Introduction to Japanese Horror Film

Introduction to Japanese Horror Film

Introduction to Japanese Horror Film

Introduction to Japanese Horror Film


This book is a major historical and cultural overview of an increasingly popular genre. Starting with the cultural phenomenon of Godzilla, it explores the evolution of Japanese horror from the 1950s through to contemporary classics of Japanese horror cinema such as Ringu and Ju-On: The Grudge. Divided thematically, the book explores key motifs such as the vengeful virgin, the demonic child, the doomed lovers and the supernatural serial killer, situating them within traditional Japanese mythology and folk-tales. The book also considers the aesthetics of the Japanese horror film, and the mechanisms through which horror is expressed at a visceral level through the use of setting, lighting, music and mise-en-scene. It concludes by considering the impact of Japanese horror on contemporary American cinema by examining the remakes of Ringu, Dark Water and Ju-On: The Grudge. The emphasis is on accessibility, and whilst the book is primarily marketed towards film and media students, it will also be of interest to anyone interested in Japanese horror film, cultural mythology and folk-tales, cinematic aesthetics and film theory. Key Features:
• Covers classics of Japanese horror film such as Pitfall, Tales of Ugetsu, Kwaidan, Onibaba, Hellish Love and Empire of Desire alongside less well-known cult films such as Pulse, St John's Wort, Infection and Living Hell: A Japanese Chainsaw Massacre.
• Includes analysis of the relationship between cultural mythology and the horror film.
• Explores the evolution of the erotic ghost story in the 1960s and 1970s.
• Examines the contemporary relationship between Japanese horror film and American horror.
• Contains 9 B&W film stills.


In America and Europe most horror movies tell the story of the extermin
ation of evil spirits. Japanese horror movies end with a suggestion that
the spirit still remains at large. That's because the Japanese don't regard
spirits only as enemies, but as beings that co-exist with this world of ours.
(Suzuki 2005)

With the exhaustion of American horror cinema, as evidenced by the recent trend towards remakes of classic 1970 films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Nispel: 2003), The Amityville Horror (Douglas: 2003) and The Hills have Eyes (Aja: 2006), it is not surprising that both American studios and Western audiences have been looking elsewhere for inspiration. There can be little doubt that Nakata's Ring (1998) has had much to do with the recent international interest not just in Japanese horror cinema, but East Asian cinema more generally.

Following the success of Nakata's Ring, Shimizu's Ju-On: The Grudge (2003) and the American remakes, Tōhō announced in 2004 the establishment of J-Horror Theatre, a series of six horror films from noted Japanese directors. The fact that Lion Gate Films obtained worldwide distribution rights to the films (with the exception of Japan) testifies to the increasing popularity of the Japanese horror film. The proliferation of remakes of Japanese films continues, with the most recent, Pulse (Sonzero: 2006), based upon Kiyoshi Kurosawa's extraordinary technological horror of the same name (2001).

However, the centrality of isolation, alienation and emptiness that defines Japanese horror cinema cannot be simply explained by a nebulous reference to a sense of loss of history and nostalgia for the past which lies at the heart of postmodern theories of identity, such as that espoused by Jameson (1991). This is too simple a comparison. Concerns around the loss of connection are much more pivotal in a society based upon a long tradition of obligations amongst . . .

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