Whenever I find myself wanting an experience beyond the standard horror themes that we see stateside, I love turning to overseas genre flicks to reinvigorate my passion and show me something wild I’ve never seen in horror before. Often I find some of my fave unusual and groundbreaking horror highlights hailing from Japan. Yes, of course Japan is well known for the “J horror” trend of creepy longhaired ghost girls and also extreme genre pics like AUDITION or ICHI THE KILLER. But just go a bit below the surface, and horror fans will find a surplus of eccentric and fascinating horror fare unlike anything else you’ve seen.
Below are five choice Japanese horror selections that are not only weird, they are guaranteed to warp your mortal mind.
TETSUO, THE IRON MAN (1989)
A man is driven mad by maggots that are living inside a wound he has made to stick metal in (one hell of a plot opening!). He is hit by the car of a Japanese businessman who somehow acquires his metal/body disease. The businessman’s body begins turning into scrap metal in an insanely disturbing manner.
STRANGE CIRCUS (2005)
This twisted tale bounces between several story lines including one about a girl tormented by her father, one about a wheelchair bound novelist, and one about a peculiar, vibrant circus. Slowly, all the stories begin to interconnect and become more explicit and disconcerting. For more on this one, read here.
A PAGE OF MADNESS (1926)
Japan has a great history of demented cinema going all the way back to its origins. A man works as a janitor at an insane asylum where his wife is a patient. Determined she is sane, he attempts to break her out repeatedly. Also, the couple’s daughter shows up, and there are a bunch of masks and disjointed, trippy camera work. This is a wild ride and a beautiful piece of cinematic history!
TOKYO GORE POLICE (2008)
In a futuristic world, a virus makes it possible for people to regenerate mutant body parts simply by cutting or injuring themselves, sprouting wacky weaponry from the open wounds. A privatized female police officer (played by Eihi Shiina from AUDITION) is tasked with battling the mutants (called Engineers) and trying to stop the spread of the virus. This one is hyper gory with absolutely gorgeous cinematography!
In this twisted and fascinating flick from the director of THE GRUDGE, a cameraman, seeking to feel the ultimate sensation of fear, travels to an underground labyrinth beneath the city. He encounters mutated homeless people and ghosts, but eventually comes upon a naked female who he decides to bring back to his apartment above ground. She does not speak, eat or drink, but as he documents her strange state, bizarre characters appear in his life and his mind quickly unravels.