Richard J. Moir selects his Five Essential Japanese Horrors…
5. Audition (1999, dir. Takashi Miike)
Audition is a Japanese horror film but you wouldn’t think it from the opening hour. It plays as more of a romantic drama with hints of comedy (mainly coming through the actual audition scene) and leaves the audience wondering what direction the film is actually going in. The last half an hour is exciting though, with a gruesome scene to show why this was labeled horror in the first place. Although the effects were used to full effect, and believe me, they don’t cut much out, the use of camera work was often distracting and amateurish. The lack of a dolly and stedicam made me feel queasy at times, butthis just adds to the effect of the film. The final scene is one to remember.
4. Ju-on (2000, dir. Takashi Shimizu)
You may have seen ghost stories before, but they never had ghosts like the ones in Ju-on. Crafted with exquisite care by director Takashi Shimizu, Ju-on is an unrelenting 90 minutes of terror that will leave you gasping.
3. Onibaba (1964, dir. Kaneto Shindô)
Creepy and disturbing to the very last detail, Onibaba is a classic in Japanese horror and it’s easy to see why through the stunning cinematography, creepy settings and costumes and the high pitched and daunting sounds. Despite being a great horror film, it’s extremely symbolic which sometimes gets in the way, and I often found this hard to relate too. But that wasn’t ruining my viewing pleasure one bit and the final scene is pure horror.
2. Battle Royale (2000, dir. Kinji Fukasaku)
Not quite the J-Horror film that describes the other films on the list, but the brutal scenes that plague this movie make this 2nd in my list. Set in an alternate present, a group of students are put on an island to kill one another, to solve Japan’s problems of an out-of-control youth system. Some scenes are iconic and the characters play their parts well, while the cinematography is stunning and the ending superb.
1. Ringu (1998, dir. Hideo Nakata)
Gloomy, eerie and unsettling, Ringu masters suspense through it’s dark mise-en-scene, disturbing soundtrack and fantastic plot. Watch a cursed videotape, and you will die in seven days. Everyone knows the story. It sparked a few remakes (Hollywood being the obvious culprit) and it’s easy to see why. Ringu is a fantastic horror film, which uses the “demon woman” as it’s main scare. Throughout we see Reiko, a reporter, watches the supposed cursed videotape and finds herself caught in it’s trap, seeing things that aren’t there, and witnessing horrid flashes of where the curse began.
Ju-on: The Grudge (2002, dir. Takashi Shimizu)
Ichi the Killer (2001, dir Takashi Miike)
Gojira (1954, Ishirō Honda)
Agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear your comments on the list…
Richard J. Moir