By Sam Reeve
I thought Uzumaki would be perfect for Halloween’s Japanese Horror Month entry. It has a perfect blend of truly bizarre horror and comical carnivalesque visuals and sounds which, to me, are what make up Halloween.
Uzumaki (aka Spiral) is connected to other films from Japanese Horror Month in a couple different ways: One of the screen writers also worked on the screenplay for Tokyo Gore Police, and Uzumaki is based on a manga by the amazing Junji Ito, whose work also inspired Kakashi (and numerous other horror shows and films).
Here’s the basic plot:
The story concerns the inhabitants of the small Japanese town of Kurôzu-cho that seems to be cursed by supernatural events surrounding spirals. Many people become obsessed or paranoid about spiral shapes, which starts resulting in several gruesome deaths. Eventually people start transforming into something other than human, such as snails and twisted forms.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: First, it’s very bizarre, not your average horror in any sense. The visuals are great, sometimes genuinely creepy, other times pretty funny. Second, the story isn’t bad. I have no idea what the manga is like, so I can’t compare, but I liked what the film did. Uzumaki is definitely something I could see myself viewing a few more times.
Below you can find a low-qualitycopy of Uzumaki on Youtube, with English subtitles. If you can find this film elsewhere, I highly recommend it (I was too lazy).
By Sam Reeve
In Demon City Shinjuku the evil dude, Rebi Ra, defeats Genichirou and causes an earthquake that destroys the Shinjuku part of Tokyo. The area is invaded by demons and becomes a post apocalyptic hell for the inhabitants. 10 years later is when Rebi Ra plans to finally resurrect the rest of the demons to turn the entire world into hell.
After a decade of chaos in Shinjuku, Rebi Ra is back, kidnapping President Kozumi (who had ushered in world peace). Some floaty ghost-like guy who seems to be Kozumi’s protector asks Kyoya for help in defeating Rebi Ra. Kyoya also happens to be Genichirou’s son, and he teams up with the President’s daughter Sayaka.
They enter the demon city, fight off bad guys on the way, are joined by a child side-kick and then finally get to battling with Rebi Ra.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: Demon City Shinjuku is a good anime for the Halloween season. It’s filled with demons, angry spirits, and bloody battles. I found the art to be better than most of the anime I’ve watched this month, and the story wasn’t terrible (although after watching Wicked City I see they have lots of similarities).
The best part was probably the setting. I love post apocalyptic stuff, and the demon city was pretty cool. You never knew what would pop out next!
Here is a trailer for the movie that’s set to some mildly annoying metal music.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: The final battle was a total let-down. Very boring and brief, which sucked pretty bad since I was expecting something epic like at the end of Akira.
Below you can find the full movie with English subtitles. Enjoy!
By Sam Reeve
When I watched Ju-on for Japanese Horror Month, I thought I would be watching what had inspired the American remake (which I still haven’t seen). Turns out there are two movies called Ju-on: one which was made in 2000, and one made in 2002 called Ju-on: The Grudge, which has a totally different plot and a very confusingly similar title. Ju-on actually translates to “grudge”, so you can see how this might not make the most sense. Click here for a full break-down of the Ju-on series.
The plot isn’t so much there, honestly, but here it goes: Jumping around to different characters and different times even, it tells us about the people affected by the curse of a house and those who’ve inhabited it. The curse started with a husband who murdered his wife and son because he was jealous (but that’s also not super clear in the film). The son has missed school so his teacher, Kobayashi, goes to investigate. We also see a family living in the house, and due to the curse a tutor and girlfriend are both killed. The last part of the film is fairly uneventful, just the real estate agent enlisting the help of his psychic sister to check out the place.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: If this series wasn’t famous and possibly worthy of viewing just to check it off your list, I would say to steer clear. It was a little creepy at some parts, most certainly in the way you would always think more would happen than what did, but that was all. The famous “crawling down the stairs” scene was pretty freaky at least.
The low-budget quality of the film could appeal to some people, since it did make it seem like you were watching a creepy home video at points.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: The plot was just all over the place and left really unfinished in the worst way. If it had had more substance in that sense, I could have easily gotten past the lack of scariness.
Below you’ll find the famous staircase scene, and below that is the full movie with English subtitles. Enjoy!
By Sam Reeve
Horrors of Malformed Men (aka Horror of a Deformed Man) is a mystery horror directed by Teruo Ishii. It includes the ero guro element found in many Japanese horror films. Ero guro (erotic-grotesque) combines sexuality and eroticism with the deformed or abnormal. A modern example of ero guro would be the tentacle rape stuff, which started out through ero guro films. H.R. Giger‘s work is also considered ero guro.
The plot is a bit convoluted and you don’t find out what’s going on until the very end (like most mysteries), but here it goes: Hirosuke wakes up in a cell, not remembering anything. The jail/crazy house is mostly populated by half naked crazy bitches. He escapes and meets a girl from a circus who sings a song he thinks he knows, and finds out it’s a unique song that came from near the coast of Japan. The girl also mysteriously doesn’t know where she came from but was told she might be from there.
