The island of the Rising Sun exports to the world a unique culture in its style, and if they know how to do something very well, it is to make us tremble with their psychological horror Japanese movies that mix ghosts, curses and a lot of mystery, for what we compile in this article, the best examples of asian terror .
The Japanese see in their culture their sharpest sword and in the movies, one of their favorite weapons to pass the time. For many years the Japanese have made quality cinema, they have a large number of directors, screenwriters, actresses and actors, among many other figures, who do not envy other audiovisual powers.
But Japanese cinema, one of its best exponents are psychological horror movies. Just think for a second about all those Asian horror films that have shaken your head, surely more than one comes from Japan. So that you can enjoy the highest quality of these stories, we leave you with a list of the best recommendations in the horror genre.
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20. Missed Call (2003, Takashi Miike)
Different people begin to receive mysterious voice messages on their mobile phones, it is about themselves describing what their death will be like in the near future. The survivors of these calls begin to investigate the origin of these strange murders.
The premise of Takashi Miike’s film is quite simple and in turn attacks the growing phenomenon that began at that time: the excessive use of mobile phones, as well as the obligation to carry one for each person anywhere in the world.
The psychological horror movie keeps us in constant tension, in addition to playing with the viewer with a very valuable element, such as audio.Since the victims can only hear the moment of their death, we will not know exactly what happened to them until the time and date marked by the voice message arrives.
The success of this film expanded beyond Asia, even, for the year 2008, Hollywood released its own version that featured the leading role of Edward Burns and the Mexican Ana Claudia Talancon. 19. The Suicide Club (2001, Sion Nono)
This psychological horror film opens with the mass suicide of 54 students on the tracks of a speeding train in central Tokyo. The pieces of limbs jumping towards the witnesses, as well as the liters of blood that hit the windows, the walls and the rails of the train impact in the most gory way possible in the eye of the spectator.
Detective Toshiharu Kuroda (played by Ryo Ishibashi) will have the arduous task of finding out the origin of the collective suicide, which will lead him to discover mysterious immolations carried out in different parts of Japan. The story progresses as increasingly gruesome and bloody suicides, typical of Asian horror movies, appear.
Jisatsu sakuru (title in its original language) was written and directed by Sion Nono, a Japanese filmmaker and poet with dark appeal. This was one of his iconic works along with others known as Strange Circus (2005) or the polemic Why don’t we play in Hell
(2013). 18. Tales of Terror: Haunted Apartment (2005, Akio Yoshida)
This movie, which had no official release in Spain or Latin America, terrified Japan, Thailand, Singapore and the rest of Asia with a popular legend born in the bosom of Japanese neighborhoods.
Aimi (Mei Kurokawa) moves with her father (Yoshihiko Hosoda) to an apartment in an old building, where they quickly learn that things are not normal there. The janitor warns Aimi and her father about a curfew starting at midnight, as well as other rules: no one can move in, if there is no new one coming in. What the newcomers don’t suspect is that if they break any of these rules, they will be punished by the ghost of the building’s builder’s daughter.
Thus, the protagonist begins to find out how to break the curse and learn even more about the poor tormented soul who is scaring the neighbors who live in that community. As the search for Aimi progresses, we see the different deaths of those who dare to challenge the ghost of the old building.
This is one of the chapters in the series of Tales of Terror from Tokyo and all over Japan, where the director Akio Yoshida draws on a series of urban legends and tales of Japanese folklore , to achieve the most chilling stories on the big screen. . 17. Tokyo Gore Police (2008, Yoshihiro Nishimura)
A mixture of action, science fiction from Series “B”, black humor and liters of blood at the gore level, gives us as a result this film that successfully toured the Asian billboards and different film festivals around the world.
Ruka (portrayed by Eihi Shiina) is a member of the private armed police force who works in a futuristic Japan. The brave police will discover clues that will lead to her father’s murderer, so she will have to follow them to achieve her precious revenge, however, along the way she will have to face mutant criminals known as engineers.
The film shows us a series of absurd, exaggerated deaths with hundreds of limbs severed by one weapon or another, from a samurai sword to a shotgun that fires human fists., director Yoshihiro Nishimura’s imagination is unleashed on the big screen to the rhythm of the violence in this action-packed tale. 16. Pulse (Kairo) (2001, Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
After one of his friends commits suicide, strange phenomena begin to happen to a group of young Tokyo residents. One of them has a vision of his dead friend in the shadows of the wall, while the computer of another of his friends shows ghostly images. Thus, they begin to discover that the spirits try to conquer the world of the living, through the Internet.
