Wednesday, October 28, 2009

J-Horror

The Ring (2002) and The Grudge (2004) are products of the (short-lived) Japanese horror craze that was begun by Ringu (1998) brought to the states and remade. (Since American audiences can’t read and no one likes dubbing.) The neat thing about these movies is that they avoided the Hollywood cliché of horror tied to language and breasts. Instead they went for scares, and a scared unlike anything Hollywood had brought us for years. Instead of slashers and jumps, they brought back something that was lost with the old Horror movies and Gothic stories—other worldliness. Particularly the Japanese folk monster: the Yurei. The Yurei are ghosts brought into existence by powerful emotion. They usually exist to right some wrong in the world. Horror should be the sort of thing that makes you think. Instead in Hollywood it has tended toward the instinctive approach. Don’t think. Just go along for the ride.

Still, these movies are scary. Very scary. They always precede the shocking stuff by an obvious prolonged build up that nearly forces you to close your eyes. Turns out, imaginations are far better than anything a movie can come up with. Hitchcock understood this. Keep the really bad stuff off screen and it will be worse. J-horror tends to do this as well. It doesn’t linger over the disturbing stuff. It just gives you a glimpse.

What stays with the viewer after these films (besides the general lingering uneasiness and jumpiness; they are scary!) is the idea of consequences. The things people do have an effect on the world, often negative and often against complete strangers—innocent of the actions that are harming them. Why do bad things happen to good people? The truth is even the best of people do bad things, and some of the worst things are caused (intentionally or not) by flawed people.

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