Japanese filmmakers love horror flicks.
Unlike Western horror movies, which tend to focus on monsters and murderers, Japanese horror centers more on ghosts and psychological horrors. They’re rooted in kaidan ghost stories from Edo and the Meiji periods. These movies have been around since the 1960’s, but there was a big resurgence in the late 1990’s and 2000’s.
There’s quite a few to choose from. So where to begin?
Here’s a simple guide for getting started with Japanese horror movies.
Ringu is pretty well known, thanks to the popular Western remake, The Ring.
What you may not know is that it’s success prompted Takashige Ichise to create J-Horror Theater, a series of six horror films from six different directors. Not a bad place to start.
Other notable western remakes include The Grudge, Dark Water, One Missed Call, and Premonition. Like most remakes, the original versions are better.
Some movies never made it across the Pacific, probably because no one knew a way to make them appealing to western audiences. Here’s a few I (shamefully) enjoyed:
- Audition – A twisted story of a lonely guy who holds an audition to find a new wife. He seems to find the perfect lady, but things don’t go great for him. Avoid this one if you’re squeamish with dismemberment.
- Ichi the Killer – This film follows a sick yakuza gangster, the cops following him, and a mentally damaged teen who’s also a perverted assassin. Includes enough torture and sexual deviance to make it illegal in several countries.
- Gozu – About a yakuza gangster who can’t find his boss. Seriously, the whole film he’s just looking for him. Doesn’t sound bad, does it? Well hold on, cause things get weird. Like David Lynch weird.
Be prepared, these movies are twisted, well beyond anything coming out of Hollywood. They don’t pull any punches.
Did I miss any good ones? Call them out in the comments below.