The 13th Floor

The Bizarre and Frightening Films of Junji Ito

The 2000s J-Horror period of American cinema, while often disregarded, is still one of importance to the genre. In the 2000s, several Japanese horror properties were successfully adapted and remade for American audiences, such as THE RING, THE GRUDGE, and PULSE, among others. Looking back, I’m still rather surprised that the works of dental technician turned manga artist Junji Ito were not remade as well. Ito’s style, while dealing mainly with supernatural evils, centers itself above mere ghosts and ghouls. Existential and cosmic abominations plague his characters making reality and the very laws of nature unheard of. It’s no wonder he’s cited Lovecraft as a major influence on his writing. Here are some of the movies adapted from his various comics that horror fan definitely need to check out.

The TOMIE Franchise

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This long running series of films was adapted from one of Ito’s earliest works. TOMIE is based around the concept of a girl who invokes incredible lust in men, intense hatred in women, and is virtually immortal. Plus she has body horror abilities of regeneration and assimilation. She is able to regenerate lost limbs and even multiply herself from different chunks of flesh and organs. Tomie, herself, is a siren or succubus-like being who, through her abilities to bring out emotion in others, can cause insanity. Or because she also provoked hatred, others are often driven to kill her, kill each other, or kill themselves. The different films vary in quality and are non-serialized. All stories revolve around a Tomie or even multiple Tomies causing chaos in new towns, bringing death and lust in their beautiful wakes. There have been eight films and a short-lived anthology TV show.

 

UZUMAKI

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Perhaps Junji Ito’s most infamous work, the two-part manga UZUMAKI, meaning “spiral”, received its own bizarre live action adaptation in 2000. The plot revolves around a small town called Kurouzu that comes under siege… from spirals. Literally, spiral shapes are the evil force forcing everyone to become obsessed with spirals or twist their own bodies into spirals, often as suicide. But as silly the idea may sound, it becomes truly terrifying when it’s considered how there are spirals everywhere. Snail shells. Whirlpools. Gun barrels. Human organs. Young high school student Kirie can only watch in horror as her town descends into spiral-induced madness and mutation. Highlights include people devolving into snails, virulent spiraling hair, and even a character committing spiral-related suicide in a washing machine so his body can match the sinister shape.

 

KAKASHI

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One of the more grounded films to come from a Junji Ito book, KAKASHI is in many ways a more traditional J-Horror story. It revolves around a young woman named Kaoru Yoshikawa whom, after the disappearance of her brother, tries to follow a trail of clues to his last known location. Finding a strange letter addressed to him filled with straw ultimately leads her to a small rural village on the eve of Kakashi Matsuri, The Scarecrow Festival. Scarecrows are burned in an attempt to ward off evil sprits from entering our world. As Kaoru investigates further, she is plagued by nightmares and the seemingly endless supply of scarecrows that are planted through the town all look strangely familiar…

 

GYO

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This is only work of Junji Ito to receive an anime adaptation. GYO follows a bizarre phenomenon of walking fish invading the mainland of Japan. Various species ranging from minnows to sharks now swarm the land via strange, mechanical walkers. With them follows a disturbing stench of death. The anime adaptation takes some liberties with the source material, adding some additional characters and shifting the focus from the original male protagonist to his girlfriend.

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