Is the Handmaiden a Scary Movie?

If you’re a fan of horror movies, you’ve likely heard of the 2016 South Korean film, The Handmaiden. Directed by Park Chan-wook, the movie has been lauded for its beautiful cinematography and intricate plot. However, some viewers may be wondering whether The Handmaiden is actually a scary movie or not.

The Plot

The Handmaiden is based on the novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. It tells the story of a young Korean woman named Sookee who is hired as a handmaiden to a wealthy Japanese heiress named Lady Hideko. Sookee’s job is to help Lady Hideko fall in love with a con man who plans to marry her and then steal her fortune.

As the story unfolds, we learn more about each character’s motivations and secrets. The plot twists and turns as alliances are formed and broken, and it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems.

The Atmosphere

While The Handmaiden isn’t a traditional horror movie in terms of jump scares or supernatural elements, it does create a tense and unsettling atmosphere throughout. The characters are all flawed and have their own dark pasts, which adds to the feeling of unease.

The setting also plays a significant role in creating this atmosphere. Much of the movie takes place in an isolated mansion with dark corners and hidden rooms. The mansion itself feels like it has secrets waiting to be uncovered, which adds to the sense of foreboding.

The Themes

One reason why some viewers may find The Handmaiden scary is because of its exploration of themes such as power dynamics, betrayal, and sexual violence. While these themes aren’t necessarily unique to horror movies, they can be unsettling for some viewers.

There are several scenes in The Handmaiden that depict sexual violence or abuse. While these scenes aren’t gratuitous or exploitative, they can be difficult to watch. It’s worth noting that the movie has been criticized by some for its portrayal of these themes.

The Verdict

So, is The Handmaiden a scary movie? The answer is subjective and depends on what you find scary. If you’re looking for a traditional horror movie with jump scares and monsters, then The Handmaiden probably won’t fit the bill.

However, if you’re looking for a well-crafted thriller with complex characters and an unsettling atmosphere, then The Handmaiden is definitely worth checking out. While it may not scare you in the traditional sense, it will keep you on the edge of your seat and leave you thinking long after the credits roll.

  • Pros:
    • Breathtaking cinematography
    • Intricate plot with unexpected twists
    • Well-developed characters
  • Cons:
    • Depiction of sexual violence may be triggering for some viewers
    • The slow pace may not be to everyone’s taste


In conclusion, whether or not The Handmaiden is a scary movie is up for debate. However, there’s no denying that it’s a well-crafted film that deserves to be seen by anyone who appreciates beautiful cinematography and intricate storytelling. Just be prepared for some uncomfortable moments along the way.