The days growing shorter and outside temperatures becoming cooler can only mean one thing: the fall season is finally here, and that means it’s time to get spooky. With less than 100 days left before Halloween, there’s no time like the present to find your watchlist for the holiday season. And as many Asian American and Pacific Islanders can attest, family can be the scariest subject of all.
Check out these six international horror films, centered on themes of family and generational trauma, that will have goosebumps running down your spine.
“Sanzaru” follows Evelyn (Aina Dumlao), an in-home Filipina health aide looking after an elderly dementia patient, Dena (Jayne Taini). As Dena’s condition worsens and she loses her grip on reality, Evelyn begins to question her own sanity in light of Dena’s unsettling behavior. The film’s camera movements and music create an eerie aura surrounding nuanced topics of ancestral curses and family shame.
2. “Evil Eye” (2020)
Directed by brothers Elan and Rajeev Dassani, “Evil Eye” is a horror-thriller adapted from Madhuri Shekar’s book of the same name. The film follows a superstitious Indian American mother, Usha (Sarita Choudhury), becoming convinced that her daughter, Pallavi (Sunita Mani), is dating a man (Omar Maskati) who is the reincarnation of her first abusive husband. Using horror and Indian mythology as a catalyst to explore themes of generational trauma and abuse, “Evil Eye” traverses cultural and generational divides between South Asian mothers and daughters.
3. “The Whole Truth” (2021)
From Thai director Wisit Sasanatieng, “The Whole Truth” centers around two children named Putt (Mac Nattapat Nimjirawat) and Pim (Sutatta Udomsilp), who stay with their grandparents after their mother Mia (Nicole Theriault) ends up in a coma after a car accident. As the kids settle into their grandparents’ house, they discover a hole drilled into the living room wall that reveals horrifying family secrets.
4. “Umma” (2022)
Set on an isolated bee farm, “Umma” stars Sandra Oh as an overbearing Korean mother named Amanda, who is often insensitive to her daughter, Chrissy (Fivel Stewart). After Amanda’s uncle delivers the ashes of her estranged mother, Amanda and Chrissy begin to experience strange, supernatural events as they explore the truths of their family’s past.
5. “Incantation” (2022)
Described as “the scariest Taiwanese film ever,” this found-footage movie follows a cursed woman named Li Ronan (Hsuan-yen Tsai) as she tries to protect her daughter from the consequences of breaking a religious taboo. Based on a genuine account of a family of cult worshipers in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, “Incantation” was shot in a mockumentary-style format that lends a horrific sense of believability to the events seen on screen.
6. “Howling Village” (2019)
After her brother goes missing and his girlfriend commits suicide, psychologist Kanade Morita (Ayaka Miyoshi) investigates the couple’s last appearance in an infamous, cursed location known as the Howling Village. Centering around the Japanese urban legend of the Inunaki village, “Howling Village” intertwines this Japanese tale with Miyoshi’s character attempting to piece together evidence surrounding her brother’s disappearance.