J-Horror: An Evolutionary Subgenre That Sparked a Cultural Phenomenon
J-horror — the genre is iconic. If you love American horror films, there's a good chance that your favourite filmmakers were influenced by J-horror.
The Japanese approach to horror doesn't rely on or use cheap jump scare tactics to get the viewer left in a state of fear. Often, the viewer is completely immersed in the strategic storytelling that leaves no room for relaxation.
From "splatter" and grotesque gore films to bone-chilling ghost stories, this article will walk you through some of the best Japanese horror films to date.
Before we dive in, if you're looking for new Asian horror, be sure to check out the Terracotta online DVD and blu ray store and streaming site.
Ring (Ringu) (1998)
This J-horror film is a classic and a staple. The story is iconic — a strange film full of disturbing images circulates on a VHS tape. Once the viewer finishes watching the tape, they get a phone-call with a simple voice just saying "seven days"; seven days later, that person dies, unless they can get someone else to watch the tape and pass on the curse.
This film has been parodied and remade many times (a phenomena that used to happen a lot with Japanese Horror) — but it doesn't get better than the original. Ringu is a film that fits in the "kaidan" horror subgenre. Kaidan horror carries a classical, old-school ghost story feel; similar to what we might think of as "weird horror" or "cosmic horror".
While the Hollywood remake (starring Naomi Watts) might have introduced many international fans to the film, it doesn't emulate the real emotions that the Ring invokes. Ring is truly one of the best Japanese horror films of all time.
Tetsuo: the Iron Man (1989)
Tetsuo: the Iron Man directed by Shinya Tsukamoto, is as classic as it gets. It's a low-budget black and white film that uses its sparseness to create a nauseating atmosphere.
It's one of the greatest examples of body horror outside of the world of David Cronenberg. It's also an early take on the cyberpunk genre.
Tetsuo makes a great addition to any blu-ray collection, alongside it's sequel, Tetsuo: Body Hammer.
You can't bring up Japanese horror movies without bringing up the name of Takashi Miike. This director is one of the most influential Japanese filmmakers of all time — and some people even call him the most prolific filmmaker ever. His films explore the genres of action, surreal comedy, children's films, and, of course, horror.
To be honest, we shouldn't say much about this one — it's best to go in completely blind. Just know that it's considered one of the most disturbing films — both in a psychological horror and body horror — of all time.
If you love psychological horror and physical horror, check out Audition..
The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001)
On the other end of Takashi Miike's body of work, is The Happiness of the Katakuris. When it comes to horror comedy, this is one of the all-time greats. Fans of Sam Raimi will love this film.
The basic story is a remake of Korean film, The Quiet Family, and is about a working class family that tries to make some extra money by running a bed and breakfast. The problem is, all of their guests keep on dying!
What follows is a whacky, disturbing, absurd, funny, and sometimes terrifying adventure — all of it featuring Miike's over-the-top filmmaking.
Honourable Mentions go to...
Ju-on, The Grudge (2002)
One Missed Call (2003)
The Best Japanese Horror Films
Now that you have a taste for some of the best Japanese horror films to add to your blu-ray collection, we urge you to explore the rabbit-hole of Asian cinema and the variety it offers. These films will satisfy any horror craving, from comedy horror to body horror to unsettling ghost stories.
For more information on other Japanese Horror movies and other great films, visit Terracotta Distribution and check out our large collection of blu-ray and DVDs available for shipping worldwide.