The director and writer of this film, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, plays with the viewer through suggestive images and sounds, maintaining a constant tension throughout the film, to keep the audience wondering what the origin of these mysterious specters is, as well as suggesting a concern in Japan at the beginning of the 21st century: How far is the Internet capable of reaching?
This film was especially successful in Europe, in countries like Italy, where it collected a large percentage of its profits. Such was the impact of this film, that five years later Wes Craven himself remade it for the Hollywood version, with a marked slaughter style. 15. Dark Water (2002, Hideo Nakata)
Yoshimi (played by Hitomi Kuroki) struggles to start a new life with her daughter after going through a traumatic divorce. Unfortunately, the challenges of being a single mother and fighting for custody of her daughter in a legal battle are compounded when she moves into an apartment flooded by a mysterious leak that fills the house with water and brings about the appearance of a small little girl.
Not only the apartment is full of mysteries, but the rest of the building and its inhabitants have an intriguing halo, which will keep our protagonist in the difficult fight against the curse that surrounds her, as well as trying to keep her daughter safe, before the phantasmagorical threat that approaches them.This was the second big Asian box office hit for Hideo Nakata, who had already terrified the world with The Ring (1999) , and earned him the attention of Hollywood, who hired him to do the American version (2005) with Jennifer Connelly as protagonist, although it was directed by the Brazilian Walter Salles.
This story belongs to the series of horror novels written by Koji Suzuki, who is also the author of the literary sample of The Circle, which would serve as inspiration for Nakata’s films. 14. The Dark Game of Hide and Seek (2010, Masafumi Yamada)
Actually this Asian horror movie does not have an exact translation, in fact its English version Creepy Hide and Seek does not honor the theme of this story, although it is quite close to the intention of the story, since in the secondary schools of Japan it has been It became fashionable to play hide-and-seek with a ghost, who would hunt them down until they killed the participants in such a chilling activity.
Of course, under this title, liters of blood, a constant threat from the murderous ghost and persecutions that end very badly for some characters in the film, directed by Masafumi Yamada, who was also in charge of adapting the manga , cannot be left out. Corpse Party (2015).
This movie was so successful in Japan, that it had the opportunity to increase its stories in a second installment, which continued to show the macabre game that made the students who wanted to be part of this activity disappear. 13. 2LDK (2003, Yukihiko Tsutsumi)
Nozomi (Eiko Koike) and Lana (Maho Nohami) share an apartment in Tokyo. They both auditioned for the same role in a movie, and they just found out that the list of candidates has been narrowed down to just the two of them. As they wait for word of who will get the part, their personalities flare up to collide in an all-out battle.
With this simple premise, in which there are only two actresses on stage, one of the most interesting horror movies to come out of Japan explodes, of course, with touches of humor and drama, which give a very interesting balance to a minimalist work directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi. The battle between the aspiring protagonists of the fictional film will include any type of torture that is on hand at home , although the action begins with a peaceful dinner, it develops towards the confrontation with sharp objects, chemicals and even fire, with such to disfigure the rival. 12. Strange Circus (2005, Sion Sono)
The filmmaker Sion Sono returned to the big screen, four years after his great success with The Suicide Club and this timeincludes two great passions in a new story of psychological terror, such as poetry and eroticism.
Mitsuko (Masumi Miyazaki) accidentally sees her parents having sex, but her perverted father forces her to watch as she penetrates her mother. In an attack of morbidity, the father rapes her daughter and then forces him to have sex with her own mother.
Thus begins an unhealthy family relationship that is surrounded by murders and suicides… actually, this story is written by the poet Taeko, who is condemned to spend the rest of her days in a wheelchair. However, her assistant Yuji (Issei Ishida) will discover the stormy past of her boss. Is the story she tells in her book real?
The controversial film became one of the favorites of the Asian audience, using surreal resources, torture methods and a lot of sexual violence to achieve this raucous story. 11. Schoolgirl Apocalypse (2011, John Cairns)
A young girl (Rino Higa) finds herself trapped in a world of brutal murder. She must fight for survival against zombies, a beautiful sociopath and her own madness. How did the apocalypse
start? Will she be able to find out?
