PCR past banners
   Now in our tenth calendar year
    PCR #500  (Vol. 10, No. 43)  This edition is for the week of October 19--25, 2009.

"Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant"  by Mike Smith
First a Word About My House .... Happy 500th Issue Nolan! ... The Fabulous Architecture of the Tampa Bay Region- Part 11  by William Moriaty
Welcome Back to the Grindhouse  by ED Tucker
Special Edition: Spooky Empire 2009  by Chris Woods
J-Horror: Special Halloween Edition  by Jason Fetters
The Top 30 Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror Actresses, #20-17  by Lisa Scherer Ciurro
The Great Fox Distraction From The Real War .... Now We Have Maoists .... 1500?!?! .... Up In The Sky...it's A Giant Muffin .... .... .... .... by Brandon Jones
Happy 500th!!!!! .... New England Patriots In London Vs. The Bucs .... It's The Yankees Vs. The Phillies .... .... .... .... .... by Chris Munger
Brody .... Passing On .... Introducing The A-team .... Happy 500! .... .... .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2 by Mike Smith
Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Archives 2009
Archives 2008
Archives 2007
Archives 2006
Archives 2005
Archives 2004
Archives 2003
Archives 2002
Archives 2001
Archives 2000
Email PCR

J-Horror: Special Halloween Edition

Despite all the crappy Hollywood remakes of Japanese horror movies, the Horror Fan has a lot to gain from seeing the original films. Since, Halloween is approaching as I write this, I decided to put together a look at Japanese horror and how I got involved.

First, a little about me. I grew up in Port Tampa and one of my sisters’ boyfriends gave me a collection of horror film books when I was only five. I would go off by myself, just to look at the pictures of Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, Godzilla, and an odd assortment of psychotics and weirdoes while I waited to see Dr. Paul Bearer on Creature Feature at 2pm. I was hooked and I have pretty much stayed hooked ever since.

The next big phase of horror fandom came when my parents bought a VCR at a garage sale in the early 80’s and the seller threw in a box of tapes to go with it. One Saturday, around age 8, I decided to sit and watch random tapes. The first one I saw was Lucio Fulci’s The Gates of Hell and I loved the scene where the woman vomits up her intestines. It didn’t bother me at all when other 8-year olds would probably have run out of the room crying. I also remember the scene with the boyfriend getting drilled in the ear by an irate father which taught me a valuable lesson about what not to do when going on future dates.

There were other movies by Fulci like The Beyond and House by the Cemetery and those films shaped my early knowledge of Italian Horror films.

Also, in the box was Deep Red by Dario Argento, which I watched the same day I saw The Gates of Hell. Both movies affected me but they didn’t bother me or give me any nightmares. I thought they were funny.

By the time I got to Japan to study Japanese, I already had a steady diet of Creature Feature, Shock Theater, and countless Italian horror movies.

I had also seen Ringu (The Ring) drama series thanks to my Japanese roommate in college. His family would mail him videotapes as they aired on Japanese TV.

I have noticed a shift in Horror entertainment from Italian Horror to Japanese Horror from the late 90’s to early 2000’s. Argento was on the way out as Miike Takashi was shocking Japanese audiences with direct-to-video releases. Miike had to make a name for himself first in that market, before he made movies for theatrical release.

When Audition came out in 1999, it had a similar effect on movie-goers that Suspiria did in 1977. Aiudition helped by promoting the extreme graphic torture genre and influenced future films such as Eli Roth’s Hostel.

To see how this change came about and how Miike came to be highly-regarded begins with early examples of Japanese Horror movies.

In 1953, Mizoguchi Kenji directed his masterpiece, Ugetsu Monogatari, based on short stories by Ueda Akinari and Guy de Maupassant. Ugetsu Monogatari is a beautifully filmed Art House movie that is a classic example of the ghost story.

It has gone on to win critical acclaim from Sight and Sound and numerous film critics view it in a positive light.

Next, several short stories were adapted from Lafcadio Hearn for Kwaidan, another film in the ghost story genre. Hearn was interested in Japanese fairy tales, while living in Japan, and Kwaidan has a fairy tale thread that runs in and out of several of the short films.

Onibaba, 1964, is a Buddhist Horror story about what happens when a woman and her daughter-in-law, kill a samurai in order to sell his amour and the fate of such actions. Onibaba is a moral tale like Tales from the Crypt and Hammer Horror films.

Demons and ghosts haunt the two women for desecrating the dead.

Moving ahead to the 90’s, Shikoku, 1999, is an interesting psychological ghost story set in rural Japan that shows a Buddhist’s vision of Hell at the end. It stars Kuriyama Chiaki as (the wicked killing Japanese schoolgirl, Go-Go, from Kill Bill) as a yurei (type of Japanese ghost) haunting her childhood friend.

The biggest film series to have a major impact on Japan and a US remake, is The Ring series directed by Nakata Hideo and based on a Suzuki Koji (the Stephen King of Japan) novel. The Ring is about the cursed videotape that kills anyone who watches it in a week. The scene of the creepy woman climbing out of the well is one of the best scenes of Horror in recent years.

When I was in Osaka, in 1999, Ringu was everywhere from videotapes, books, posters, and even a highly popular amusement park ride.

OK, before this drags on too long and I could write a book about Japanese horror, a look at 2000s. Tokyo Gore Police, Tokyo Zombie, and Cursed all contributed to the crazy world of Japanese horror with even more graphic violence and gore that keeps pushing the envelope and knocking movie-lovers out of their nice safe comfort zones.

Japanese Horror is still going strong and several sequels and new Hollywood remakes are scheduled for the next few years which prove its influence and appeal to a wider international audience.

Check out some of the above-mentioned J-Horror films in the next two weeks and see how scary the Far East can be.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2009 by Jason Fetters.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.