Japanese Horror: What to Watch Next?

Let’s say you saw The Ring and The Grudge and you thought they were alright, but upon checking out Ring and Ju-On you found them way more interesting. Well, now that you’ve seen the two J-horror films everyone knows, where do you go from here? Well young J-Horror neophyte, let me draw you a road map of twelve films to continue your journey.

Audition, 1999, Dir. Takashi Miike
A widower and father, Aoyama, is lonely, and in an attempt to solve this problem, his director friend and him hold an audition. For a film, yes, but mostly so that he can scout out a girlfriend. He succeeds, becoming fascinated by one quiet young woman clad in white. The two quickly fall in love, but her dark secrets threaten to ruin this fairy tale romance. A slow build, but with an unforgettable climax.

Battle Royale, 2000, Dir. Kinji Fukasaku
A delinquent class is chosen by their abused teacher to participate in the yearly Battle Royale, a government program in which they’re stranded on an island and have three days to kill each other until there’s one student left. Alliances are formed and friendships are broken, but the return of previous winners leads to even more chaos. Fascinating premise with a solid execution.

Dark Water, 2002, Dir. Hideo Nakata
By the director of Ring, a single mother in the midst of a nasty divorce moves into a run-down apartment building with her daughter. They’re plagued by constant dripping water and the recurring presence of a mysterious handbag. Is there more to this than meets the eye or is the mother herself coming undone? Quiet and atmospheric, Dark Water may not deliver scares, but it lurk in your darkest thoughts for days.

Hausu, 1977, Dir. Nobuhiko Obayashi
A favorite of mine. Six girls travel to one of their aunt’s house for vacation. But after decades of living alone, is the aunt still the same woman she was? Psychedelic, hilarious, and fascinating all at the same time, Hausu is well worth your time.

Ichi the Killer, 2001, Dir. Takashi Miike
Depraved hitman Kakihara is out for revenge when his mob’s boss is taken out by a mysterious assassin. Slipping between darkly humorous and deeply depraved, Ichi is a hard film to watch, at the very least for how extreme it is. If you can get through it though, it’s quite the memorable experience.

ONIBABA - American Poster
Onibaba, 1964, Dir. Kaneto Shindo
Japanese horror for the longest time were more supernatural dramas than horror films. Onibaba is one of the best of these entries. Two women are forced to survive in the wake of a terrible war, but they come at odds when the younger one starts sleeping with a returned warrior. The older takes revenge by donning the horrific mask of a fallen samurai and terrorizing the couple. Atmospheric and stylized like a Noir film, it leaves you with the same satisfaction a good campfire ghost story does.

Pulse, 2001, Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa
A poltergeist sent through the internet? That’s what seems to be happening to the friends of two college students, but as the disappearances escalate, it becomes clear that a far more sinister force is pushing itself into our world. It spirals out of control at the end, but it is an unique and interesting spiral nonetheless.

Seance, 2000, Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa
A psychic trying to get recognition gets pulled into a kidnapping investigation, only to discover her husband may have accidentally become involved himself. More Hitchcock-ian than anything, Seance delivers little scares and all suspense.

Suicide Club, 2001, Dir. Sion Sono
After 54 school girls kill themselves by jumping in front of a subway train, an investigation is launched into the website that seems to be predicting these suicides and the large rolls of skin found at the scene of the crime. Chaotic and messy, but weirdly engaging, Suicide Club doesn’t quite get its message across, but the subtext is does have will keep you thinking.

Tetsuo: The Iron Man, 1989, Dir. Shinya Tsukamoto
Perhaps the only film that Tetsuo can be compared to is David Lynch’s Eraserhead, which is either an extremely good thing or incredibly bad thing, depending on who you are. The plot is nonsensical, but seems to be about some weird machine alien virus thing taking over a businessman. As the narrative becomes more clear, it also becomes equally more horrifying. Surreal to a fault, this film is not for the weak of temperament, or heart.

Tomie, 1999, Dir. Ataru Oikawa
Tsukiko’s old classmates keep dying. Ever since the death of Tomie, nine of them have died or gone insane. Tsukiko herself is recovering from amnesia, but that isn’t helped by the interrogating or her increasingly distant boyfriend. For a dead girl, Tomie sure is causing a lot of trouble. More art film than horror film, Tomie still nails a fantastic atmosphere, even if it favors imagery over logic.

Uzumaki, 2000, Dir. Higuchinsky
Based on Tomie author Junji Ito’s manga, Uzumaki is a condensed telling of the downfall of a small town. A small town that is taken over not by killers, zombies, or even ghosts, but by spirals. A Lovecraft-ian concept, but executed in a multitude of ways that are sure to raise both eyebrows and heart rates.

Any titles you think should be on this list? Seen these films and want to exclaim how amazing and/or terrible they are? Sound off in the comments below!

