This post is one in a series leading up to Halloween. Check out the scary tag to see all of them!
Nothing says Halloween quite like creepy little Japanese girls. Japanese horror films have slowly been gaining popularity over the years and there have even been (for better or worse) a healthy amount of American remakes. Are you wondering what Japanese horror movies you’re going to scare and impress your friends with this Halloween? Well worry not, for I’ve the top 10 right here.
10. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000)
Don’t tase me, broooooooooo!!!
I wanted to include at least one anime on this list of movies and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust was the first that came to mind. While definitely not as frightening as the others on this list, it’s a solid film regardless. And it has vampires! Can’t have Halloween without vampires!
The film began production in 1997 and was completed with the intention of being shown in American theaters in 2000. It was shown in six theaters across the States and received fairly positive reception from critics.
In the film, vampire hunters race to save a girl stolen from her home by a vampire noble. D is a dunpeal (being born of a human mother and sired by a vampire father) bearing many vampire strengths and few of their weaknesses. In the film he races against a band of human hunters to save the girl. The movie is mostly action, a little bit romance, and a little bit horror.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is a fun movie to watch and you don’t need to see the original to enjoy it. If you’re a fan of anime, vampires, or saw the original Vampire Hunter D, I strongly recommend you check out Bloodlust as well.
9. Rampo Noir (2005)
Ah, Mr. Bond. I’ve been expecting you.
Rampo Noir is a collection of four short stories brought to life on film. Like I mentioned in Top 10 Strange Japanese Films You Need To Watch, this movie is weird. Like super weird. I’ve listed a description of each short story for your convenience below.
Mars Canal - Surrounded by silence, a naked man wanders through a dark and dreary landscape recalling the excruciating details of his last encounter with the woman he once loved.
Mirror Hell - When a series of women are discovered with their faces burned to a crisp, a young detective takes on the case and discovers that a mysterious hand mirror is always found at the scene.
Caterpillar - A quadriplegic war hero returns home to his wife who soon tires of taking care of him and begins to torture her crippled hubby for entertainment.
Crawling Bugs - A sexy actress is returning home from a successful night on stage when her limo driver decides that she should be coming home with him instead.
I’m not really sure how I feel about this movie. I think one viewing would be enough for anybody, but if you get the chance to see it, do so. The experience is worth it, especially if you can drag a few friends along for the ride. Out of the four stories, Caterpillar definitely creeped me out the most.
8. Dark Water (2002)
This isn’t what it looks like, I swear.
Dark Water is a supernatural-psychological-drama-horror about a middle aged woman barely holding onto her sanity. Yoshimi Matsubara is in the midst of a nasty divorce with her abusive husband over the custody of their five year old daughter Ikuko.
Unfortunately Yoshimi has a lot of emotional issues from her experiences in life and her transition from housewife to independent working woman has taken its toll. Shortly after moving into a creepy new apartment, her and Ikuko start seeing a creepy little girl mysteriously appearing all around the building. And as we all know, the best treatment for frequent mental breakdowns is ghoulish Japanese toddlers in yellow rain coats. How can’t this end well?
Dark Water is pretty creepy and is one of many Japanese films that were taken and remade by us Americans. I never got around to seeing the American version of this one, but I’d imagine it’s just not the same. It’s another one of those vengeful-spirit/creepy-little-Japanese-girl horror films, so if those sort of movies are your thing then Dark Water will not disappoint.
7. House (1977)
Excuse me, but I seem to have misplaced my body.
House (Hausu) is a cult classic and with good reason. It starts out like a whimsical fairy tale adventure of seven friends going to the countryside for a lovely summer holiday. Up to this point the film seems entirely ordinary, but things start to turn sour shortly after they arrive at the house in question. From there on in, things just get weirder and weirder.
Especially considering the year it was made, House is pretty impressive. It’s interesting, weird, creepy, and goofy. While I wouldn’t exactly be jumping at the chance to watch it again, I’d absolutely recommend it to anyone who appreciates horror films. This movie was definitely ahead of its time.
It’s a cult classic you won’t want to miss. You can’t say you’re a connoisseur of J-Horror films until you’ve seen this movie. So get on it.
6. Marebito (2004)
Beef Humans: It’s what’s for dinner.
Many moons ago when I rented this movie I really wasn’t expecting that much. I just thought it would be another run-of-the-mill Japanese horror film. Well, I was wrong. Marebito is very well done and quite interesting to boot.