This is the story, as sadistic as it is crude, of the film directed by John Cairns.
The foreign filmmaker to Japan, managed to sneak his film among the most popular in Japan, by playing with a figure popularly known as the shy student who must fight against obstacles much bigger than them to move forward.
The film has bloody scenes of torture, as well as many gore effects, zombie attacks and an apocalyptic scenario , in which hope is scarce among the survivors of this world. 10. Onibaba (1964, Kaneto Shindo)
Two women murder a samuaari and try to sell his possessions for a living. While one of them is having an affair with her neighbor, the other meets a mysterious entity that dresses as a samurai and wears a strange mask.
This is one of the classic Japanese horror films, where the cinema of the 1960s proudly reviews the history of its ancestors , as well as rescuing the values of the times of the samurais. The word Onibaba responds to the history of Japanese folklore with the origin in Oni when referring to the term with which the demons of the legends are delimited, in this case, it speaks of a specter in the form of an old woman who appeared in the field to devour to the humans.
Although the term itself expands on many stories of ancient Japanese culture, director Kaneto Shindo focused on the story of these two women who face the devil. The Japanese filmmaker was known for working until he was 98 years old and for writing more than 200 films. This horror and drama film was one of the 45 movies he directed. You can get it integrated (and legal) on online platforms like YouTube. 9. Gozu (2003, Takashi Miike)
If we talk about Japanese horror movies, we can’t help but pass those stories developed within the Yakuza organization, such as this work directed by Takashi Miike.
A Yakuza soldier receives the order to kill one of his best friends within the organization, whom he has to drive to the outskirts of the city, to carry out his subsequent execution. However, the condemned man disappears in the middle of the route and the rest of the trip becomes surreal, twisted and a terrifying experience for the protagonist. Filmmaker Miike is well known in Japan for his action and crime films, but for this film he decided to involve elements of horror cinema , thus creating a unique story among his repertoire. Although it would not be the first time that the Japanese director terrified the public, he had already done it in 1999 with his famous Audition.
This psychological horror film enjoyed a wonderful reputation beyond Japan, with its steady presence at film festivals such as Cannes or the prestigious event for genre films such as Sitges. 8. Love Ghost (2001, Kazuyuki Shibuya)
One of the best adaptations when it comes to going from the pages of a manga to the big screen, carried out with simplicity, to result in one of the most chilling films in Japanese cinema .
Teenager Midori’s (Lisa Goto) family moves back to the city where she grew up and is overjoyed to discover that her friend Ryusuke still lives in the same community. However, a series of nightmares will lead him to confuse reality with fantasy, in addition to giving him several clues in a series of tragedies at her high school. The writer of the original manga, Junji Ito, has served as a source for several filmmakers, as well as his various works have been adapted for film . However, none has had such a chilling impact on the audience as this film that plays with sounds, lights and a lot of tension, around a story as bloody as it is surreal. 7. Battle Royale (2000, Kinji Fukasaku)
Another adaptation of literature to the big screen that was successful beyond the borders of Japan, is Battle Royale, inspired by the novel by Koushun Takami and that traveled all over the world, standing out with international awards.
A group of Japanese students are sent to a desert island by government decree, to compete in the Battle Royale. The young men have the mission to kill each other, until one survives… or they all die. Some decide to play by the rules to satisfy their desire for adrenaline, while others try to leave the island without using violence.
This film mixes elements of adventure and science fiction, however, their cruel and sadistic deaths, in addition to thetense moments of hunting between the students, make her one of the best exponents of horror movies from Japan.
Three years later a second installment of the student extermination film would appear, however, it did not enjoy the same success as its Asian horror predecessor. 6. Noriko’s dinner table (2005, Sion Sono)
The Japanese filmmaker and poet, Sion Sono, returned to place another film in this count of horror films from Japan. This time, with a story developed from the universe of “The Suicide Club”.
A teenage girl (Kazue Fukiishi) runs away from her family in Tokoyama to meet Kumiko (Tsugumi), the leader of an internet club for desperate youngsters. The girl will be involved with Kumiko’s family circle and as the story progresses it becomes darker, after the suicide of 54 students on the train tracks.
