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Japanese horror

Related: ero-guro-nansensu - horror Japan - Japanese cinema -

Titles: Audition (1999) - Tetsuo (1988)


J-Horror is a term used to refer to Japanese contributions to horror fiction in popular culture. Whereas American modern day horror films tend to rely heavily on special effects and a multitude of sub-genre (i.e. slashers, demons, extraterrestrials, etc.), J-horror tends to focus on the psychological aspects of human fear and tension building (anticipation), particularly involving ghosts and poltergeist. (see psychological horror) --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J-Horror [Oct 2005]

Japanese horror film

Kwaidan (1964), a Japanese film directed by Masaki Kobayashi, made a huge impression at the Cannes film festival, and is a brilliantly pictorial horror compendium, with each separate story taking place in a different season. The colour composition is awe-inspiring and must surely have influenced the Vlad the Impaler section of Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992). Japanese filmmakers seemed to have a penchant for the horror genre, and apart from Kobayashi's work, Western audiences were impressed by Onibaba, a supernatural tale about a woman and her daughter who kill wandering samurai and sell their armour; they kill a soldier wearing a feudal mask, which the mother then wears to frighten her daughter, and finds that she cannot remove it... (Stanley Kubrick must surely have taken notes for his last film.)--Noel O'Shea

The Bedroom (1992) - Hisayasu Sato - Ryu Murakami

Source: http://www.bizarreingredients.co.uk/japan/a/bedroom/bedroom.htm

At a time when Japanese horror is becoming ever more fashionable and mainstream it is always refreshing to dive straight into the darker corners of the realm to reacquaint yourself with the bits that can never follow that same route. Delve into this unnerving, dimly lit area for long enough and one name will pop up again and again - Hisayasu Sato.

In Jack Hunter's brilliant 'Eros in Hell' Sato is quoted as saying that he wants "to make a film that has the influence to drive its audience mad, to make them commit murder." A disturbing statement and made all the more alarming when you consider that this is one Director who really does mean what he says, one glance at Sato’s back catalogue will confirm it.

One of the highly respected 'Pink Shitenno' (along with Zeze Takahisa amongst others) who else other than Sato would have even contemplated the idea of handing a role in one of his films to someone who was a real life cannibal killer? But that is exactly what Sato did in 'The Bedroom', giving the role of Mr Takano to Issei Sagawa. It was Sagawa who, while studying in France in 1981, murdered and then partially ate the object of his affections - a young Dutch student called Renee Hartevelt. Eventually caught by the Police Sagawa was found to be clinically insane and held for a couple of years in a French mental institution before being transferred to an institution in Japan, whereupon he was to stay for another few years. Given this scenario, 'The Bedroom' already possesses a disconcerting edge that sees it pushing even the regularly troublesome boundaries of pink film to a whole new dimension.

Born in 1959, Hisayasu Sato is one of the very few Directors I know of who systematically produces on film the most intensely violent, panic strewn and disease ridden visions around today in world cinema. Together with his close team of regulars such as actress Kiyomi Ito (who plays the central role in ‘The Bedroom’) Sato’s films are consistently disturbing, often bewildering and generally make for unpalatable viewing.

Anyone who has watched any of Sato's work will no doubt be familiar with the Directors style and his trademark themes (although for themes read obsessions). Sato's world is a remarkably cruel and barren one, an efficient pain factory that spits the soul out first then proceeds to obliterate the husk that's left, leaving only a few disembodied fragments where no sense of past, present or future remains. A snapshot of an entirely fucked up world, dyed in bloody violence, sexual hysteria and misogyny. Films like 'The Bedroom' and 'Naked Blood' are as close to cinema psychosis as you would ever seriously want to get.

In 'The Bedroom' Sato uses his obvious budget restrictions to his advantage, creating a dark canvas for the 'sleeping room' splashed with bold reds and yellows. During these fantasy sessions there is an overwhelming sense of space, timelessness and isolation and such elements are consistent throughout the film. Mr Takano is simply an odd abstract image and a disembodied voice until the end and Kyoko’s sessions with her clients are played out in the fuzzy haze of the 'bedrooms' almost two dimensional black space. This abstraction is interesting, pointing to the notion that the drug Halcion might be doing more work on screen than the viewer realises. Even with Kyoko’s life away from the sleeping room, it is difficult to pinpoint where the fantasy ends and the reality begins. In fact, with ‘The Bedroom’ it is a reasonable assumption that everything is simply being shaped by the drug from start to finish. And that the viewer is witnessing events through his or her own CCTV camera, staring into a fuzzy and fleeting violent realm replete with murder and intense sexual fantasy. (The position of the viewer in Sato’s work should not be underestimated as he/she always provides a disturbing parallel for the voyeuristic, drug fuelled madness on screen).

