Japanese horror films

What is horror? Its a genre of fiction that aims to scare, induce feelings of horror and terror to the audience. It gives us a sense of repulsion or disgust by creating a strange and terrifying atmosphere. But, this genre can be considered a broad term. This so happens because fear is subjective.  Maybe a “slasher” movie doesn’t scare you but you tremble when you’re watching ghost movies. The horror genre is always developing and this is due to the constant changes in the culture. Therefore, western horror will not be the same as in Japanese horror films. 

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The Tales of Ugetsu (1953)

In order to understand the Japanese horror a bit, we must mention the two major influences: Kaidan and Japanese theater. Kaidan is a literary genre that focuses on Japanese folklore. Telling ghosts or Yōkai (creatures half human and animal) stories. However,  Japanese theater is divided into two subgenres: Kabuki and Noh. But regardless, both focus on samurai, ghosts (Yūrei), demons (Akuma) and monsters stories. In 1953  they released what was considered the first Japanese horror movie; The Tales of Ugetsu. Based on two Kaidan stories and explores themes of gothic cinema; mixing Japanese culture with supernatural elements.

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Matango is a film about is about a group of castaways on an island who are unwittingly altered by a local species of mutagenic mushrooms.

Throughout the years, Japanese horror cinema developed subgenres from the same category.   The Edo Gothic was a subgenre that lasted a decade. (1950 – 60). Touching themes of how humans interact with the spiritual world. At the same time, another subgenre was born and that was based on the fear of people; focusing on the nuclear bomb. Creating monster movies such as 1954 Godzilla or films about the effects of nuclear poisoning (Matango 1963). In the same year, the subgenre called “Pink films” was born and this happens because of the censorship laws of Japan.

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Daydreams tell a story of a student that has sexual fantasies about vampires while she’s sedated in the dentist office.

Mixing sexuality with violence and horror (Daydreams 1964). Many of these women were victimized and the plot was mostly developed in schools and prisons. This subgenre kept growing until the year 80; where it became more popular by mixing the genre “slasher” and thus creating a new subgenre called “splatter eros”. 

Over the years the horror genre underwent unforgettable changes. However, in 1998 the movie Ringu was released, returning to the roots of Japanese horror cinema and defining the concept of J-horror (Japanese horror). Directed by Hideo Tanaka, this film tells the story about a family that was cursed by a videotape and how they are being followed by a vengeful ghost called Sadako. This film sparked an interested in  Japanese cinema abroad, especially to the western audiences. Resulting in a big market of American movie adaptations or Japanese films. Bringing popular movies to America like such as One Missed Call and Ju-On.

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Ringu (1998)

Films like Ringu is a good example of the difference between Japanese horror cinema and western horror. Unlike western horror, J- horror tends to focus more on developing a complete story that causes terror to the audience. They don’t use the old  “jumpscare”  formula or loud sounds to cause fear rather, they use eerie environments and minimal sound to frighten the audience. For this reason, movies such as Ringu have fascinated and contributed to the horror genre. Giving us a story that will make you tremble and not be able to sleep at night.

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Us: movie review

After Jordan Peele’s success with 2017 thriller Get out and winning best screenplay for this such movie; he’s back at it again with another film. This time, as he intentionally said, a horror film. US  focuses on the Wilson family. A year later after the death of Adelaide’s mom, they come back to her childhood home in California to take some time off. One day,  they decide to go to the beach, the youngest son Jason had a strange encounter. That same night, four mysterious people break into Adelaide’s home just to out they that all of them look alike.

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One of the many things that stand out in this movie are the performances. All of them were great. Winston Duke character gave us the perfect balance of comedy and horror. Not forced but natural reactions in a comedic way. The performance that we have to give the ultimate credit is Lupita Nyong’o with her mesmerizing acting.  Giving that the movie they had to play your “evil doppelgänger” you had to see multiple performances from the actors.  Both of her characters were amazing. Leaving you gripping from your seats.

us-movie-3-1546275853Jordan Peele was serious when he said his movie was horror. Giving us gory scenes but yet not scary. The story and the character are what makes this film unsettling. The movie is accompanied by a chilling score and amazing cinematography. Who wouldn’t appreciate those astonishing extreme closeup shots? One of the things that I would have liked the movie to leave out are the explanations as to why this event is happening. Why so? well, because I believe ambiguity can be scary. Nevertheless, it’s a solid story.

US is a film that after you see it for the first time it leaves you thinking and with a second viewing, it could change your whole perspective of the film. The director Jordan Peele has been creating these whole new worlds and contributing to the horror industry . Breaking the mold of traditional storytelling and giving us something new and innovative. US is a film that has amazing performances and the perfect balance of horror and comedy. It’s a movie that cinephiles and horror fans would certainly appreciate and enjoy.

I give this movie 4 / 5 bloody scissors.

