Picture this: a ghost, silently creeping towards you, eyes filled with vengeance. She’s been waiting in this house for decades in order to enact her revenge. Who wronged her? You don’t know, but you’re filled with an overwhelming sense of dread. She disappears. You don’t know when she will appear next.
This is how Japanese horror films are done. Slow and methodical, they build the viewer’s uneasiness over time.
This type of horror is distinct from the horror that is common in American movies. The cultures of the United States and Japan create differences in the way that filmmakers portray fear, according to the director of The Grudge, Takashi Shimizu.
“American audiences tend to prefer ‘surprising’ fear that makes them jump out of their seats… On the other hand, Japanese audiences prefer the ‘scary’ type of fear that affects them indirectly and psychologically,” says Shimizu.
So what makes Japanese movies so “scary”?
Many Japanese films are centered around vengeful spirits. They take place in people’s ordinary lives, giving the impression that this could happen to the viewer too at any time. Everyday items become deadly, and everyday places become haunted.
In addition, Japanese movies focus on internal fears as opposed to physical ones. There is less overall sound, as there’s something inherently menacing about foreboding silence. Popular Japanese films such as Ju-on: The Grudge, The Ring, Dark Water, and The Eye all utilize this sense of terror and suspense.
On the other hand, American horror films typically rely on shock value and physical fears to scare you. Jump scares are often employed to surprise the viewer and create tension. Many times, American movies are based around fears of getting killed, attacked and eaten by people or creatures with evil intentions. As such, these movies construct frightening images by directly showing gruesome scenes.
Either way, horror movies are very good at keeping you on your toes, hiding beneath your covers, and watching your back. So whichever kind of horror movie you decide to watch, be ready to scream!