Huge performances are not really required in the surreal world of ‘The Bedroom’ but Sato regular Kiyomi Ito is superb, conveying a sense of despairing exploration, paranoia and innate sadness with uncanny ease. The moments in which her trauma over Maya (actually Kyoko) boils over, intercut with images of pursuit and sexual attack, lie at the very heart of the film.

If you have never acquainted yourself with Hisayasu Sato then this DVD from Screen Edge is a solid starting point. Although some years old now, 'The Bedroom' already shows a disturbing vision in top gear. Not as graphically intense as some of his other offerings, 'The Bedroom' will confuse and appal in equal measure. Further proof, if proof were needed, that Sato's intimate and voyeuristic world is still one of the most unrelenting, darkly-lit visions in Asian cult cinema today.



  1. Audition/Odishon (1999) - Takashi Miike [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Much of the controversy surrounding Takashi Miike's Audition centres on the disturbing nature of the later part of the film--understandable when you consider the imprint these admittedly horrific images leave on the viewer--but fails to note the intricate social satire of the rest. This is a film that offers insight into the changing culture of Japan and the generation gap between young and old. Shigeharu Aoyama is looking for an obedient and virtuous woman to love and asks, "Where are all the good girls?"--a comment that seals his fate. A fake audition is organised to find Aoyama a wife. Asami Yamazaki is introduced as the virtuous woman he is looking for, dressing for the majority of the film in white and behaving with the courtesy of an angel, especially when juxtaposed against the brash stupidity of the other girls at the audition. Although his friend takes an immediate "chemical" dislike to her, Aoyama begins a love affair to end all love affairs. But as Asami's history unfolds we see her pain and torture and slowly understand that the tortured in this instance holds the power to become the torturer. Aoyama is slowly drawn away from his white, metallic and homely environment into the vivid- red and dirty-dark environment of Asami's sadistic world.

    Audition can be viewed on a number of levels, with important feminist, social and human rights issues to be drawn from the story. However, the real power of this film is its descent into the subconscious, to a point where reality is blurred and the audience is unable to decide whether the disturbing images on screen are real or surreal. This refined, hard-hitting and essentially Japanese style of horror is ultimately much more powerful than anything offered by Hollywood. This is a film that will get under your skin and infect your consciousness with a blend of fearless gore and unimaginable torture. It is not for the faint-hearted. --Nikki Disney for amazon.co.uk

  2. The Bedroom (1992) - Hisayasu Sato - Ryu Murakami [Amazon US]
    Director Hisayasu Sato's eclectic study of subcultures: fetishism, drug use, prostitution and pornography. Both sensual and unsettling, "The Bedroom" paints a nightmare landscape that is strangely attractive. Kyoko is a member of a club called The Bedroom where all the girls use Hallusion, a highly hallucinatory drug, and then let men do whatever they want to them. One by one, the women in the club are being killed and mutilated. Soon, Kyoko begins to suspect her lover, Kei, of being the murderer. But the truth proves to be far more disturbing. This stylish example of Japanese "Pink Cinema" co-stars cannibal murderer Issei Sagawa, who shot and partially ate his Dutch girlfriend in Paris in 1981. Issei Sagawa, Kiyomi Ito, Kyoko Nakamura, Momori Asano, Takeshi Ito; Dir: Hisayasu Sato. Includes production stills and background information on the Pink Cinema movement and director Hisayasu. --amazon.com

Eros in Hell: Sex, Blood & Madness in Japanese Cinema - Jack Hunter

Eros in Hell: Sex, Blood & Madness in Japanese Cinema - Jack Hunter [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

An illustrated guide to Japanese exploitation cinema. Profusely illustrated with over 200 explicit and rare photographs, Eros in Hell comprises a unique guide to the most prolific, fascinating and controversial underground/ alternative cinema in the world. --Book Description

This is a highly distressing book. For as much information as the reader discovers, the sense of lacking mounts, creating more questions than this book has means, or intent, to answer. It is best to think of Eros in Hell as a primer for the reader interested in getting a taste of extremism in Japanese cinema. The high points of the book include the chapter on Koji Wakamatsu and the "underground" films of Shinya Tsukamoto, Shojin Fukui, et. al. Meanwhile, the rest of the book founders under the weight of excessive footnotes¹, goofy interviews of Japanese filmmakers by Parisian photographer Romain Slocombe² and a pedantic chapter covering the minutia of Nagisa Oshima's AI NO CORRIDA (IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES).
For readers with more than a passing interest in the Japanese New Wave Cinema, I recommend picking up David Desser's Eros plus Massacre (named after Yoshishige Yoshida's film). Hampered by its aggressively wide scope and passive acceptance of misogyny, Eros in Hell does a terrific job of stressing the need for a comprehensive look at the radical reaches of Japanese Cinema. (ISBN: 1871592933)
¹ All of the footnotes in Eros in Hell would work much better if integrated into the text.
² Slocombe is best known for his photographs of Asian girls in bandages and, apparently, he feels a need to bring up his fetish with everyone to whom he speaks. -- impossiblefunky for amazon.com

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