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 : 

Happy Death Day 2U: Movie Review

Happy Death Day 2U  is the sequel of 2017 thriller movie of the same name. After the events of the first film, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) finds herself once again, re-entering the time loop. But things have changed.  She is stuck in a new in a new parallel universe.  Carter, Ryan and his group of friends are involved this time. There’s a new killer in the loose. Now, Tree must find a new way to get out of the loop and catch the killer.happy-death-day-2u-release-date.jpg

When I heard there was going to be a sequel for this movie,  I was a little lost. The first one was entertaining enough even if I had small problems with it. But I knew exactly that they were going to play with the same  Groundhog Day formula. Never the less, I was also quite curious how they were gonna pull the sequel off.

This sequel gives us the explanation as to how she’s in the loop the first place. Mixing element of SyFy into the story. On this movie, they really double up the comedy and left the slasher genre as a subplot. Giving us rather dark humor montages and clips.  In which I think it was a smart move because it went with the theme of the story. When it came to the horror aspect of it; it gives us the old formula of creepy hallways and the killer creeping in with jump scares. Leaving me asking myself: “Remember when this was a horror movie?”.

2507_T1_00059ARV2.0.jpgJessica Rothe performance keeps the movie interesting. She’s funny when she needs to but can also give us emotional scenes.  The last act gave us serious undertones with just a small touch of comedy. But, they were some serious cringey moment such as awkward kissing in slow motion. Obviously keeping in mind that this is no longer a horror/slasher but a comedy.

Happy Death Day 2U is one of those cases that the sequel is better than the first one.  The first one for me kinda fell off because it didn’t know how to distinguish itself. This time they doubled the comedy and it became an enjoyable experience for me. If you wanna have a laugh or have a good time watching a movie with your friends; I recommend Happy Death Day 2U. 

I give this movie 3/5 baby masks.

 

TRIGGER WARNING and small spoiler  : 

Y’all the movie has a suicide montage with Hard Times by Paramore in the background… I’m speechless…

Happy Death Day 2U trailer: 

 

 

Summer of 84 (Movie Review)

Summer of 84 is a 2018 Horror / Thriller directed by François Simard, Anouk, and Yoann-Karl Whissell. The story takes place on summer of 84 in Cape May, Oregon. There have been many reports of boys gone missing and they suspect that the Cape may Slayer has to do with it. Fifteen-year-old Davey Armstrong is a conspiracist that begins to question that his police officer neighbor might be the serial killer. Now Davey and his 3 friends are in a manhunt; trying to find clues whenever or not the neighbor is the Cape may Slayer.

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Watching this movie was impossible to not compare it with Stranger Things. It has that full nostalgia packaged to it. Referencing a lot of 80’s pop culture and memorabilia; which is what made the movie a little fun. In another aspect, it sure did had a great score to compliment the 80’s vibes to it. When the film had the suspenseful scenes there were some sounds that were imitating John carpenter’s Halloween theme; giving a little homage to old horror films.

When it came down to the storyline, it’s something we have already seen on tv shows or on movies. Just a couple of kids playing detective. But, what’s intriguing is the process of them investigating. Writing down his every move; from what hour he eats to when does he go outside to jog. Sometimes in the film, there were some scenes that were out of place or just didn’t belonged there. They were trying to push a little romance with the girl next door. But it just didn’t work out for me. You could literally take that plot out of the film and it doesn’t ruin the narrative of the story. The movie at some point it came out has a slow-burner. I was about to give up on the film until it hit the mark of the last 30 minutes of the movie. Giving us the old horror and thriller that we wanted with a good twist in the end.

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Summer of 84 fulfills to be an entertaining story. Giving us a full punch of  80’s nostalgia with a side of suspense. it’s a throwback to the vibe of old horror film that fans would certainly be intrigued by it. Oh ! and always remember, “Even Serial Killers live next door to somebody”. 

I give this movie 3/5 Bloody milk cartons.

Trailer for Summer of 84 :

 

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}

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 . }

 

 

The Haunting of Hill House: Series Review (non-spoiler)

When it comes to haunted Houses it’s an overused theme in the horror genre but “The Haunting of Hill House” takes this concept and transforms it into something new and innovating. Directed by Mike Flanagan (the same director that did Gerald’s Game) takes the chilling 1959 gothic horror novel by Shirley Jackson and reinvents it; taking the story and turning it into a 10 episode series.

The story focuses on the Crain Family: Hugh and Olivia and their five children: Steve, Shirley, Theodora, Luke, and Nelly. Is the summer of 1992, the Crain family temporarily moves in the old mansion called Hill House to renovate it and sell it. Throughout their stay, strange and paranormal events happen to them; forcing them to move out. Now as adults, the group of siblings are being haunted by their past.

Writing a nonlinear narrative can be a tricky thing but this series mastered the use of that technique. The way the shows progress is by telling the story in different time periods. It may seem confusing at first but the beauty of it is how everything connects at the right time. Each character has an episode, taking the right amount of time in character development; perfectly connecting them into the story.

The cinematography on this series is one of the most perfectly crafted ones I’ve seen in a long while. Episode six is the prime example of perfect camera movement; consisting of an 18-minute long-shot in one take. The continuous shot helped progresses the narration in a very creative way.

In horror movies or series you mostly get the typical eerie sounds and expected jump scares but this series helps break the mold of that equation. Yes, sometimes it does require a little of it but it doesn’t overuse it; knowing how to use it one the right moment. The series also uses creepy imagery that some of the viewers might find unsettling to see. One of the key parts of making the series scary is the use of scenery; having dark colors to create uneasiness or even when it’s in a normal scenario you could see something disturbing in the background.

The Haunting of Hill House,” tells the story of the Crain family. On how this family is affected by grief and loss. Its a journey of dealing with unresolved trauma with a touch of supernatural elements. Surely fans of the horror genre will have a thrilling moment watching this series.

I give this series 5/5 screaming meemies.

TRIGGER WARNING

 

This series contains elements of Suicide and drug abuse.

Trailer for the series “The Haunting of Hill House” :

The Making of Episode six:

{ picture by Netflix  }

{ first video by Netflix  }

{ Second video by Netflix }