Japanese movies have set a benchmark in the horror genre. Several popular horror movies have taken inspiration from Japanese horror films. Japanese horror movies provide original scares to their audience and create an eerie atmosphere that lingers throughout the film's run-time. The main credit goes to the writers for delivering a script that successfully maintains the tension much needed in the horror genre. Here are the top 10 Japanese horror movies.
1. Ring (1998)
Ring(also known as Ringu), directed by Hideo Nakata, is a Japanese horror movie that has haunted people for decades. A haunted videotape is passed on from one person to another, causing the viewers to die in mysterious and gruesome ways. A female journalist and her estranged husband start to investigate the case of this mysterious videotape, but all hell breaks loose when their child falls victim to the infamous spirits that are at play. This movie has inspired an American remake called "The Ring." Even though the American remake earned more in the box office, real horror lovers know that the original Japanese version is one of the best horror movies of all time. The spine-chilling background music of this movie adds to the scary atmosphere that takes the viewer on an immersive trip into the depths of the horror genre like never before. The story is original, creepy, and mind-numbingly scary.
2. Ju-On: The Grudge (2002)
Ju-On: The Grudge, directed by Takashi Shimizu, is a scary-fest packed with scary imagery, haunting background score, and a plethora of jump scares that are sure to give you a nightmare for weeks. This movie is the third grudge movie in the series but the first one to have a theatrical release, while the previous two films get released in the direct-to-video format. This movie also had an American remake in 2004, which was a significant box office success and had three sequels. This movie is on the list of everyone who loves horror movies.
3. Pulse (2001)
Pulse, directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, is a modern-day horror classic. This film is unpredictable, unique, and utterly terrifying as it takes the horror genre into uncharted territories and hugely succeeds in its execution. A group of college students is left mentally scarred after witnessing horrific images and visions sent to them over the Internet. The Internet becomes a hub of demonic spirits as ghostly photos appear on the computer screen of the people in Tokyo, and they start to go missing. The story symbolizes that if a platform gets misused for malicious purposes, it can become a breeding ground for "demons." This movie becomes unforgettable because the concept it dealt with was new, and viewers could not expect its climax.
4. Audition (1999)
Audition, directed by Takashi Miike, is a horror movie that will stay with the audience long after the film is over. The story is alarming and grounded in reality, as the movie's premise seems as if it can happen to any one of us. It revolves around a man who decided to start dating after the death of his wife. The story is so twisted that its effect will linger in the audience's hearts. The widower cooked up a fake account and started to host auditions for a non-existent production. He started using these auditions as a front to meet and date women. Aoyama, the widower, meets a gorgeous but introverted woman named Asami and he instantly becomes spellbound by her beauty and charms. They get into a relationship, but as the days go on, Aoyama realizes that Asami is not the woman he thought she was. She has many dark, even evil secrets that might harm their relationship.
5. Kwaidan (1964)
Kwaidan, directed by Masaki Kobayashi, is an anthology horror movie consisting of four short feature films entirely unrelated. It is an art film that is a pioneer of the Japanese horror genre. The four films tell about Japanese folktales, which revolve around supernatural horror. The first film revolves around the story of a homeless samurai who agrees to get married for money, but this leads to fatal consequences. The second one tells the story of a man who got stranded during a blizzard but much to his surprise, the Snow Maiden comes along to rescue him, but his rescue bears a cost that he could not predict. The third film is about a blind musician who gets compelled to perform for an audience of ghosts. The fourth and final story is about a warrior who sees the face of another man in his reflection. Kwaidan set a benchmark for future horror films and is widely considered one of Japan's most famous horror movies. It has achieved a cult-classic status as it stood the test of time and continues to scare people to this date.
6. Uzumaki (2000)
Uzumaki, directed by Higuchinsky, is a psychological horror film based on a manga of the same name. This movie will urge the viewers to think out of the box as everything is subjective and deals heavily with symbolism. A schoolgirl named Kirie realizes that her best friend's father is not in the right state of mind as he is obsessed with snails and spends an enormous amount of time in the garden with them. He videotapes the movement of the snails, examines the spiral patterns on their shells, and collects items from the garden that resembles the spiral patterns. Gradually, Kirie also starts to see the spiral patterns everywhere she goes, not just in non-living objects but also in people and how they dress themselves up. She decides to get to the bottom of these occurrences.
7. Dark Water (2002)
Dark Water, directed by Hideo Nakata, is a psychological horror that tells the story of a single mother who got divorced recently. Yoshimi Matsubara moves into a new apartment with her child. As the days go by, Yoshimi and her daughter start seeing a little girl's apparitions in their apartment. Other paranormal incidents keep occurring that drive them to the verge of insanity. This film takes the audience to travel through the deepest and darkest fears hidden in the depths of the human mind.
8. A Page Of Madness (1926)
A Page of Madness, directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa, is a psychological drama at its very best. It can easily get categorized as an art film. It is a silent film that deals with mental illness, fantasies, guilt, and rehabilitation. The story is about a man who took the job of a janitor in an asylum to take care of his wife, an inmate in that place. This thought-provoking psychedelic movie is a hidden gem that will always be held in high esteem by film enthusiasts.
9. Onibaba (1964)
Onibaba, directed by Kaneto Shindo, is a horror-drama film that ushered in the era of ground-breaking Japanese horror movies. This film is a masterpiece in direction, acting, and screenwriting. Not a single actor delivers a weak performance in this movie. The director succeeds in maintaining suspense and creating a feeling of imminent danger. The movie deals with several mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, paranoia, and schizophrenia. The film is about an older woman and her daughter-in-law. They murder soldiers who have lost their way and steal their belongings. The older woman's son is also a soldier who is out on the battlefields. When the older woman learns about her son's death, she slowly loses her sanity. She starts wearing a mask of a dead samurai to scare her daughter-in-law into living with her because she is afraid of staying alone in her house.
10. Noroi: The Curse (2004)
Noroi: The Curse, directed by Kôji Shiraishi, is a slow-paced horror film shot in the found footage format. There is beauty in this film's simplicity as it delivers genuinely terrifying scares throughout the movie quite effortlessly. This movie is a genuine product of collaboration, and it shows in the realistic performances from the actors and the visionary film-making of the director. This film is about a reporter who goes missing after investigating a series of paranormal incidents. This film is an anomaly because it does not depend on jump scares to keep the audiences hooked but with its unique storytelling and cinematography.