I am a firm believer that the Japanese, as well as many other Asian countries, make the best horror films. Asian horror compared to Western horror is leaps and bound scarier, creepier, and more shocking without being just gross in most cases. Maybe the West is just with preoccupied with nudity and violence so much so that they cannot sit down and think of a coherent horror plot.
Many of the movies below should be recognized by Westerners as well. Of course Hollywood will never come out and say it, but they respect Japanese horror enough to take their plots and pervert them for Western audiences.
Translated as both Suicide Club and Suicide Circle, this movie follows the story for three detectives as they try to unravel the massive influx of suicides throughout Tokyo. This influx starts when 54 teenage schoolgirls commit suicide by jumping in front of an oncoming train at a train stations in Tokyo.
This movie is just so inexplicably griping. One of the primary themes of the movie is that it is circular. It just goes around and around, though it is not one of those movies that ends at the beginning and begins at the end. If you are concerned that this movie is too graphic, make sure you only get the rated R version. The unrated version goes into so much more graphic detail in the suicides.
Honogurai Mizu No Soko Kara
This is translated to and remade in the West as Dark Water. Dark Water is about a struggling young mother who is going through and incredibly stressful divorce where her husband is trying to take away her five year old daughter. Of course, her husband is so utterly uncaring for his child that he forgets her birthday, but it is just one of those things that he does not want his wife to have. Things are made difficult because the young mother Yoshimi is jobless and homeless. However, she lucks out in finding a cheap apartment that is falling apart with a big and seemingly growing damp spot in the ceiling.
Unlike Suicide Circle, Dark Water is a movie where Japan shows off how scary a movie can be without gratuitous sex and violence. In fact, there is no nudity and very little violence in Dark Water. It is just incredibly creepy. There is so much tension in Dark Water that it is just really awkward to watch, however it is a great insight into how fragile and lonely life can be when everything in the world is turning against you, even the damn spirits that haunt your derelict apartment.
Ju-on, or as it was translated to, The Grudge follows six different stories about six different people who are all connected to one house. The house in question is cursed by the spirits of a family, of whom the wife and child were murdered in a jealous rage by the father.
The Grudge has become one of the most famous Western horror movie thefts from the East there ever was. Fun fact is that Ju-on was released direct to video in Japan, whereas in the West is was a whole theatrical affair. The main problem with the original version of The Grudge is that the plot does not seem to come together, but it is a disturbingly creepy romp of a story.
After becoming concerned, Michi goes to her friend Taguchi's apartment to receive a floppy disk only to find him quiet and very much like the walking dead. She is shocked when he suddenly hangs himself and even more disturbed when he kind of just absorbs into the wall. Elsewhere, slacker Kawashima logs onto the internet for the first time, instead of stumbling onto porn, he stumbles onto an odd website that asks him if he would like to meet ghosts. Around Japan, more and more internet users begin sealing themselves into their rooms with red tape and more internet users begin absorbing into walls. It seems the internet has become the new hang out for an overcrowded afterlife.
Kairo is translated into Pulse. If not anything else, Kairo is at very least an interesting concept. It is a great movie where you get to watch the world end before your eyes and at times you do not even realize it. Also, for a society utterly obsessed with technology, it kind of makes you rethink turning on your computer for awhile. It is creepy and inventive, though the Western version is just kind of laughable and has spawned two utterly terrible sequels.
A story ciculates among teenage youths that if you watch a particular video tape the phone will ring and one week later you will die. When Masami tells this story to her friend Imako, she scoffs but one week later she ends up dead. Imako's aunt Reiko hears of her neice watching this tape with some friends, all of whom have ended up dead. Reiko tracks down the tape and after watching it begins her desperate search to solve this mystery.
Ringu was translated into its Western version as The Ring. It may seem like I have an utter distaste for all of these remakes, but really out of all of them, the remake of The Ring was probably the best. The Ring has an intensity that just cannot be beat. It has a perfect musical score that is impeccably timed and uses minimalist flash cuts to make your really glad VHS is now a defunct media.
Marebito follows a photographer named Masuoka who is obsessed with finding terror in Toyko's underground. He has been obsessed with fear ever since he witnessed a man commit suicide by shoving a knife in his eye. He wishes to understand the fear that man had before death and becomes obsessed with it. During his search he frees a girl who was chained to a wall and brings her home. Only then does he begin to notice her abnormalities.
Marebito which translates into something like divine being, is just an awe-inspiring journey. It is just a psychological thriller with vicious imagery. however, Marebito merits more than just one watching, some of the imagery present in this film is just so darn ambiguous that it really gets you thinking about the deeper meaning of this film.