Asian horror films on the most part fall somewhere between “deep to my heart” to recycled nonsense. Though I do enjoy the thrill of weeding thru all the stinkers to find the gems. For anyone new to these, they present a special brand of fear and dread that is far removed from many Western releases. In fact, I’m quite confident in saying that Asian films tend to rule in the ghost and loony categories. Usually not combined, in that sense. So for our viewers out there, this might allow you a new experience if you haven’t seen all of these.
They differ in story lines, but they also tend to cross over at times in the style and themes. From looking at this list, I can say that it’s pretty diverse, however a couple of the top contenders…Ring and “Ju-on” do root themselves in the “wet ghostly girls” category. Tokyo Gore Police is in a category all its own. And for purists, you’ll want to absorb the experience I’m calling “Tetsuo”. For clarification, this list only entails Japanese horror, which for short is called J-Horror (rather that its sister K-Horror (Korean)). For the record, there are alot of films I’ve yet to see, that also originate from Japanese Horror circles. As those come to the forefront, we may decide to expand on this list.
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01- Ringu (Ring) (1998)
Ringu was as much of a trend-setter as anything to come out of Japan. For the US, many of us had to retro-fit it back into our viewing, with its western remake titled “The Ring” really sending up red flags. I know many prefer the “Ringu” version for purity sake, but I still liked “The Ring” a bit better.
02- Audition (1999)
“Audition” was a great film, that was made for the phrase….”Oh, you got to see this one”. And then watch as your friends sit for half of it without much of anything happening. It’s 3rd act brings it on home with its vindictive tricky nature. “Audition” is a fan favorite and Japanese classic. Just talking about it now, makes me want to sit down and drop it in.
03- Suicide Circle (Suicide Club) (2001)
“Suicide Circle” was quite quirky. It bases itself on a recent fictional craze of mass suicides. This is done is a dark humor sort of way. The film takeson pop culture and some rather story bending inclusions. I was hooked when I first saw it and highly recommend the movie. The movie has gone under few different names, so its sometimes re-watched without knowing its that same movie you saw a year ago.
04- Battle Royale (2000)
Based on a novel of the same name, Battle Royale tends to be a genre favorite. One that enlists the elements of sci-fi, action and horror. Futuristic in execution, Battle Royale plays off of the Japanese government and the taboo of a future world that pits 9th graders in a battle to the death. A survival film rich in substance and fiction that depicts a scenario of dramatic but deadly proportions for mankind.
05- Ichi the Killer (2001)
Ichi embraces a few common elements within he extreme Asian culture. The fear of ones mouth being ripped at the seams ( aka the often repeated Alligator mouth – reference “slit mouthed woman”) and the powerful but cutthroat underground crime scene Yakuza. Ichi while quite violent is still full of style and purpose. Directed by controversial filmmaker Takashi Miike, the main character Ichi utilizes a pair of razor heeled boots to take down enemies and opponents. Ichi, the killer is a gory violent film and one of the better live action movies rooted in manga origin.
06- Premonition (2004)
This was also a shoe-in for getting remade (at the time). Premonition, originally titled “Yogen” takes on some ghostly ideas centered around an evil newspaper that tells the future. Moreso it centers on those who can forsee the future and the curse they inherit. I found it worked on the story level which was quite strong. A good film, and worthy of this list.
07- Uzumaki (Spiral) (2000)
Releases under its Japanese name which translates into “spiral”. You’ll want to remember that term as its the base of this film. The movie freaks out with a tribute to spirals. This sounds silly but is quite unnerving. Some didn’t care for this…I though it was the cast meow…..(or something like that). A freaky well made movie dealing with obsessions. I was most impressed by the Japanese sense of making a simple design representative of horrible situations.
08- Tokyo Gore Police (2008)
Oh man, 5 minutes in ,will bring you up to speed….real quick. This is one dark, gory film which does so in a mango “almost” comical way. The range of FX and character inclusions makes for a great experience. This movie was a poster child for the new wave of “Tokyo Gore” style release. Definitely a favorite…..definitely INSANE!!
09- Tetsuo, the Iron Man (1989)
A Japanese trendsetter employing the use of cyber punk sensibilities combined with stop motion live action. Tetsuo set standards not seen in traditional cinema. While it could be said that it was inspired by the works of the Brothers Quay or Jan Švankmajer, Tetsuo had its own visual presentation. You might at some point wonder where the term cyber punk horror originated from. I’d have to point you in the direction of “Tetsuo, the Iron Man” to really grab onto that idea.
10- Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)
Revenge was never..sweet…I mean scary. Ju-on was known in the western side as “The Grudge“, a film that was remade and achieved great success. It followed tight on the foot heels of “The Ring” with similar look and feel. It is scary, plain and simple. I should point out that it has qualities on its own that make seeing this and the remake still separate. It’s probably a good idea not to piss off a angry Japanese wife…as she may come back and haunt you. Oh, ya…..stay away from those stairs.
Top 10 J-Horror Movies