Wednesday, February 20, 2008


J-horror is a term used to refer to the genre of imported Japanese horror films. J-horror tends to focus on psychological horror and tension. Many films contain themes of folk religion such as possession, exorcism, precognition, and particularly ghosts. The origin of J-horror can be traced back to the ghost story classics of the Edo and Meiji period. Elements of these popular folk tales have been worked into many of the stories of these modern films, especially in the nature of the Japanese ghost.

The success of the 1998 film the ring brought the image of the Japanese ghost spirit or Yurei to Western Popular culture for the first time although it has exsisted in Japan for centuries. Yurei are Japanese ghosts who have been bound to the physical world through strong emotions. They are generally female, although male yūrei do exist. They wear white clothing, which is the color of funeral garb in Japan. They have long, often unkempt black hair, which comes from Kabuki theater where each character has a particular type of wig that identifies them to the audience.

In the past ten years there has been a trend to localize some of the more popular Japanese horror movies, but rather than simply adding subtitles or dubbing the movies, American producers have entirely remade these movies with American actors and actresses. Ringu was one of the first to be remade in America as the Ring and later the Ring 2. Ju-On was remade as the Grude, Kairo as Pulse, and most recently to be released this year is Chakushin Ari as One Missed Call. Korea has also made a name for itself in its own genre K-horror, particularly with the release of The Host, which gained critical acclaim at the Cannes film festival.

It is important to ask what affect these horror film imports has had on the American perception of Asian countries such as Japan and Korea. The graphic violence and horrific images could lead people to stereotype Asians to have twisted psyches or supernatural tendencies. Either way, this trend is most likely a fad, as the genre has already started to get stale, with similar plots and storylines. A few films will remain as cult classics, but we will see how long these films are successful at the box office.

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