Hirosuke heads there, finds out information from a masseur about the rich Komoda family in the area and that their son Genzaburo had a scar on his foot exactly like his. The son was recently deceased, so like any normal guy who wants to get close to the family, he digs up the body, sees that it looks just like him, and then pretends to be Genzaburo who’s come back from the dead.
From there things get crazier as Hirosuke balances trying to keep up the appearance that he’s Genzaburo, and also deal with his “wife” and mistress. Eventually he gets to the mysterious island near the family’s estate that is apparently being turned into a “fantasy land”.
By fantasy land they really mean an island non unlike the Island of Dr. Moreau, where the insane father of Genzaburo has turned normal people into deformed monsters, and raised ugly messed up kids to be his evil slaves. I won’t continue to describe the plot, since it would give away the ending and it gets more confusing from there, but wackiness ensues.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: I can say that you probably won’t be able to predict the ending of this movie. The plot takes many turns, which kept it fairly interesting, though sometimes it seemed to get a bit lost in itself. The second half has a very circusy feel to it with all the freaks on display, parading around and even spinning fire.
It’s very bizarre and beautifully shot, often reminding me of Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain.
Not convinced? Here’s a trailer. If you’ve seen this classic film, or do end up seeking it out, let us know what you thought about it in a comment below!
By Sam Reeve
Today for Japanese Horror Month we have the anime short film Blood: The Last Vampire. It was directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo, who also was a key animator of Akira. In 2009 a live-action version of this movie was made, but I can’t comment on that one since I haven’t seen it. This movie is doubly appropriate for this month because it takes place just before Halloween!
It’s 1966 and Saya, the last true vampire, is handled by some American suits. They use her to destroy bat-like demons that can take on human form. It’s suspected that one of these creatures has infiltrated an American air base, so they send Saya undercover at a school next to the base to find them. She does, which of course leads to some awesome demon fights.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: I was most impressed by the animation, but the story itself wasn’t bad. It’s by no means original, but at 48 minutes long, it’s just an entertaining, well-animated ride with plenty of monster action.
Still not sure? Watch this trailer!
By Sam Reeve
Today’s film for Japanese Horror Month is The Haunted Apartments from the Tales of Terror series. It’s a paranormal j-horror that I found to be surprisingly good.
Aimi and her father move into a new apartment complex a few years after her mother died. The other tenants seem overly friendly and helpful when they arrive – the first tip-off that something is awry. Aimi starts seeing a girl her age around the place, but there’s supposedly only a boy her age living there. Things get stranger when she’s told there’s a curfew – everyone must cross a string that’s tied up between two rocks at the entrance of the complex by midnight. If they don’t make it in time, they’ll die.
Aimi learns from a past tenant that only those who’ve been there the longest can leave, but they must find new people to move in first. If anyone violates this, the ghost of the young girl kills them.
Meanwhile, Aimi’s dad is an alcoholic piece of shit who tries to publish an article about the hauntings, thus jeopardizing everyone’s chance at finding replacement tenants. The others try to attack him, leading to an unexpected ending of a lifted curse and [SPOILER] Aimi’s dad getting killed.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: Though it wasn’t the most horrifying of movies, there were a number of parts that were unnerving and a little freaky. What I loved most about Haunted Apartments were the array of colourfully characters that populated the apartment complex. They seemed to all be like a big weird family in the way they all cheered each other on and looked out for one another if they hadn’t made it back as midnight approached. I actually gave a shit about most of them and usually I hate all the characters in your average horror flick.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: There’s some stuff you find out at the VERY end which was surprising, and though I may feel differently upon a second viewing, I felt there hadn’t been enough hints towards what was going on. It seemed so random and almost like the writers themselves hadn’t known how to properly end the story.
Despite that, it’s worth a viewing if you’re looking for a decent j-horror to ring in Halloween. You can find the full movie below with English subtitles.
By Sam Reeve
Today’s film for Japanese Horror Month is another Takashi Miike masterpiece. The Happiness of the Katakuris is a farcical horror-comedy-musical that is both live-action and claymation.
A family has moved out to a house in the country to start a bed and breakfast near where a highway is proposed to be built. They’re discouraged at first because no guests are coming, but eventually a few start coming in. Unfortunately they all die in their rooms in bizarre ways, which leads the family to bury them in order to save the reputation of the inn. The highway plans change, which means they have to move the bodies, and lots of craziness ensues.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: This movie is sure to make you laugh, and it’s always entertaining and surprising. Besides an already ridiculous plot, there are insanely cheesy and hilarious song and dance sequences (including one with DANCING ZOMBIES), a compulsive liar love-interest who regales us with tales of his links to the British monarchy, and an explosive volcano!
But don’t just take my word for it, watch this trailer!