Japanese horror, also known as J-Horror if you like to shorten things, is a vastly different experience from the tropes of the western horror genre. The common slasher film about a group of teenagers going to a cabin in the woods only to be stalked by some masked murdered is a very rare occurrence in Japanese horror.
Instead, the genre prefers to look at the supernatural or the psychological when it comes to scaring you half to death. Japanese horrors prefer to get inside your head, rather than just splatter blood on the screen.
J-Horror’s influence in popular culture has been felt in everything from American movie re-makes to dark video games and even the latest online video slots which build horror imagery into the gameplay.
Because of this, it can be a bit of a surprise when you first make the jump over to Japanese horror from western horror. So today, we’re going to look at 7 Japanese horror movies that can “ease” you into the genre, if there was such an idea.
We’re starting this off with one that you have almost certainly heard of, probably most likely due to the Hollywood remake. However, if you have seen the Hollywood version of The Ring, don’t think that you know what it really is like.
The original Japanese series features an entirely different feeling of tension that the Hollywood version just did not manage to capture. It is an entirely new experience compared to the remake, and definitely worth trying if you haven’t seen it yet.
Ju-On: The Grudge
Yet another movie that Hollywood got their hands on but really didn’t do a good job at translating the atmosphere was Ju-On: The Grudge. With noises and sound effects that will forever haunt you, sending shivers down your spine whenever you hear them, as well as some incredible visuals, The Grudge is a wonderful example of how different Japanese horror is compared to the western genre.
Sticking with the paranormal for this next one, Dark Water tells the story of a mother and child who move into a new apartment, only to find out it is haunted. What follows is a harrowing tale of a mother trying to protect her child whilst also find out who the ghost is and what they want.
It is an exceptionally creepy story that will stick in your mind for years to come. Whilst it may not be the darkest and more terrifying Japanese horror movie, it is certainly a memorable one and a great entry to the genre.
Stepping away from the paranormal side of Japanese horror, we have Parasite Eve, which people in the west will probably be familiar with by name due to the video games. However, the movie (as well as the novel that it is based on) actually started the entire storyline. Based on scientific fact, with a dose of fiction added in as well, Parasite Eve is more of a science fiction horror movie.
It will leave you questioning so much about the world, as well as trying to figure out what happened in the story, but in a really good way!
Audition is a very creepy movie. That needs to be said straight away. There are very few movies out there that can get under your skin the way that the storyline, atmosphere and acting do in Audition. Everything from the cinematography to the actual events of the movie will leave you shaking at the end of it.
If you are looking to jump head first into what Japanese horror movies can offer, Audition will drag you into the genre, kicking and screaming!
This next movie is a great showcase of how Japanese horror is not afraid to deal with a subject that is still relatively considered taboo within many film industries. Very early on in Suicide Club, a group of young women hold hands and casually step in front of a moving train, instantly letting you know that you’re in for a horrifying ride as you trying to understand what is driving people to commit such acts.
It is a movie that takes psychological horror to a whole new level as you are scared by the fact that you can’t figure out what is going on. This sense of uncertainty and lack of understanding creates a very unique feeling of fear that western horror just doesn’t capture.
Returning to Japanese horror movies related to video games, Siren is a movie that relates to Forbidden Siren 2. It tells the story of a cursed island and a strange warning about staying inside when the siren sounds. When watching it, you’ll constantly be on edge, wondering what the siren is and why it is so important as a warning.
Everything about the movie will have you guessing, and almost certainly guessing wrong, as it plays with your expectations. If you are looking for a movie that will get you used to psychological horror, Siren is a great place to start!