These Are the Japanese Horror Films You Should Only Watch During the Day
Need a primer for J-horror? We've got you covered.
The Ring/Solar Entertainment
No doubt, there’s so much to love about Japan. There’s the efficient train system, the sprawling skyline of Tokyo, the storied history preserved by Kyoto, varied cultures in different prefectures, the amazing food, and the equally impressive tourist spots spanning from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south. What most people might not know, however, is that it’s also a treasure trove of excellent horror flicks. New to J-horror? Here are 6 movies that you should definitely look into.
The Ring by Hideo Nakata
Also known as Ringu, this classic propelled J-horror into worldwide acclaim. The movie begins with two teenagers at home alone talking about a cursed videotape that can be found in the Izu peninsula. According to rumors, anyone who watches the strange videotape will get a call instructing the viewer to “pass along” the tape for somebody else to watch—ensuring the curse lives on. One of the teenagers reveals that she actually watched the tape with her friends while staying at a cabin in Izu. Soon, she hears weird noises and sees the television open on its own in the dark living room—meeting her untimely death and revealing that the cursed videotape is in fact true. Her aunt, a reporter, investigates into the strange circumstances surrounding the strange tape and the circumstances leading to her niece’s death. Soon, viewers are taken into a scary ride that involves warped photos, haunted television sets, scary phone calls, and creepy apparitions of a girl emerging from a well.
The Grudge by Takashi Shimizu
Another classic, The Grudge (or Ju-on) has a couple of similarities with The Ring. It also involves a curse, a creepy woman, and tons and tons of deaths. However, it comes into its own, leaving us with memorable hauntings from the ghosts of the crawling momma Kayako and her equally creepy mewling son Toshio. The film introduces us to an abandoned house with a grisly past, which leads to a curse that consumes anyone who comes near it. New occupants of the house are condemned to repeat its murderous history over and over, as they find themselves affected by the curse and by the ghosts of the house’s original inhabitants.
Noroi by Koji Shiraishi
Watch out, Paranormal Activity, this found footage flick could just give you a run for your money. Noroi (which translates to “curse” in Japanese) features a documentary film director who is into making films about, well, the paranormal. At the beginning of the movie, the audience is informed that the director suddenly disappeared, leaving only his last work—the very film that the audience is watching. To give away more would be giving spoilers, so we will let you figure out the rest of the plot by watching the film instead. Suffice to say that there are strange noises, strange happenings, and strange characters whose seemingly disparate lives are brought together by a strange town. The movie may have a complicated storyline, but trust us when we say that is very rewarding when it comes to scares. Among all the movies in this list, this 2005 gem might just be the most terrifying.
Pulse by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Pulse (Kairo) debuted in 2001 and way before the World Wide Web has invaded our daily lives, this flick was well ahead in schooling us on the literal horrors of the internet. The movie features a deadly virus where lost souls inhabit computer screens, back when personal computers are just starting to become commonplace and the internet is still in its infancy. This atmospheric film features two related stories, both of which involve ghosts inhabiting computers and people suddenly missing. Its pervasive use of silence makes it similar to the blockbuster predecessor The Ring, which screened in cinemas four years earlier.
Infection by Masayuki Ochiai
Any horror movie that is set in the hospital is bound to end up in disaster. Infection (Kansen) serves up the scares when a patient arrives with a strange disease and begins infecting hospital staff. Creepy, claustrophobic, and very much nightmare-inducing, Infection strikes a balance between scary surprises and shocking body horror, as it traps the helpless hospital staff in a race against time. At the same time, its horror goes beyond the visceral disgust toward physical bodies in various stages of disintegration, as it touches on psychological issues as well.
Uzumaki by Akihiro Higuchi AKA Higuchinsky
Okay, we got to start off by saying that this movie is weird. Basically, the barebones plot focuses on a small town that somehow gets haunted by spiral (“Uzumaki” in Japanese)—that weird squiggly shape we see on shells, rocks, plants, and everything in between. Spirals suddenly become so ubiquitous in the town that outsider Kirie finds herself in. Her boyfriend’s dad becomes obsessed with spirals, her classmates sprout spiral hair and take on snail-like qualities, and increasing deaths fashioned in weird vortex-like positions. Soon, spirals become so commonplace that they actually become frightening, as if they are taking over the town itself. Based on a best-selling manga by Junji Ito (which, we must point out, is also equally frightening), the film is equal parts disorienting and scary, leaving an impression well after its conclusion. Better watch this flick with friends in broad daylight—not only is the post-movie discussion bound to be fun, but it will surely give you nightmare fuel.