The main character is a freelance cameraman obsessed with fear. In the movie he takes it upon himself to investigate an urban legend involving mysterious spirits that haunt the subways of Tokyo, but what he discovers is beyond anything he could have ever imagined.
Marebito is very different from most other Japanese horror films. The story is really cool and you actually care about what’s happening. It’s not one of those movies you’d watch just for the thrills and chills. The story is very well done and I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you’re tired of the same old J-Horror films, give Marebito a watch – you won’t regret it.
5. Chakushin Ari 2 (One Missed Call 2) (2005)
I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!
Set a year after the original film, Chakushin Ari 2 introduces Kyoko and her friend Madoka. Obviously the theme of this one is very similar to the first Chakushin Ari, but there are some slight differences. No candies are found in the mouths of the victims here and their investigation takes them to an abandoned coal mine out in the country for added creepiness. Oh my!
Chakushin Ari 2 is definitely not as good as the first one, but it is still a very solid horror film. It’s certainly much better than the abomination that was One Missed Call: Final. Seriously, don’t even bother with that one – it’s rubbish.
It definitely helps to have seen the first Chakushin Ari to get the most out of this one. So if you see the first one and enjoy it, then I would certainly recommend Chakushin Ari 2 as well.
4. Infection (2004)
Huuuuuugggss… *cough* I, I mean, braaaaaiiinnnsss…
Infection takes place at an under-staffed hospital that is quickly losing money. As night begins to fall, an ambulance comes to the hospital bringing a patient with a strange black rash. From there, things start to get out of control and soon everyone in the hospital becomes infected. But is the infection related to the patient that arrived at the beginning of the night or is it related to something else entirely?
Infection is one of those movies that deserves at least two viewings. Watching it a second time after already knowing how it ends is really interesting and you’ll notice a lot of things you may have missed the first time through. If you enjoy zombies or horror movies that take place in hospitals, you definitely won’t want to miss out on this one.
3. Audition (1999)
Okay. Now you’re going to feel a slight pinch…
Audition is based on a Ryu Murakami novel of the same title and over the years the film has developed a cult following in America. In Audition, a widower takes an offer to screen girls at a special audition, arranged for him by a friend to find him a new wife. The one he fancies and decides to get to know better is not who she appears to be. At all.
It’s been some time since I’ve seen this movie, but the feeling it leaves you with is one you don’t soon forget. It’s creepy. It’s unsettling. It’s also one of the few movies on this list not revolving around some sort of ghost or vengeful spirit. I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone who doesn’t know much about this film, but it’s a classic J-Horror film that shouldn’t be missed.
2. Ju-On: The Grudge (2002)
Good morning, sunshine!
This film is the third entry in the Ju-On series and was the first film in the series to be released in theaters. The American remake (The Grudge), was released in 2004. It is said in Japan that when someone dies in extreme sorrow or rage, the emotion remains and can leave a stain upon that place. In Ju-On, death becomes a part of that place, killing everything it touches.
I saw the American remake of this one before I got around to the Japanese original. While I believe that the American one is probably more frightening (mostly due to improved visuals and special effects), the story is much more engaging and interesting in the Japanese version. In the Japanese version, you actually care about the characters and where the story is going.
This movie is not just an excuse to scare the pants off the audience, in the Japanese version, the story is actually worth something. So even if you’ve seen the American version, this movie is still very much worth your time.
1. Chakushin Ari (One Missed Call) (2003)
Remember kids: don’t take candy from strangers.
In Chakusin Ari, people mysteriously start receiving voice-mail messages from their future selves creepily foreshadowing their own violent deaths. Like many other J-Horror films, it’s a vengeful spirit movie, but this time it’s really well done. Chakushin Ari has always been one of my favorite horror movies, Japanese or otherwise.
Chakushin Ari was one of the first Japanese horror movies that I actually thoroughly enjoyed. To this day, if I’m trying to introduce someone to the J-Horror genre, I’ll show them this movie first. I’ve seen it many times now, and it’s still good. I haven’t seen the American remake (and I don’t have any plans to), but I imagine it’s just awful.
Fun Fact: The trademark “ringtone of death” from this film has become rather popular, and was actually used as a ringtone and background music for unofficial haunted houses in Japan.
So tell me, what’s your favorite J-Horror movie of all time?