J-Horror for a January Day: Faves List

AloneJu-On Art

I’ve long been a fan of Asian horror films—not only the originals, but in certain cases, the American remakes too, if they do well with adapting for our culture yet preserve the story without going all too-much-cheesy-gore-and-CGI (part of what makes the Asian variety so scary is that you see very little, and what you do see is sparingly rendered and/or subtle).

Still, one of the best wins in a film is usually the atmosphere—it’s cold, stark, and unforgiving, and for some reason, lights are always flickering. I always used to think it was an affected set piece—come on, lights don’t really do that unless there are ghosts around, right?—until I went into a bathroom at a local office building.

Was it creepy? Actually, it was. It was a lesson in just how effective such small special effect measures can be. Although when you’re not a pro it’s hard to capture the essence of the atmosphere and what it really felt like, I filmed it. You know, just in case it does mean the ghost of a dark-haired woman or girl is about to show up…

If that whetted your appetite for a little bit of a spook-fest, here are some of my faves for a dark January day (I’ve also listed their western counterparts in case you’d rather go that route, though the originals really are the win). This list is small and barely scratches the surface, but it’s a good place to start.

 Ringu (Japan, 1998)

Counterpart: Ring (2002) 


Dark Water (Japan, 2002)

Counterpart: Dark Water (2005) 


Ju-On: The Grudge (Japan, 2002) 

Counterpart: The Grudge (2004) 


Pulse (Japan, 2001) 

Counterpart: Pulse (2006) 


Dead Waves (Japan, 2005)


Infection (Japan, 2004) 


One Missed Call (Japan, 2003) 

Counterpart: One Missed Call (2008)

Other Asian Horror

 Shutter (Thailand, 2004) 

Counterpart: Shutter (2008) 


Inner Senses (Hong Kong, 2002)


Alone (Thailand, 2007): This isn’t available yet that I can find, but I did see it and it was awesome. Keep your eyes peeled. When it shows up, see it!


Phone (Korea, 2002) 


The Eye (Thailand, 2002)

Counterpart: The Eye (2008)

About kristipetersenschoonover

A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies; her traditionally published books include a short story collection, THE SHADOWS BEHIND. She was the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She serves as co-host of the DARK DISCUSSIONS podcast, as founding editor of the dark literary journal 34 ORCHARD, and is a member of both the New England Horror Writers and the Horror Writers Association. Follow her adventures at kristipetersenschoonover.com.

Posted on January 2, 2014, in Deep Thoughts & Fun Stuff, GhoStory Guru and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Oh, I love Asian horror films! Scary, horrifying stuff! American cinema seems to go for the gore where as Asian films tend to go for the actual psychological horror. My favs:

    A Tale of Two Sisters
    The Raft (not exactly a horror story, more psychological suspense but the scene where he eats the fish hooks – holy crap!)
    Old Boy

    The American version of The Ring scared me so much I haven’t been able to watch the Japanese version, which I know will scare me even worse! 🙂

  2. I love Asian horror films – they are so much scarier than American horror films, which just seem to go for gore and cheap thrills while the Asian ones (especially South Korean) are truly psychologically terrifying. My favs are Re-Cycle, Old Boy, The Raft (not horror, per se, but the scene where he swallows the fishhooks?! Ei-yi-yi!), and A Tale of Two Sisters. The American version of The Ring was so scary that I can’t watch the Japanese version which I’m sure is even more terrifying 🙂

    • Oh, man! I have not heard of THE RAFT, but that sounds like a winner. I’m just starting to explore new turf now. I’m desperate to get a copy of that movie ALONE that I mentioned. I wanted to put A TALE OF TWO SISTERS on my list — I’ve heard it’s awesome — but I haven’t seen it yet. Another one that sounds really good is BLACK HOUSE, but I haven’t seen that either yet. It’s my understanding, also, that BLACK HOUSE isn’t really a ghost movie — it’s more horror. Hey, if you want to read an AWESOME scary collection of short ghost stories, pick up DARK WATER by Koji Suzuki. If you think these movies are scary, wait until you read some of this stuff. Holy shit, that is all.

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