November 9, 2006

My Thoughts On Made-In-Japan Horror Movies

The release of The Grudge 2 recently made me realise what an impact Japanese horror movies have made on the horror movie genre this last decade or so.

When Ringu was released in 1998, the horror movie industry was facing a slump. Many of the best films in this genre like The Exorcist, The Shining and Salem's Lot were made in the 60s to 80s. In the 90s, scary movies were either slasher flicks or comedy cum horror type films. Although some of these movies were pretty shocking and could still generate a good fright, they lacked the dark, foreboding and dread inducing "I could hardly breathe" atmosphere that were so prevalent in the older horror movies. Instead, many predicted that the ability to make such terrifying horror movies were a thing of the past.

But when The Ring exploded on the big screen in and rung up the box-office cash registers in 1998, everyone started to look at this genre with new interest... and started to incorporate many of the elements that made the movie so successful in their own movies. I am sure you recognise the long-haired, white-gowned female otherworldly being with the creepy and jerky body movements in many recent horror movies. She has made many cameo appearances in slightly different guises in films like The Sixth Sense, South Korea's Wishing Stairs, Singapore's The Eye and of course Japan's own Ju-on and Dark Water.

Actually I feel that the Japanese approach to horror movies is very different from Hollywood. There is usually very little special effects if you compare it with horror films from Hollywood but there is always a sense that something mysterious and terrifying is lurking beneath the surface. The atmosphere is almost always very still and quiet, with a minimum of dialogue which makes the horror, when it comes, even more shocking and unexpected.

When I first watched The Ring at the cinema, I had such a shock from the infamous TV scene that I left the cinema shivering with fright. And I was actually worried that something will happen to me on the seventh day :-P Some people even shifted their TV sets out of their bedroom after watching the film... haha...

However, with more and more directors churning out Ringu style horror movies like a production line, I feel that the quality of horror movies these days have really fallen tremendously. For me, even Hollywood remakes of movies like The Ring and Ju-on really cannot compare to the original versions. I guess movie goers are tired of seeing the same techniques being used again and again... Could a horror movie slump be on the horizon again?

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