthing a family mystery. But don’t expect a big homecoming party – the villagers have something menacing up their sleeves. And yes, it spells danger, especially for the young woman. The film is helmed by Joko Anwar who also directed Satan’s Slave (see below).

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Country Singapore and Malaysia

Revenge of the Pontianak marks director Glen Goei’s return to the big screen since the release of his 2009 murder mystery The Blue Mansion. Co-directed with Malaysian actor and director Gavin Yap, it looks at Southeast Asia’s most famous horror icon but humanises her with a romantic storyline. The horror flick is performed in Malay – a nod to the golden age of filmmaking in Singapore before the 1970s, the era where iconic Pontianak films were first produced by Cathay-Keris and Shaw – so best watched with subtitles on. 

Read our film review here and Glen Goei's Time Out Singapore takeover here.

Country Indonesia

One to give you the heebie-jeebies, this Indonesian horror tells the haunting story of Alfie who travels to her father’s old house to find answers that could connect her to her father’s strange circumstance – he’s on his deathbed due to a mysterious illness. Along the way, she uncovers a dark past that includes a pact between her family and the devil. Putting two and two together, she begins to realise that the devil is back to collect his payment unless Alfie can find a way out.

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Country Thailand

A soldier returns from the Chiang Toong War and continues his life with his family. Little does he know that his wife died during childbirth and is now a ghost, as is their stillborn child. The film is based on the Thai folklore of Mae Nak Phra Khanong, the lingering spirit of a soldier’s wife.

Country Thailand

Nothing gets the heart racing quite like Asian horror. This classic Thai scare fare – not to be confused with the Japanese remake – ropes you in with plenty of darkroom scenes and strange photographs. It all begins when a newlywed couple does a hit-and-run. They start experiencing horrifying events post-accident when they discover that the girl they run over is haunting them.

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Country Singapore

The stuff of nightmares – this horror flick unveils a household's very dark past. A family welcomes a new maid to care for the mentally disabled son, but her arrival is ill-timed as it's the seventh month of the year. It's believed that forces of the underworld are capable of unleashing their evil vibes during this period. As the newcomer begins her new job, she starts to find herself haunted by the sinister visions that reveal the fate of the family's previous maid.

Country Singapore and Malaysia

Written, directed, and even played by triple-threat superstar P. Ramlee, Sumpah Orang Minyak shadows a disfigured hunchback who makes a deal with the devil in exchange for beauty. Trouble ensues when he kills a man and his new life is taken away from him. Begging for another shot, the devil demands he rapes 21 virgins.

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Country Singapore and Malaysia

One such genre that still lures audiences in then as it still does today is horror. Shining its torchlight on the vengeful vampire, Cathay-Keris’ Pontianak cult classic, together with sequels Dendam Pontianak and Sumpah Pontianak, defined the horror genre in Singapore and Malaysia. The films also feature music composed by Zubir Said, the composer behind Singapore’s national anthem. Fun fact: some of the earliest surviving kampong scenes filmed in Siglap and Tanah Merah can be found in Sumpah Pontianak.

Country Indonesia

A cult fave among Asian horror fans, Satan’s Slave revolves around a wealthy family. After the death of the mother, a mysterious housekeeper is sent to care for the family. Soon after, they are violently haunted by the undead, including the spirit of their deceased mother.

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Country The Philippines

Not a film per se, but the award-winning anthology which consists of three episodes will have you “shake, rattle and roll” with fear. Baso tracks the adventures of three friends who partake in an Ouija-like game and uncovers a tragic love triangle. Pridyider sees a refrigerator come to life in the most terrifying manner. Manananggal showcases a teen flirting with a girl who is – hold your breath – an aswang, a shape-shifter with a nefarious alter ego made popular in Filipino folklore.

Country Various Asian countries including Singapore

Another anthology worth binging, this six-part horror takes you on a hellish ride across six Asian countries. Brave up for the superstitions and myths that haunt this side of the world – think pontianak, and its equivalents like the Javanese wewe gombel and Thai pob. “Many of the stories have been passed down hundreds of years but given an update – so there's something familiar but yet something new in each episode,” shares filmmaker Eric Khoo. The second season, featuring seven hour-long episodes, is set to roll out in 2021.

Read our full interview with Eric Khoo here.

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