Japanese horror

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Japanese horror is horror fiction in popular culture from Japan, noted for its unique thematic and conventional treatment of the horror genre in light of Western treatments. Japanese horror tends to focus on psychological horror, tension building (suspense), and supernatural horror, particularly involving ghosts (yūrei) and poltergeists, while many contain themes of folk religion such as: possession, exorcism, shamanism, precognition, and yōkai.


The origins of Japanese horror can be traced back to ghost story and horror classics of the Edo period and the Meiji period, which were known as Kaidan. Elements of these popular folktales have been worked into the stories of modern films, especially in the traditional nature of the Japanese ghost.

Ghost stories have an even older history in Japanese literature, dating back to at least the Heian period (794–1185). Konjaku Monogatarishū written during that time featured several ghost stories from India, China, and Japan. Kabuki and Noh, forms of traditional Japanese theater, often depict horror tales of revenge and ghastly appearances, many of which have been used as source material for films.


Notable films[edit]

Notable directors[edit]

Anime and manga[edit]

Certain popular Japanese horror films are based on manga, including Tomie, Uzumaki, and Yogen.

Video games[edit]


Hidetoshi Imura as Seijun from Tales from the Dead.

Since the early 2000s, several of the more popular Japanese horror films have been remade. Ring (1998) was one of the first to be remade in America as The Ring, and later The Ring Two (although this sequel bears almost no similarity to the original Japanese sequel). Other notable examples include The Grudge (2004), Dark Water (2005), and One Missed Call (2008)

With the exception of The Ring, most American remakes of Japanese horror films have received negative reviews (although The Grudge received mixed reviews).[6][7][8] One Missed Call has received the worst reception of all, having earned the Moldy Tomato Award at Rotten Tomatoes for garnering a 0% critical approval rating. The Grudge 4 was announced in 2011, but no news has surfaced since. Similarly, The Ring 3D was reportedly green-lit by Paramount in 2010,[9] and it was reported in 2016 that the film would be renamed Rings and released in early 2017.

Many of the original directors who created these Asian horror films have gone on to direct the American remakes.[citation needed] For example, Hideo Nakata, director of Ring, directed the remake The Ring Two; and Takashi Shimizu, director of the original Ju-on, directed the remake The Grudge as well as its sequel, The Grudge 2.

Several other Asian countries have also remade Japanese horror films. For example, South Korea created their own version of the Japanese horror classic Ring, titled The Ring Virus.

In 2007, Los Angeles-based writer-director Jason Cuadrado released the film Tales from the Dead, a horror film in four parts that Cuadrado filmed in the United States with a cast of Japanese actors speaking their native language.

Zombie fiction[edit]

In addition to psychological J-horror, there are also numerous Japanese works of zombie fiction. One of the earliest Japanese zombie films with considerable gore and violence was Battle Girl: The Living Dead in Tokyo Bay (1991).[10] The release of two 1996 Japanese zombie games, Capcom's Resident Evil and Sega's The House of the Dead, sparked an international craze for zombie games.[11][10] In addition to featuring George Romero's classic slow zombies, The House of the Dead also introduced a new type of zombie: the fast-running zombie.[12]

According to Kim Newman in the book Nightmare Movies (2011), the "zombie revival began in the Far East" during the late 1990s, largely inspired by two Japanese zombie games released in 1996: Resident Evil, which started the Resident Evil video game series, and Sega's arcade shooter House of the Dead. The success of these two 1996 zombie games inspired a wave of Asian zombie films, such as the zombie comedy Bio Zombie (1998) and action film Versus (2000).[10] The zombie films released after Resident Evil were influenced by zombie video games, which inspired them to dwell more on the action compared to older George Romero films.[13]

The zombie revival which began in the Far East eventually went global following the worldwide success of the Japanese zombie games Resident Evil and The House of the Dead.[10] They sparked a revival of the zombie genre in popular culture, leading to a renewed global interest in zombie films during the early 2000s.[14] In addition to being adapted into the Resident Evil and House of the Dead films from 2002 onwards, the original video games themselves also inspired zombie films such as 28 Days Later (2002)[15] and Shaun of the Dead (2004),[16] leading to the revival of zombie films during the 2000s.[14][15][17] In 2013, George Romero said it was the video games Resident Evil and House of the Dead "more than anything else" that popularised his zombie concept in early 21st century popular culture.[18][19] The fast-running zombies introduced in The House of the Dead games also began appearing in zombie films during the 2000s, including the Resident Evil and House of the Dead films, 28 Days Later, and the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake.[12]

The low-budget Japanese zombie comedy One Cut of the Dead (2017) became a sleeper hit in Japan, and it made box office history by earning over a thousand times its budget.[20] One Cut of the Dead also received worldwide acclaim, with Rotten Tomatoes stating it "reanimates the moribund zombie genre with a refreshing blend of formal daring and clever satire."[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smith, Gary A. "Japan's Bloodthirsty Trilogy". Vampire Films of the 1970s: Dracula to Blacula and Every Fang Between. pp. 84–88.
  2. ^ Galbraith IV, Stuart (1996). The Japanese Filmography: 1900 through 1994. McFarland. page 197.
  3. ^ Galbraith,Stuart (1994). Japanese Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror Films. McFarland and Co., Inc. p. 317.
  4. ^ http://www.tcm.turner.com/tcmdb/title/557389/Tokaido-Yotsuya-kaidan/
  5. ^ Galbraith IV, Stuart (1996). The Japanese Filmography: 1900 through 1994. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-0032-3. p. 382.
  6. ^ "The Ring". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
  7. ^ The Grudge at Metacritic
  8. ^ One Missed Call at Metacritic
  9. ^ "Paramount to Make The Ring 3D". /Film. April 26, 2010. Retrieved September 24, 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d Newman, Kim (2011). Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s. A&C Black. p. 559. ISBN 9781408805039.
  11. ^ Kay, Glenn (2008). Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide. Chicago Review Press. p. 184. ISBN 9781569766835.
  12. ^ a b Levin, Josh (2007-12-19). "How did movie zombies get so fast?". Slate.com. Retrieved 2013-11-05.
  13. ^ Newman, Kim (2011). Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s. A&C Black. p. 560. ISBN 9781408805039.
  14. ^ a b Barber, Nicholas (21 October 2014). "Why are zombies still so popular?". BBC. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  15. ^ a b Hasan, Zaki (April 10, 2015). "INTERVIEW: Director Alex Garland on Ex Machina". Huffington Post. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  16. ^ "12 Killer Facts About Shaun of the Dead". Mental Floss. 23 January 2016. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  17. ^ "How '28 Days Later' Changed the Horror Genre". The Hollywood Reporter. 29 June 2018. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  18. ^ Weedon, Paul (17 July 2017). "George A. Romero (interview)". Paul Weedon. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  19. ^ Diver, Mike (17 July 2017). "Gaming's Greatest, Romero-Worthy Zombies". Vice. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  20. ^ Nguyen, Hanh (31 December 2018). "'One Cut of the Dead': A Bootleg of the Japanese Zombie Comedy Mysteriously Appeared on Amazon". IndieWire. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  21. ^ "One Cut of the Dead (Kamera o tomeru na!) (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2 March 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]