Advanced Television

Netflix: “Strong appetite for horror in SE Asia”

August 18, 2022

According to Netflix, viewing of horror content on the platform grew by 20 per cent in the Asia-Pacific region from 2020 to 2021. Over the same period, viewing hours of horror content in Southeast Asia increased even more – by over 40 per cent.

“The horror genre has deep roots in Asia. Homegrown scary movies have gripped regional audiences since the very inception of many local film industries, and inventive horror creations from Japan and South Korea have spooked viewers from all over the world. And the appetite for this fright-filled fare is going strong, as the next wave of horror content emerges from Southeast Asia,” commented Vivien Tan, Publicity SEA at Netflix.

One of the latest horror releases is
School Tales The Series, an anthology series crafted by six Thai directors that features eight different ghost stories set in schools. Within the first week of its release on Netflix, the series has made the Top 10 most-watched TV series in four Southeast Asia markets —  Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Other popular horror titles in Southeast Asia include: the first season of South Korean zombie series All of Us Are Dead (pictured); South Korean zombie vengeance story Kingdom: Ashin of the North; and Taiwanese film Incantation, which tells the story of a mother trying to save her child from a deadly curse.

While Southeast Asian audiences watch horror fare from a wide range of markets (German movie Blood Red Sky, and American content Don’t Breathe 2, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Midnight Mass have scored strong viewing numbers in the region), they are definitely staunch consumers of stories rooted in their own cultures.

In Indonesia, for instance, Impetigore, a homegrown horror film helmed by director Joko Anwar, was one of the most-popular horror titles. The same is true of The Ancestral in Vietnam, and the two sequels of the Pee Nak franchise and The Medium in Thailand. All these stories take inspiration from their respective countries’ local lore and cultures.

Southeast Asian horror movies are resonating beyond the home countries of individual films as well. Beyond Thailand, The Medium dominated the Top 10 film ranking in Singapore and South Korea when it was released on Netflix in 2021. Another Thai film, The Whole Truth, dominated the Global Top 10 non-English film ranking for five consecutive weeks upon its release in December 2021, and at one point rose to become the most popular non-English film globally.

Actor Sutatta Udomsilp, who plays one of the siblings in The Whole Truth, commented: “This is a different kind of story. It has a lot more dimensions than just another horror movie that wants to scare you. It has family drama, as well as horror and suspense. You could say it’s not the kind of movie you get to see very often.”

“That, in a nutshell, might just sum up the distinctive appeal of Southeast Asian horror,” added Tan.

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