A Look into Asian Horror Part Two: Japanese Horror
As we continue to branch out into different areas of entertainment, I have the honour of hitting on a film genre that I am absolutely in love with. If the title didn’t give it away, that genre is Horror. Personally, I feel that the art of Horror has died in the United States, dumbing the movies down to PG-13 (for freaking teenagers) or overly relying on Gore, it is very rare anymore to find a good psychological horror flick or one that seeks out to scare the ever living hell out of you.
In my thirty-six years on this earth, I’ve probably seen over a thousand different horror movies from all over the world in my quest to find something genuinely scary. It is tough for me to get scared during a movie, I am really desensitized to the typical scares, but I can enjoy a horror movie for what it is usually.
So to start with I’m going to look at twenty different Asian horror movies, from four countries, and rank them into the top five’s for each country. Look out for part two next week.
I won’t give away the entirety of the movies, but I will add the synopsis for each and then give my personal take on the movies. I will avoid as many spoilers as I can, but obviously, there is a spoiler warning just in case it can’t be helped. I’ll also not go into too much detail about each movie, I am going to be talking about twenty of them after all.
Now we travel to the land of the rising sun, Japan. My favourite country to visit, the home to my favourite wrestling promotion and I am an unashamed otaku/weeb. I love everything about Japan. Japan is known for over-the-top gore and blood effects in their horror movies, like in Tokyo Gore Police, but they also have some iconic horror films that have become well-known throughout the world. I’m going to be keeping away from the over-the-top as much as I can here and introduce you to some of the better and more iconic Japanese horror flicks.
#5. Jisatsu sâkuru aka Suicide Club (2001) Not Rated/R crime/drama/horror
Synopsis: 54 high school girls throw themselves in front of a subway train. This appears to be only the beginning of a string of suicides around the country. Does the new all-girl group Desert have anything to do with it? Detective Kuroda tries to find the answer, which isn’t as simple as one could hope.
When you, literally, start a movie off by having 54 high school girls jump, in unison, in front of a moving train to kill themselves, you know you’re in for a ride. Suicide Club caused some controversy as some believed that it glamorized suicide, but I personally love this movie. It’s not the scariest film ever, in fact, it’s more of a drama than a horror movie, but it does have its moments where the scenes could be disturbing.
There is a bit of over-the-top blood and scenery in this film, but from start to finish it is one of the best movies from Japan that I have ever seen. It even has a spiritual successor, which acts as a prequel, sequel and concurrent film all in one called Noriko’s Dinner Table. Check them both out if you’re intrigued, I promise that you won’t regret it.
#4. Chakushin Ari aka One Missed Call (2003) R horror/mystery
Synopsis: People mysteriously start receiving voicemail messages from their future selves, in the form of the sound of them reacting to their own violent deaths, along with the exact date and time of their future death, listed on the message log. The plot thickens as the surviving characters pursue the answers to this mystery which could save their lives.
Let’s not confuse this with the absolutely dreadful American remake, please. The original One Missed Call trilogy is an amazing work of horror and mysterious art. Sure, the third film isn’t as good as the first two, but when are sequels ever better? We’ve got a movie where you get a phone call from your own cell number, in your own voice, basically telling you exactly when and how you are going to die.
What would you do if you got this call? Would you try to change your fate or ignore it? This is one ride you do not want to miss, especially if you watched the American version. Come for the mystery, stay for the terror that comes when you know you cannot fight fate.
#3. Ringu (1998) Not Rated horror/mystery
Synopsis: A reporter and her ex-husband investigate a cursed videotape that is rumoured to kill the viewer seven days after watching it.
Ringu is absolutely iconic in the horror community. It spawned the American ‘Ring’ series of films, which admittedly are not that terrible, and it has several sequels. Even a film where the antagonist of Ringu faces off against the antagonists of Ju-On. If you are a fan of horror films, especially those from Japan, you absolutely have to watch this movie. There are very few movies or series that come from Japan that are more iconic than Ringu. You’re doing yourself a disservice by not watching this masterpiece.
#2. Ju-on aka The Grudge (2002) R horror
Synopsis: A mysterious and vengeful spirit marks and pursues anybody who dares enter the house in which it resides.
We’ve arrived at number two and that honour belongs to Ju-on. Another absolutely iconic film out of Japan, this film has spawned several sequels and its own successful American version of films. While I personally am not a fan of the American versions, the Japanese series of Grudge films are amazing. You’ve got a long-running series of successful films, a genuinely creepy atmosphere in each, and a story that just doesn’t want to die. Much like the curse of Ju-on. Ringu and Ju-on are both absolutely terrifying and creepy as hell. I highly recommend them both.
You’ve got to be asking if Ringu and Ju-on aren’t number one, then what is? Well, the answer should be obvious to those who love Japanese horror films.
#1. Ôdishon aka Audition (1999) R drama/horror/mystery
Synopsis: A widower takes an offer to screen girls at a special audition, arranged for him by a friend to find him a new wife. The one he fancies is not who she appears to be after all.
Number one belongs to Takashi Miike’s film Audition. Miike is known for his absolutely gruesome and terrifying films, and Audition does not let his fans down. Arguably one of the most gruesome films in his catalogue, Audition is a wild and grotesque psychological ride from beginning to end. I’d argue that the drama and mystery of this film are overshadowed by the psychological horror it instils in audiences. Beware, this is not for the faint of heart, and don’t be fooled by its satirically comedic set-up. When Audition is finished, you may just want to throw up or praise the filmmakers for being so bold.