A Note on Death

It’s 2:03 am and I have tears in my eyes. 10 minutes ago I didn’t and in 15 minutes I probably won’t, but right now… I’ve been in tears at 2 am far more times than I’d like to admit, mostly due to staying up all night to finish a show, but this time my reason is slightly more valid. I read an article, one I’ve been meaning to get to all day. It was supposed to be a quick read before I go to bed. So much for that. “When I’m Gone” is about the relationship between a boy and his deceased father, who continues to teach him life lessons through letters. From his first kiss all the way to his deathbed.

Death has followed me around for as long as I can remember. If it wasn’t pets I loved, it was the people I loved. If it wasn’t actual death, it was the threat of losing someone. Or it was merely present in my thoughts. Out of all my fears, most boil down to an ultimate fear of death. More specifically, it’s the finality of death. When I mourn someone or something, I don’t mourn that they’re dead per say, I mourn the loss of all future opportunities. I mourn the things they’ll no longer get to do, especially with me. In much the same way, I’m constantly concerned with the way I’ll leave my loved ones when that day comes. I wrote my first will in middle school. I haven’t been able to write one sense, because I always break into tears before finishing it.

I take some solace that I have more artifacts of me lying around the internet or my possessions than most. I have this entire website filled with my thoughts. I’ve got a channel with videos, a handful of journals with my dreams and worries in them, and an audio recorder with a few random late night rants on them. If somebody really tried they could get a pretty complete picture of who I was. But that’s not enough. Those bits and pieces are me talking about movies, or me complaining about my problem of the week. No, I think the real pieces that matter are those that someone can learn something from.

Every year for the past four or five years, I’ve written a letter to myself on New Years. I started this because I was lonely and wanted to make sure I followed up on my resolutions. However, in the following years it became more about remembering who I was. From year to year my priorities and even my attitude changed, but some things remained constant. The person who reads those letters will learn something about me, the same way I do every year.

But enough about me, what about all the other important things? How will I help my sister through college? How will I teach my future niece/nephew about the unexplained events that proliferate our world? How will I impart those accidentally helpful bits of advice onto my friends? How will I convince the woman I love that she’s the most amazing person on the planet, who can and should do anything she sets her mind to? How will I show my parents that for every bit of pride they’ve shown of me, I’ve feel towards them ten-fold? How will I make sure that everybody remembers who I was, what I thought, and how I felt about them?

By asking these questions, I’ve inadvertently answered some, but I don’t think I’ll stop there. I’ve got a lot of writing to do. I encourage everyone to do the same. Leave your mark. Not on the world, but on the people you care about. You don’t need everybody to remember you, as long as somebody never stops.

I should really go to bed.

Me, Relationships, & Gone Girl

When you’re in a serious relationship, questions about the future are ultimately raised, particularly relating to marriage. Can you stand to live with each other? Are you satisfied with just him/her? Are you just plain compatible? How about for life? Even if your answer is yes to every one of these questions it’s still a massive gamble, and one you have to make together. But just when you think you’ve overcome doubt, become totally comfortable with the idea, that nagging voice in the back of your head asks “what if…?”

While most of Hollywood insists on restoring, maintaining, and, of course, creating your faith in romance and “true love,” Gone Girl actively destroys it. That little voice is given a megaphone.

At its core, marriage is the bringing together of two people, but it’s also the culmination of a hopefully long and somewhat arduous journey. This eternal bond is certainly romantic, but people change. Constantly, in fact.The person you started won’t be the same person after five years. The question is if you can still love that person. Everyone has this vision of who they’re dating, based off of, of course, your experience of them. Every single moment with them compounds into your idea of them, your understanding of who they are. This is somewhat futile though, as can you ever really know somebody? You’ll never know if the person he/she is around you is actually who they are, or if the version of you that exists is only there because you want to meet their expectations.

These are the questions, the anxieties, at the heart of Gone Girl. They’re valid concerns too, questions that people don’t think to ask themselves between cute dates and netflix nights.

Films often show the beginning of a relationship, the fight to be with the person you love, or want to love. It isn’t nearly as simple as this, as the battle to stay with the person you love, or to stay in love with a person, is just as hard. These portrayals are out there in the media, but they aren’t popular with people my age and younger. We don’t want to know how hard love is, and frankly we don’t have to care. If your relationship fails in high school, you still have decades to get it right. As you get older you put more stock in actually maintaining a relationship, in being an adult about it if you will.

Due to reasons beyond romance, I’ve never really felt like a member of my generation or age group, but I still hardly consider myself an adult. The developments in my life that reflect adulthood are still foreign to me, like some dream I’m going to wake up from. Though I know, deep inside, that the future is marching towards me. The future where all of this is normal. Gone Girl is a crucial movie in that way. It’s the first film where I identified with the characters not just on a human level, but as fellow adults. As people who have to deal with the same issues I will deal with, or already have. This was a weird revelation, and one that gave the anxieties brought up by this film extra punch. That marching future just picked up its pace, but that’s okay.

Gone Girl is an extremely great movie that asks harsh questions about relationships. Questions I’m finally ready to ask, and just beginning to be able to answer.