Japan isn't afraid to go weird and violent, and there's enough to select from for fans of blood, gore, and fast-paced, action-filled horror.
Japan’s horror movie reflects its rich culture, with a concentration on yrei (ghosts), ykai (demons), onry (vengeful spirits), and family breakdowns (family is an essential aspect of Japanese culture).
That said, Japan isn’t afraid to go weird and violent, and there’s enough to select from for fans of blood, gore, and fast-paced, action-filled horror.
This unique, eccentric, and feminist horror film contains one of the ridiculous opening moments in cinema history: Mitsuko, a schoolgirl, is on a bus with her classmates when everyone is slashed in two by a terrible gust of wind, leaving her as the sole survivor. Following this, we follow Mitsuko as she struggles for survival in more violent and bizarre settings where her friends die horribly, and she must find out what is going on. There are machine gun-wielding instructors and a groom with a pig’s head. It investigates the objectification of women, and the plot is surprising, inventive, and strange. You won’t be sorry if you watch this sinfully underappreciated flick.
Suicide Club (2001)
This film, like Tag, features one of the most horrifying opening moments in horror cinema: 54 schoolgirls clasp hands and, cheerfully, commit mass suicide by jumping under an approaching train. As a wave of seemingly unconnected suicides besieges Japan, investigators are baffled as to what is generating the unusual behavior. The ensuing bloodbath on unsuspecting commuters will undoubtedly stick with you—what a way to make an impression.
The premise is novel and provides societal criticism, given Japan’s high suicide rate, as well as comments on how pop culture trends may impact fans. This one is both ominous and perplexing. And it’s directed by Sion Sono, who also directed Tag!
Hell Girl (2019)
What if you had the power to send people to hell? Based on a popular manga and anime (which I highly suggest! ), Hell Girl is about a bizarre, otherworldly location where tortured individuals can reach if their rage is excellent enough. It allows people to exact revenge on their tormentors by sending them to hell — but the price is that the customer will also go to hell at the end of their life. Hell Girl, a mysterious being who enters into a contract with the customer, delivers the wrath.
The film is directed by Kji Shiraishi, who also directed Sadako vs. Kayako, so you know we’re not messing around! One of my favorite lines is the one Hell Girl says to the person sentenced to hell each time: “Would you like to see what dying is like?” No, I would not, but thank you; that sounds fantastic.
Based on horror mangaka Junji Ito’s spine-chilling manga of the same name, the premise for this film is as bizarre as it is terrifying. It’s about a cursed village whose residents are tormented by sinister spirals that drive the residents insane (and sometimes to suicide). Our heroes rush to break the curse, but can it truly be broken?
The horrible body horror, the lack of a conventional history (no vengeful female ghost here, folks), which adds to the sense of hopelessness, and the nightmarish, surreal visuals (a man climbs inside a washing machine, people transform into snails, and oh, have you noticed your fingertips have spirals? Do I need to say more?). The sky is also plagued with spiral-like clouds.
Corpse Party (2015)
Corpse Party is based on the same-named horror video game franchise; there’s also an anime and manga! This is one of my favorites since it is set in a haunted school and is really dark and bloodcurdling, which is totally up my alley. What’s not to love about it: blood, gore, mystery, and ghosts? Once again, a youngster is involved (but don’t leave just yet).
A group of high school kids executed the “Sachiko Ever After” charm to ensure they would always be friends. Instead, they are sent to a ghostly elementary school filled with vengeful ghosts and Sachiko, who is actually the psychotic ghost of a little girl in a red dress. What actually occurred at the school?