Psychological terror is also part of this film, which had a firm presence in different film festivals around the world, such as the Czech Republic, Germany, South Korea, Canada and of course, Japan, where it also did quite well at the box office. . 5. Cure (1997, Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
Before his success with Pulse in 2001, filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa dared to make an adaptation of his own novel for the big screen, which had a good impact among the public and was placed among the best psychological horror films in Japan.
A frustrated detective (Koji Yakusho) finds himself involved in trying to solve a series of bloody crimes, carried out by people who have no recollection of what they did at the time of the murder. The only connection between this chain of homicides will be an “X” marked on the necks of the victims.
The story will lead us to accompany the detective to develop the investigation, under a tense climate, in addition to witnessing the bloodiest murders on the big screen in Japan.
This film was not only a great success among critics and the public, it also influenced a series of filmmakers around the world, such as the Korean Bong Joon Ho or the American Martin Scorsese who praised Kurosawa’s piece when it was released. 4. Audition (1999, Takashi Miike)
A widower (Ryo Ishibashi) decides, on the advice of a friend, to audition different women to be his next wife, however, the one he chooses (Eihi Shiina), will not be as sweet as it appears to be.
Filmmaker Takashi Miike achieves a great adaptation of the original novel by Ryu Murakami, which puts it at the top of the most terrifying movies exported from Japan. The director shows the mysterious girl’s obsession with her new husband, which leads her to carry out different methods of torture, in order to keep her beloved by her side.
Although the protagonist is Ishibashi, the actress Shiina shows a great gift of sadism with a sweet and devilish smile on her lips. The film reached major genre festivals, such as the Fantasporto held in Portugal or the Chlotrudis Film Festival held in New York. 3. The Ring (1999, Hideo Nakata)
A journalist (Nanako Matsushima) and her ex-husband (Miki Nakatani) investigate a mysterious video that supposedly kills those who watch it, seven days after viewing it.
This was the first great success of filmmaker Hideo Nakata, which took him to the top, not only of Japanese horror cinema, but of the entire world. The story unfolds with the constant threat of the specter coming out of the television screen to take the lives of the unfortunates who have seen the cursed tape. This movie is an adaptation of one of the many stories in the series written by Koji Suzuki.
Its international success led it to conquer the Asian box office, in countries such as Hong Kong where it set a record in receipts for a Japanese film. Of course, Hollywood would not sit idly by before such a wonderful story and made its own version with Naomi Watts in the lead role. 2. Kuroneko (1968, Kaneto Shindo)
Japanese cinema is defined in many aspects by the tireless work of Kaneto Shindo in some genres, but horror movies have their greatest contribution with this masterpiece by the Japanese filmmaker.
Two women are raped and killed by samurai soldiers. Soon they will reappear among the living, like ghosts thirsty for revenge, so they will seduce and brutally murder the samurai who at some point attacked them.
“Kuroneko” literally means “black cat” in Japanese, but in the context of the movie (whose title was originally longer) it is closer to the translation of “the mystery of the black cat”, which is a popular legend in the history of the game. Japanese folklore. The Japanese filmmaker took full advantage of this small-town story to make one of the greatest references in horror cinema, for the creation of its dark environment, a story of revenge and the constant tension in this psychological horror film. 1. The Curse (2002, Takashi Shimizu)
Japan’s great success in global terror has a chilling boy and girl as protagonists of a story that made more than one jump at the movies, at home or wherever they would have enjoyed. This Japanese production.
A mysterious and vengeful spirit attacks anyone who dares to enter the house where he resides. When social worker Rika (Megumi Okina) is assigned to visit a family, she is cursed and persecuted by two vengeful beings: Kayako (Takako Fuji) who was brutally murdered by her husband and her son Toshio (Yuya Ozeki). ). Every person who visits or lives in that house ends up dead or missing.
This magnificent horror story keeps the audience waiting for what is going to happen in the next second, so the appearances and the revenge of the souls in pain will be the main course of the movie. The success obtained by the filmmaker Takashi Shimizu (who also wrote the script), gave him the opportunity to be recruited by Hollywood.to make a remake with Sarah Michelle Geller as the protagonist.
Both works enjoyed good commercial health, however, it stands out that the North American production, with a budget of around €8 million, managed to obtain more than €167 million at the world box office.
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