The Top 5 Japanese Horror Movies

Japan loves horror movies, and it seems like Japanese directors are constantly reinventing the genre. From little girls popping out of television sets and middle school students murdering each other on a deserted island to insanely gruesome and ugly supernatural beings and dead people haunting bathroom stalls, Japan has done it all. Although some of these films and stories seem ridiculous, there are many that constantly terrify and torment no matter how many times it’s watched. Let’s take a look at some of the best Japanese horror movies of all time:


Ringu (1998)

Possibly one of the most well-known Japanese horror movies, Ringu sets the standard for the modern J-Horror genre. The film is about a VHS tape that dooms you to death seven days after you watch it. The spirit who haunts those who watch this tape is the ghost of a little girl, Sadako, who was murdered by her father. Heated with rage, Sadako seeks vengeance for her unjust death. Ringu successfully portrayed what is called “onryo” and “yurei” to its audience. “Yurei” are Japanese ghosts that are bound to Earth by strong emotions and “onryo” is a specific type of “yurei” that is bound to earth by vengeance. These ghosts are extremely prevalent in Japanese culture and the film graciously displayed how terrifying they can be. When DreamWorks Studios made an American remake in 2002, the reception was overwhelmingly positive and in Japan, the film was even more successful than the original. At a time when Hollywood was relying on guts, gore, and blood to center their horror films on, The Ring left more to the imagination and kept their watchers uneasy every time they passed a television set. You can find the original Ringu with English subtitles on YouTube.


Ju-on: The Curse (2000)

The horror movie world after Ringu was incredibly popular with vengeful spirits and ghosts. One such film was Ju-on: The Curse, also commonly known simply as Ju-on. After a man discovers his wife is in love with a college friend, he murders her, their son, and their cat resulting in a house haunted by multiple “onryo.” Whoever enters the house will be affected by this curse and die in the house. The most memorable scene about this supernatural classic is probably the woman spirit crawling down the stairs, accompanied by the sound of her broken bones cracking with each move (clip here). Ju-on was another film that was made into an American remake, The Grudge, receiving many mixed reviews. Nevertheless, the film generated two sequels with a reboot recently announced last year. You can easily find the original Ju-on on many different platforms.


Gojira (1954)

The “King of Monsters” was the original horror-movie-monster-to-end-all-other-monsters. With its political undertones and symbolism, Gojira was something more than just a horror movie. The monster was created during the aftermath of American h-bombing campaigns. As the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb attacks still freshly ingrained in their minds, the Japanese decided they would personify this with a giant half gorilla, half whale creature, spewing atomic rays out of its mouth. Gojira set the stage for all monster movies from then on and has become a well-known figure in pop culture, spawning numerous sequels and American remakes. Toho, the company behind the original, recently announced they would be releasing a new film in 2016 while Warner Brothers will be releasing a sequel to their American remake in 2018. He’s still a hit in the U.S., as many places in America still show the classic monster movie regularly, from marathons on Direct TV in Iowa to Saturday matinees in Florida.


Audition (1999)

Known for works such as Ichi the Killer and Chakushin ari (One Missed Call), Takashi Miike also directed Audition, a psychological horror-drama film. Audition developed a cult following over the years and for good reason. When Shigeharu Aoyama decides he is ready to date again years after his wife’s death, his friend orchestrates an “audition” for the part of Aoyama’s new wife. He becomes infatuated with Asami who, unbeknownst to him, is a serial killer. The film became a classic torture movie when Asami starts to inject needles into her (ex) potential husband’s eyes and cuts off his foot. It was possibly this torture scene that attracted so many horror fans, who are always seeking something new to add to horror itself. You can find Audition streaming on Netflix.


Battle Royale (2000)

What could be better than good old blood and hardcore violence, in that “dsytopian Japanese future” sort of way? Battle Royale is a Japanese horror film (based on a book) that strays away from spirits and ghosts and focuses on unconventional killers: junior-high students. When class 3-B goes on a field trip, they are gassed in the bus and wake up on island, with collars around their necks that explode if tampered with (or if the students attempt to leave the island). The students are told they have three days to kill each other until only one remains. Throughout the film, we see clumsy students accidentally and intentionally killing each other. Perhaps one of the most unsettling characters in the film is “transfer student,” Kazuo Kiriyama, for whom killing is a game. Although this probably would have been an excellent film to be remade in America, audiences never got the chance to see this potential film due to controversies over the Virginia Tech Massacre. Nevertheless, Battle Royale was and still remains one of the most unsettling and violent Japanese horror movies to date. The original Battle Royale with English subtitles can be found on YouTube.

Guest Writer: Maria Ramos

You can follow Maria on Twitter via @MariaRamos1889


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