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Best Five Japanese Horror Movies to Watch this Year!

Devon Lord-MoncriefDevon Lord-Moncrief
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October 13, 2023
A woman on a couch, clutching her blanket, watching Japanese horror movies.

There are few ways to get into the mood for Halloween than watching spooky movies! For horror fans, Japanese horror provides some of the best thrills! In the age of numerous streaming services, it’s easier than ever to discover the best Japanese horror movies, which can feature anything from ghosts to yokai! So, get your popcorn ready and turn out the lights as we delve into some of the best Japanese horror films available for streaming today!

Noroi: The Curse

Noroi: The Curse, a found footage-style horror film, was released in 2005. It’s written and directed by Koji Shiraishi, exploring themes of demonology, possession, and haunting curses. The plot focuses on Masafumi Kobayashi, a paranormal investigator who had been creating a documentary entitled “The Curse.” The film begins with Kobayashi’s house burning down mysteriously, the documentary he had been working on beginning to play. 

The movie poster for "Noroi: The Curse" the main family has black censor bars over their eyes.
“Noroi: The Curse” is similar to “Paranormal Activity”. Image via IMDb

As Kobayashi investigates Junko Ishiii and her home, he experiences increasingly frightening paranormal events. Noroi: The Curse, while slower-paced, excels at building a tense and ominous atmosphere that mirrors the film’s demonic presence.

One Missed Call

Released in 2003 and directed by Takashi Miike, One Missed Call is a horror film based on the novel Chakushin Ari by Yasushi Akimoto. The film begins with a young woman named Yoko Okazaki receiving a mysterious cell phone call from her number. Listening to a message from the future, she hears a recording of herself speaking strangely, followed by a scream.

The movie poster for "One Missed Call" one of many Japanese horror movies.
“One Missed Call” is about students who get calls from their future selves. Image via IMDb

Two days later, Yoko suffers a violent death. The film follows Yoko’s friends, each receiving similar calls and attempting to learn the truth behind the deadly mystery. One Missed Call doesn’t have a complex plot, but Miike’s directing style turns it into a fun and schlocky experience.

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Ring

Ring, released in 1998 and directed by Hideo Nakata, is a horror film based on Koji Suzuki’s 1991 novel. It follows investigative reporter Reiko Asakawa, whose niece dies under mysterious circumstances. She investigates the deaths and discovers a cursed videotape. Watching it leads to a deadly phone call seven days later.

A movie poster of "Ring", one of the most famous Japanese horror movies ever.
“Ring” is one of the most famous Japanese horror movies of all time. Image via Movieposter

Ring is arguably one of the most famous Japanese horror films of all time, becoming a massive success in Japan and bringing the genre of “J-Horror” to international viewers. Eventually, the movie was remade in the US as The Ring and became a cultural phenomenon. Many different sequels, prequels, and spin-offs have been made based on Ring, but the original remains the greatest. 

Jisatsu Saakuru

Released in 2001 and written/directed by Sion Sono, Jisatsu Saakuru is a dizzying surrealist nightmare that explores its titular topic with unrelenting focus. A string of seemingly unrelated deaths rock Tokyo, baffling the police and the public alike.

The movie poster for "Jisatsu Saakuru".
“Jisatsu Saakuru” is about students who make a dangerous pact. Image via Methods Unsound

Jisatsu Saakuru is a non-linear film, as its plot is too complex to explain thoroughly. The movie emphasizes its central themes over individual character development. While not suitable for everyone due to its shocking content, it boldly tackles mental health and societal pressures in Japan.

Reincarnation

Released in 2005 and directed by Takashi Shimizu, Reincarnation is a horror film that presents its viewers with the terrors of the past encroaching into the present. The movie begins with Professor Norihasa Omori committing many violent crimes and dying. Thirty-five years later, a filmmaker named Ikuo Matsumura began to create a movie based on the horrific events. 

The "Reincarnation" movie poster. It is a woman's face in a red vortex of colorful butterflies.
“Reincarnation” is about an actress caught in a never-ending cycle. Image via Flex

Nagisa Sugiura, an actress starring as Omori’s wife, begins to suffer from hallucinations and terrifying paranormal experiences. As the ghosts of those slain come back to haunt the film crew, Nagisa falls deeper and deeper into the grim reality of what happened thirty-five years prior. Reincarnation fixates on the Japanese interpretations of ghosts and spirits and how certain events can leave marks on the physical world, which is very different from the typical Western ghost story.

We know there are more Japanese horror movies than we could ever list, so narrowing it down to these was tough! What are your favorite Japanese horror films? What exactly about them do you like so much? Is it the directing style or the unique take on spirits that Japanese horror movies have? Let us know what movies are your favorites and if we mentioned any of them!

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