Us movie trailer : 

Cam: A take on modern horror (Movie Review)

 

Throughout the years, technology has always been in a state of constant evolution. We have been exposed to this nonstop and has gotten into a point that we no longer live without technology. Always having our phones in our pocket or taking our laptops everywhere we go. The film industry has taken this concept and made it of its own. Mostly mixing technology and horror to bring us a new take in this genre. From movies such as Unfriended, Searching or the hit series Black Mirror; it shows us the downside of the internet in a shocking way with just a touch of horror. This year, Netflix launched a new film called Cam, where they dug into this concept in a new and innovative way.

Cam is a modern horror film directed by Daniel Goldhaber and written by Isa Mazzei. The story is about young cam girl Alice ( Madeline Brewer ) who goes by her online name Lola. Her only goal is to be on the top 50 cam girls on the website where she streams. Obeying peoples desires and pushing the boundaries in her performances. After one of her performances, Alice wakes up to find that a look-alike is streaming on her page. Having her identity stolen.

When it comes to the portrayal of sex workers in the film industry, they have always been the victims of violence and abuse, begging for their lives or overly objectified. Former cam girl and screenwriter, Izza Mazzei, took the task of giving us a new perspective.  Showing Alice’s personal struggles with her family accepting her line of work and uncomfortable enviorment with men. Humanizing the character by putting her in situations that are out of her control and trying to win her identity back.

The film shows the dark side of the internet in a new and original way. Covering topics that aren’t discussed and dives into an industry that has been frown upon. We see the character Alice basing her worth in views and popularity. Genuinely being happy when she gets into the top until she was thrown down by another girl. It Shows how people these days become obsessed with the number, statistics and how they tend to worry a lot in presenting their image online.

Explicit content is one of the core basis of this film. A cam girl being the premise of the story it, it doesn’t shy away in nudity. Because it portrays very realistically the lives of these people in such industry with a twist.

Cam is not your typical horror film. It doesn’t need jumpscares or eerie music to make it scary. What it does is the concept of having your identity stolen and how uncontrollable the situation can be. It shows what the character goes through in taking her life back from someone behind the screen.

 

I give this movie 4/5 smashing heads on a table.

WARNING :

 

This film shows explicit content and suicide. Viewer discretion is advised.

PS:  If you wanna know more about the screenwriter Izza Mezzei, here is an interesting interview Refinery29 did!

Cam Trailer : 

 

{ Video by Netflix }

Pictures by Netflix}

Overlord: Movie Review

Overlord is a 2018 war action horror film directed by Julius Avery and produced by J.J. Abrams. The plot follows Private Boyce and his comrades on the Eve of D-day( Invasion of Normandy); when they are on a mission to destroy a transmitter located in a radio tower atop a fortified church.  This needs to be done in honor for the Allied forces to have air support once they storm the beaches. When they land on the ground, they stumble upon a woman scavenging for food and money to support her family. She leads the soldiers towards a small French village where the transmitter is, but underneath the church, strange experiments have been happening.

Just to get it out of the way, this film doesn’t have anything to do with the Cloverfield franchise. J.J. Abrams produces an action-packed horror film that takes place during WWII. Did I mention that it has zombies too? This movie starts out with a great action-packed opening sequence, showing the paratroopers getting ready to jump out of the plane to land on the ground. But, focusing on the team slowly losing their patience, bouncing knees and being a nervous wreck it proceeds to give great shots since the beginning of the movie.

Overlord is a good blend of action and horror; something we don’t see a lot in films. The movie feels like a B-movie but doesn’t fall into it. Giving us good actions sequences and goriness with a touch of zombies; Nazi zombies to be exact. Providing us scary moments and unnerving imagery.

What the movie ceases to have is a defining purpose of the plot.  The movie starts by being a war film, to a rescue mission and ends in a zombie movie. It didn’t know how to define itself, but the action / gory scenes and the storytelling helped the film not fall short.

Like video games? Overlord is if  COD zombies and Wolfenstein were smashed together into a full-length film.  If you’re a gamer or a horror movie enthusiast, Overlord is a movie just for you.

I give this movie 3 / 5 zombie heads.

Trailer for Overlord :

{ Picture by @OverlordMovie }

Video by Paramount Pictures }

Women in Horror Films: Commentary

When it comes to horror; many women have taken iconic roles within the movies. This can be seen in movies such as: “Carrie” where the title character takes her revenge, Ripley fighting “Aliens“, and Laurie being brave enough to fight Michael Myers on “Halloween“. In a gruesome genre such as Horror, people tend to forget those iconic characters and remember the victims, the screamers, the beggars for their life. Now just like women within the film, the industry also tends to forget the women that make them.

On the latest interview with Polygon, Jason Blum, an American director and CEO of Blumhouse production was caught off guard when they asked him about the lack of female directors in his production house he said, and I quote, “There are not a lot of female directors period and even less who are inclined to do horror”. Trying to save what he just said, he tried to justify it with how he wanted to work with female director Jennifer Kent (The Babadook) but she turned him down. Making things worse; he proceeded to ask his assistant names of directors which just caused to make a mockery out of himself. This comment coming from a well-known person in the horror industry came out as a shocker. Even after he posted an apology in his official Twitter, it sparked a conversation within the community.

