5 classic Japanese horror movies to watch

By James Darnbrook

For those who may not know, J-horror is the umbrella term used for any and all Japanese horror movies. The horror genre has deep roots in Japan’s cinema reaching all the way back to the 1960s and it is just as popular a genre now as it was then. In many ways, J-horror seems to have reached its peak in recent years both here in Japan and in the West, most notably through films like "The Ring" and "Dark Water." If you haven’t seen either of these, you’re missing out!

The popularity of these movies though has (for me at least) created a stereotypical Japanese horror movie; a story that revolves around people encountering ghostly spirits that manifest themselves as pale, disturbing children—and that inevitably ends in death.

Now, I have nothing against this type of movie, in fact, some of the best J-horror films ever made fit into this formula exactly. But in some ways, these super popular movies have distorted what J-horror really is; a unique genre that pushes the boundaries and influences cinema around the world.

The list I have created below is not necessarily the best five horror movies Japan has ever produced, but movies that show the variety and uniqueness of the J-horror genre.

1. Onibaba

"Onibaba" is the oldest movie on this list and one of the oldest horror movies ever made in Japan. Released in 1964, the movie tells the story of two women: a mother and daughter-in-law left to fend for themselves in feudal Japan after the son/husband is forced to join the army. How they manage to do this, and the repercussions of their actions is what makes "Onibaba" a horror movie.

"Onibaba" is a movie completely removed from what we may think of as horror today. There are no ghosts, monsters or zombies and there are few outright scares. What there is, though, is a disturbing story, dripped in suspense with a tone that unsettles you more and more as you watch.

Where to watch: There’s an English subbed version of "Onibaba' on YouTube.

Click here to read more.

© GaijinPot

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Love me that old school TOHO horror.


The H-Man

Vampire Doll

and some Guinea Pig, too.

Mermaid in a Manhole

Devil's Experiment

honorable mention - Goke the Body Snatcher from Hell

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Audition is superb. Really disturbing.

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This article was from 2014. Still no update? Anyway,

Best Classic J Horror - 1985 Seburi Monogatari

Best Timepass J Horror - 2009 Teketeke

Best Modern J Horror - 2008 The Most Beautiful Night in the World

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I've read Murakamis Audition and it was great, maybe the movie is worth checking out too.

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I've read Murakamis Audition and it was great, maybe the movie is worth checking out too.

I didn't realise it was based on a novel, must check it out, cheers.

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@Toasted Heretic

you don't have a clue. How could

you not know that audition was based on the novel! Jeez...

id recommend first and foremost the original ring movie. It's so subtle and has such a great buildup. Unfortunately it spawned several disappointing remakes.

Next would be Himizu. Not a horror film per se, no ghosts or monsters, but just really awful human beings. It shows the damage they can do to children and the repercussions later in life

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"Onibaba" is a Japanese film classic. But scarier than all the others listed is Kurosawa's "Cure" (and perhaps the best Japanese psycho-horror movie of the last 30+ years).

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no one does horror like Japan. They are truly masters of the craft.

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no one does horror like Japan. They are truly masters of the craft.

Pretty much. Also, some of the writers like Natsuo Kirino and Hideshi Hino pile on the fear factor with creepy crimes and grotesque ghouls, respectively.

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