How To Survive An Asian Horror Movie

A column article by: Park Cooper

Barb is back to watching A-Horror, the genre of horror movies from Japan, Korea, China, and so on. Her most recent choices have been Death Bell and its sequel Death Bell 2.

Inspired somewhat by the book How To Survive a Horror Movie [ ], over breakfast Barb and I started coming up with HOW TO SURVIVE AN ASIAN HORROR MOVIE.

NUMBER ONE: DO NOT GO NEAR WATER. Lock your potty. Use a bowl and throw the contents of the bowl out the window. There’s PLUMBING in your potty, and plumbing has water. Shut off the water, go in once a year, with lots of witnesses, to make sure nothing’s leaking anywhere, and then lock it back up.

And that’s just YOUR potty. Do not use strange toilets anywhere else, ever. They are deathtraps of water and mirrors (see rule 2) and loneliness and strange smells.

Do not go near lakes, puddles, ponds, streams, rivers, creeks,


NUMBER TWO: STAY AWAY FROM MIRRORS AND CAMERAS. This includes videocameras. Don’t let others take your picture. In fact, for a different reason, you should stay away from glass in general if you can possibly help it. It’s sharp. 

Sub-rule 2.1. STAY AWAY FROM SHARP AND/OR POINTY THINGS. And anything hanging from the ceiling/above you.

Okay, back to rule number 2. Don’t use a cell phone with a camera—you’ll accidentally take the picture of yourself or someone else and the face will be all twisted and that’ll be the start of being cursed. You might get a ghost in the background, and ghosts don’t want you to take a picture of them so it’ll last longer. Ghosts last too long as it is.


Promising or even just saying that you’ll be friends or in love forever guarantees that you or your loved-one or liked-one will be coming back from the grave soon to haunt the survivor. GUARANTEED.

Do not be the heroine’s best friend, and do not be shy. Ask yourself, “if Miko were to cry over someone at the end of this experience, who would that dead person be?” If the answer is “OMG THAT PERSON WOULD BE ME,” then you’re going to die. UNLESS MAYBE you leave town immediately and go to another city. Give the hero and/or heroine your number where you can be reached in case they need to tell you something important, but DON’T YOU CONTACT THEM (unless you happen to figure out what needs to be done to save all of you).

NUMBER FOUR: DO NOT FREAK OUT ABOUT YOUR EXAMS, ESPECIALLY IN KOREA. This kills thousands of cute-and-otherwise teens in Korea every year. Sometimes there isn’t even a ghost involved. Korean Exams are like Steven King’s Maine: just naturally designed to drive people insane at the drop of an eraser. Being number EIGHT out of the top ten in the class is about right. Don’t listen to your parents (nor your FRIENDS’ parents) nor teachers if they bug you to be the best in your class in your exams. If this happens, YOU NEED TO RUN AWAY FROM HOME/SCHOOL/YOUR FRIENDS’ PARENTS.

Which leads us to a sub-rule:

Sub-rule 4.1: DO NOT HAVE WEIRD PARENTS. Especially a weird mom. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, thank your lucky stars, and pray that you never find out.

NUMBER FIVE: DON’T STAND OUT. Don’t come in LAST in your class, either. Don’t be the class clown. Don’t be the prettiest. Don’t be the smartest. Well, be the smartest if you want, but don’t obviously SEEM like the smartest. But don’t be a loner, either. That’ll get you noticed. KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN, PEOPLE. Moderation is the key. DON’T let others know that you have psychic powers, nor six toes, nor nuthin’. Don’t be nosy or investigate anything unless you’re cursed already and have nothing to lose (in which case, investigate everything). It’s okay to be the school historian, CASUALLY collecting tales and rumors. (“You mean you never heard of Dark Ame, the girl who died in the third-floor restroom?”) Which leads us to two sub-rules:

Sub-rule 5.1: STAY OFF THE INTERNET. Electronic devices are not really your friend. Don’t own a TV (unplugging it is not remotely good enough), and stay off the internet. Click NOTHING. Read books and manga.

Sub-rule 5.2: DON’T BE A CRIMINAL. Seriously, don’t even be an accessory nor abettor after the fact. Don’t be evil. Don’t be cruel. Don’t be mean. Don’t be a jerk. Ghosts and killers hate this sort of thing, so don’t set yourself up to be on the receiving end of justice.


These are things you can do something about.

--DO NOT BE AN ONLY CHILD. Ask your normal, benignly-neglectful mom and dad for a little brother.


--AVOID DEATH. If someone dies at your school, and it wasn’t the kindly old teacher who never held a grudge and who had accepted that his or her time had pretty much come, MOVE TO A NEW SCHOOL.

