Japanese horror movies are world renowned—and with good reason. Who could forget the eerie image of a woman climbing out of a TV in Ring (1998) or the moment in Dark Water (2002) when a ghost plunges a child into a bathtub?
Despite the calibre of its early hits, the genre has continued to yield equally satisfying chillers in recent years. There have been gory romps featuring zombies and doppelgangers, blood-soaked crime dramas and arthouse favourites with feminist leanings. When it comes to both style and substance, many of them easily surpass their Hollywood rivals. For Halloween, we present five J-horror classics to sink your teeth into.
After earning a cult following with his brooding masterpieces Cure (1997) and Pulse (2001), prolific auteur Kiyoshi Kurosawa outdid himself again with this excruciatingly tense detective story. It sees a couple (Hidetoshi Nishijima and Yūko Takeuchi) move to a new home and become entangled in a beguiling cold case involving a missing family. As the body count racks up, prepare to be petrified.
When an aspiring artist (Asami Mizukawa) discovers that her menacing alter ego is roaming around her neighbourhood, she seeks solace in a support group of people who’ve had similar experiences and are keen to fight back. Mari Asato’s sci-fi horror is a thrillingly creepy slow burn that builds to a crescendo of manic violence as it becomes impossible to distinguish between friend and foe.
Cartons of milk, a lethal injection and a school full of unsuspecting children—these are just some of the ingredients of Tetsuya Nakashima’s labyrinthine nailbiter about a teacher (Takako Matsu) determined to exact revenge on two students who murdered her daughter. With sadistic twists, an ominous score and an ending that will send shivers down your spine, it’s a genuinely horrifying treat.
Cerebral horror doesn’t get much better than this fantastical bloodbath from writer-director Sion Sono, centred on a schoolgirl (Reina Triendl) whose peers are suddenly bisected by a deadly gust of wind. What follows is a bizarre action epic that wrongfoots you at every turn, as she slips into zany alternate realities and battles misogyny, mass murderers and malevolent supernatural forces.
One Cut of the Dead (2017)
Shin’ichirô Ueda’s vision of a zombie apocalypse walks a fine line between unrelenting horror and riotous comedy. On the set of a low-budget flick about the walking dead, actors unwittingly find themselves surrounded by real flesh-eating monsters and the director (Takayuki Hamatsu) insists they keep the cameras rolling. It’s a breathtaking ride with no shortage of gruesomeness and gore.