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Japanese horror films: Recommendations?

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David Taylor emailed me this morning asking:

I'm wondering if you can help me out. I'm giving a talk this coming Friday ... about horror movies, working from the article I wrote for CT back in '05. I'd like to watch a couple of horror movies before Friday. I was thinking I might like to watch a Japanese horror flick.

Could you recommend a good Japanese monster horror movie, especially one that involves a creature living in or rising out of the ocean?

This really isn't my genre. Any recommendations?

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David Taylor emailed me this morning asking:

I'm wondering if you can help me out. I'm giving a talk this coming Friday ... about horror movies, working from the article I wrote for CT back in '05. I'd like to watch a couple of horror movies before Friday. I was thinking I might like to watch a Japanese horror flick.

Could you recommend a good Japanese monster horror movie, especially one that involves a creature living in or rising out of the ocean?

This really isn't my genre. Any recommendations?

The Host is probably the best of the asian horror film like what you're describing -- but it's Korean, not Japanese. If you need a Japanese monster movie, you can't beat the old Godzilla films. I think the best of the modern Japanese horror films are Kairo (aka Pulse) and Ringu (which was remade into The Ring) and scarier than them both is the Korean film A Tale of Two Sisters. My favorite Japanese horror film is a quiet little classic b&w film called Onibaba, which made this years A&F top 25 horror list.

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Andrew   

If he's looking for Japanese monster movies, I'd also go with Gojira, the original Godzilla movie without the American actors edited in for the exported version.

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Russ   

Boy, I hope I can manage to say this as carefully and well-intentioned as I mean to, but maybe the best course for David would be to ground his talk in horror references other than Japanese movies. I know that if I was in his place, I wouldn't really be able to say anything appropriately meaningful about the sort of associations that are naturally going to go off in people's minds when he starts talking about some creature living in or coming out of the water. Sure, the Japanese used fantasy and horror to deal with the fallout of cataclysmic historical events, but is that something that an outsider really wants to take on right now?

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opus   

Some solid Japanese horror, or horror-esque, films include:

Onibaba

Kwaidan

Ju-on

Dark Water

Vital

Cure

None of these films involve horrors emerging from the water -- most of them are ghost stories -- but even so, I think Russ makes a good point in light of recent events.

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Andrew wrote:

: If he's looking for Japanese monster movies, I'd also go with Gojira, the original Godzilla movie without the American actors edited in for the exported version.

Or Canadian actors, in the case of Raymond Burr. :)

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M. Leary   

Sure, the Japanese used fantasy and horror to deal with the fallout of cataclysmic historical events, but is that something that an outsider really wants to take on right now?

Yes, the aquatic animations overlaying the firebombing of Tokyo in The Sun are immensely sorrowful given their interplay with recent events.

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Boy, I hope I can manage to say this as carefully and well-intentioned as I mean to, but maybe the best course for David would be to ground his talk in horror references other than Japanese movies. I know that if I was in his place, I wouldn't really be able to say anything appropriately meaningful about the sort of associations that are naturally going to go off in people's minds when he starts talking about some creature living in or coming out of the water. Sure, the Japanese used fantasy and horror to deal with the fallout of cataclysmic historical events, but is that something that an outsider really wants to take on right now?

Good people, thanks for the movie recs in general. Much obliged.

Russ, thanks for the caution. I want to assure you that I have no intention of generating Godzilla-themed tracts. Nor do I wish to take ill-advantage of the current horrors in Japan. I'm simply doing a bit of historical research. I realize my note to Jeff could look otherwise, but, no worries, I do try to keep my interest in art and my interest in current affairs ordinately related. Although, as I told a friend at lunch today, I find that my experience of watching "disaster" movies is messing with my (moral) ability to watch terrific disaster play itself out in video montages on CNN et al.

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Russ   

Hey-- welcome to the forum, David. I can second the suggestion of ONIBABA and add the '60 version of JIGOKU, which is a really wild film.

I know exactly what you mean about the way in which we perceive news footage seems to be shaped irrevocably by what we experience through film and video games. Thinking about the way in which something like HEREAFTER was promptly pulled from Japanese theaters had me turning over in my mind a cine-ethic that might ask the question, "Is this depiction going to be unnecessarily exploitative to someone who can't separate themselves with total aesthetic distance from the reality of the acts shown?"

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Andrew   

Sure, the Japanese used fantasy and horror to deal with the fallout of cataclysmic historical events, but is that something that an outsider really wants to take on right now?

Yes, the aquatic animations overlaying the firebombing of Tokyo in The Sun are immensely sorrowful given their interplay with recent events.

And the disaster-laden, radioactivity-themed sequences in Kurosawa's Dreams feel painfully prophetic at the moment.

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Tyler   

Criterion's Hulu page is offering several Japanese (and other countries') horror movies for free for Halloween: Eyes without a Face, Carnival of Souls, House (Hausu), Vampyr, Jigoku, Onibaba, Kwaidan, The Haunted Strangler.

My top Halloween recommendations from the list are Vampyr, Kwaidan, and Onibaba. Jigoku sounds interesting, too.

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Attica   

I bought "House", it's full of fascinating technical stuff, but not particularily scary. Vampry is a good one. The Haunted Strangler has its moments, but some of the plot doesn't stand up to modern expectations.

Carnival of Souls though is a fascinating film. It's somehow endlessly fascinating in an existential/metaphoric sort of way while also being delightfully creepy.

And of course Onibaba is a must see. But I'd also recommend Kuroneko, by the same director. It's amazing.

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vjmorton   

Can't believe this discussion hasn't mention Takashi Miike's AUDITION ... a film that would be in my Top 20 for the 00s and which provoked a mid-street shouting match among another group of people at the same screening I was "YOU DIDN'T TELL ME THERE'D BE [really gory spoiler]!!!" one woman screamed at a man in the group. I will simply say that the first hour or so doesn't even play like a horror film at all, until comes the greatest tone shift in movie history. #YepISaidThat

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Yeah...I remember feeling like maybe I grabbed the wrong film early on... Then suddenly, Audition kind of punched me in the face.

Edited by Nezpop

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