RISK FACTORS OF DESTINY: I admit it’s hard to do anything about these, but just be aware of how they affect your odds:

--DO NOT HAVE A TWIN. I’m sorry, what can you do, but in Korea, one of the most popular horror shows was EVIL TWIN. Incredibly popular, I’m told, because it spoke truth to horror-power. If you do have a twin, dress differently, wear your hair differently, act differently. Again, I’m sorry, in real life we know some identical twins and they are delightful, but I live in North America; every Asian horror movie featuring twins, of which there is no shortage, points to this being a very dangerous area. If your twin starts acting weird or different, you’re still in trouble anyway, but this information can help.

--DO NOT BE AN ORPHAN. I know, I know, what can you do, but I’m just telling you it’s a problem.

--DO NOT BE ADOPTED. I know, I know, but I’m just saying.

--DON’T DREAM. (See rule F3 below.) I know, I know... well, use melatonin or some natural herbal supplements to help you achieve deep, DREAMLESS sleep.

--DO NOT BE FEMALE. I know, I know, what can you do, but I’m just telling you, I’ve talked to Barbara, a known female, about this, and she assures me that girls, often cute ones, are dropping like flies in Asian horror. It really increases your risk, especially since it makes it harder to pee away from home without entering a room with plumbing. Being a cute girl WILL NOT HELP. Being a nerdy girl WILL NOT HELP. Nothing will help (except being a really good runner and/or hider?) except not standing out and keeping your head down.

Also, be ready to cut your hair short at a moment’s notice, because while you don’t want to stand out, having really long hair will help ghosts possess you, because they like to let their hair hang over their faces.

Sub-rule F1: DO NOT CRY AND SCREAM. This just makes things worse. Don’t even breathe through your mouth heavily. Stick your hand over your mouth, hard, and breathe through your nose—QUIETLY. Hold your breath if that’s what it takes. This leads us to another, very important sub-rule—for everyone, not just for females, but especially for females:

Sub-rule F2: THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX. Don’t just look at problems in the usual way. I mean problems like death traps (see sub-rule F3), escaping, hiding, and searching for hidden objects that might be cursed that you might need to get rid of (“Hmm, could the previous occupant of my dorm room who’s dead now have hidden something under the loose floorboard?”)

Which leads to another important sub-rule.

Sub-rule F3: GHOSTS AND SERIAL KILLERS HAVE SEEN ALL THE SAME MOVIES YOU’VE SEEN. Increasingly, killers, alive and dead, have seen SAW, HOSTEL, FREDDY VS. JASON, and any other movies you think give you the edge. Don’t count on getting out of things the same way people in other movies got out of them. The ghost/killer saw that movie too.

Therefore, DON’T CALL ON THE SPIRITS. Ouija boards, similar things written on paper, foxwomen: pretend you never heard of any of them.

But do watch horror movies, as long as you don’t get a reputation for being that weird horror-movie-loving kid. Work on puzzles and riddles in your spare time.

On the other hand, feel free to go get a priest if you need one. Buddhist, Shinto, Christian, anything you can get your hands on.

Sub-rule F4: Don’t go out when it’s your period. I’m sorry, but Barbara assures me that this is a huge risk factor. Didn’t you ever see the movie IN THE COMPANY OF WOLVES? Or maybe PAPERHOUSE? Your first period ever is the most dangerous time in your life in Asia, too. Just stay at home the whole week if there’s the slightest chance you could be cursed or haunted... which is good advice any time, but especially during your period. (If it’s your first one, stay at home even if all the signs at school are great.)

Which leads us to another important sub-rule:

Sub-rule F5: DON’T LIVE ALONE. What, do you WANT to go crazy? Get some trustworthy roommates and casually leave a copy of these rules lying around so they know what to start avoiding. You might write your address on top, just to remind them that yes, they, too, live in Asia. But don’t think that hanging out with your friends and going out to sing karaoke will help protect you. It won’t. But do study with study groups in the daytime-- not at night, alone, in the shady library. It’ll help you not stand out.

DOUBLING DOWN: Doubling down means that you’re upping the stakes—either these things are twice as likely to help, or twice as likely to kill you.

--BEING A SCHOOLTEACHER. Either you’ll save the schoolkids, or you’re the problem in the first place. If you’re not the solution, you’re the problem. Forget “part of.”

--BEING A CUTE BOY. You’d think, in a genre with so many girl protagonists, that being a cute boy might be a good idea, but the problem is that the cute girl cannot always even save herself, so her ability to save YOU is at least four times worse.


IF YOU DIE, PLEASE FORGIVE EVERYBODY. No grudges, no strong emotions.

Merry Christmas.

Stay alive.

--Love, Park and Barb


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