Being a female in an industry full of raging men is a tough thing to live by. The thing is that Hollywood portrays that there are not enough women interested in the industry, but they’re wrong. It’s the lack of opportunities that they can give to them that makes it hard. If you’re sitting down in a room full of people, ready to present your idea and it could be a great one, but they will give a go to the guy next to you because you never had the chance to make a project in the first place.  It’s the job of production houses, such as Blumhouse, to scout and give the opportunity of making a film to anyone, regardless of gender. There’s plenty of female directors but they haven’t been given the platform to do it. There are talented women all around, you just have to give them a chance.

One of the biggest bias that horror movies have is that women can’t enjoy or create horror. It is a genre that has a mindset of only being full of men. On this day and age, it’s time to break that mold, but the fact remains that if this is how he thinks; this could be the same mindset of many people within the industry. Statements, just like the one Blum said, represent the lack of knowledge and the open mindset that some people in Hollywood have. Comments like this overshadow many creative women that have done horror films throughout the years, and even recently there’s been a big wave of women making great films from this kind of genre.

Rather than shutting them down let’s embrace and support our fellow female horror filmmakers and give them the opportunity to create and feed us fear that we sometimes crave when we are watching a horror film. Let them not be the victims that we see within the movie, but the iconic heroes of it.

Here’s a link to a list of female horror directors: enjoy!

 

{ picture by Brian de Palma . }

 

 

Halloween (2018): Movie Review

“Halloween” (2018), named by the original 1978 itself takes places 40 years later after the first movie. Laurie Strode ( Jamie Lee Curtis ) has prepared her whole life for the last confrontation with Michael Myers, a murderer who went on a killing spree four decades ago. After Michael escapes, he takes the task of finding her and finished what he started. Laurie is set up in protecting her family and finishing him off.

The movie is a nostalgia rollercoaster for all the lovers of this franchise. It takes you back where it all began and the director David Gordon Green doesn’t miss a chance in homaging John Carpenter from start to finish.However, you need a balance between nostalgia and bringing new elements to it and that’s where the film crumbles a little bit. Missing out the chance of creating something new by bringing the old for the sake of being relatable to the first film.

Jamie Lee Curtis comes back to the role that launched her film career. Her character in this movie portrayed the aftermath of the massacre and how much it affected her life. She became a strong and fearless woman but it also left her with unresolved trauma. Leading her with broken marriages and a bad relationship with her daughter.  Jamie Lee Curtis gives us a solid performance from her part and the one that stands out the most; wishing she could have more screen time in the film.

In the movie, there were some scenes that were off. Resulting in awkward scenarios that didn’t do anything in moving the plot of the story. Sometimes they sneaked comedy in the wrong moments; making the jokes flat. The film had good action sequences, especially the third act but it led to an anticlimactic ending with a small after scene that changed the story progression.

Halloween “(2018)  brings you the classic tropes of horror. This film didn’t lose the essence of what made Michael Myers scary and it’s the ambiguity of this character. How you never see his face or the way he commits the murders; making the audience imagine how it would have happened. Sometimes that small subtleness of doubtfulness and uncertainty is what strikes fear to us the viewers. If you loved the first installment of the movie you’ll definitely love this one.

I give this movie 3 / 5 Jack-o’-lanterns.

Movie Trailer for Halloween (2018) :

{ Picture by Halloweenmovie }

{ Video by Universal Pictures }

The Witch : Movie Review

The film  The Witch directed and written by Robert Eggers follows the story of a Puritan family in the 1630s New England. Different believes and interpretations from the New Testament leaves William, a devout Yorkshireman being banished from the puritan plantation. Now he, his wife Katherine, their daughter Thomasin, son Caleb, and fraternal twins, Mercy and Jonas; take their leave and build their own little farm in a secluded wood. One day their daughter Thomasin is in charge of babysitting their new baby brother, Samuel and suddenly he disappears. This leads to the downfall of the family.

The director took everything that is folktales, fairy tales, and witchcraft; threw it all together and wrote the story of this movie. It’s a period piece film that wasn’t afraid to touch the subject of religion. We have to applaud the actors for really pushing themselves into the fullest to deliver the lines in full blown old English; something that’s really hard to convey.

The ambiance of the movie went perfectly with the film. The location of the movie , which was in the woods , helped an create uneasiness feel to it . To accompany the mood of the film was eerie sounds to make the scenes unsettling; having a very haunting score. The color palettes of the film went really well , creating a very depressing mood. The only negative thing about this film is that the first act is a total slow burner but at the same time you slowly immerse yourself within the story.

Now, don’t let the trailer of the film fool you because this is not your everyday horror movie. If you’re looking for a good scare, this movie is not for you. There’s no jump scares at all; they only use creepy sounds and imagery that some people will find unsettling. The main focus of the movie is the story itself. How this traditional family breakdown from the loss of the child and starts to blame one another. How they rely on faith but it’s not enough to bring everything back to normal.

Not everything in horror has to be gore and monsters. Sometimes subtleness can be terrifying and that’s what this film is.

I give this film 3 / 5 goats heads.

Trailer for the movie The Witch : 

 

{video by https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQXmlf3Sefg }

{ picture by https://giphy.com/thewitchmovie/ }