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The beauty of Japanese horror movies lies in its subtlety. These films instead of becoming CGI fests, solely depend on powerful storylines, elegant framing and unnerving soundtrack effects. It is the minimalist approach of these ace filmmakers, which strikes us with raw, rampant scare.

Get ready for a trip full of terror, twists and some totally riveting experience. I have handpicked some of the best horror movies of Japan, ranging from psychological horror/thrillers to sinister, gory, mystery movies. Here it goes: 

Audition [1999] | Directed by Takashi Miike

“When the police tried to recompose her body, an extra tongue, an ear and extra three fingers came up!”

This cult classic from Takashi Miike is an unsettling tale of love, longing, obsession and incredible cruelty. The beauty of this movie lies in its sudden transformation from an apparent sweet love story to a hair-raising, spine-chilling, revenge plot.

P.S. This flawlessly unnerving movie is not for the frail-hearted people!




Ringu [1998] | Directed by Hideo Nakata

Ringu is a perfect example of an oriental horror movie. Even if you have watched the American remake, you should definitely give this original masterpiece a try. The movie primarily based on some Japanese folklore, tells the story of a cursed videotape, which summons death to its viewer within seven days. Hideo Nakata’s exceptional use of silence and murky ambiance have made this a quintessential horror.

Ju-On: The Grudge [2002] | Directed by Takashi Shimizu

This absolute classical horror movie from Takashi Shimizu offers some true, unbridled terror. A haunted house, a curse, demons…..sound cliché? Here comes the genius of the film-maker. With all these tried and tested ingredients Shimizu cooks a dish, which is completely groundbreaking. The demon with its whitish face, long black hair and sinister crawl would take you to a blood-curdling journey and spook you throughout.

Cure [1997] | Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

A dark, twisted human mind is able to cause much more havoc than any evil spirit. And sometimes there is no ‘cure’ for this vice. This could have been an engaging normal serial killer potboiler, but Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s flair takes this apparent police investigation tale to a completely different level. He builds a complicated maze of human psyche, where the audiences are left perturbed, confused and ‘hypnotized’.




Dark Water [2002] | Directed by Hideo Nakata

From the makers of Ringu, here comes a perfect tale of dread, melancholy, isolation and sacrifice. This is the story of a single mother, who persistently fights against all odds to raise her daughter. The overwhelming sense of malevolence coupled with the menacing presence of water continues to stay with you even after you have finished watching the movie.

P.S. Please watch the original one before watching the Jennifer Connelly starrer remake of the same name!

Onibaba [1964] | Directed by Kaneto Shindo

This gothic horror classic from Kaneto Shindo has some sweeping cinematography and frenzied soundtrack. This movie is brutal, eerie, erotic and is definitely one of the finest atmospheric horror movies I have ever seen.

One Missed Call [2003] | Directed by Takashi Miike

What happens when your own phone works as a medium of your brutal murder? This movie is outright scary, creepy and freakishly twisted. At a glance, you might call it an archetype Japanese horror. But a deeper analysis will reveal the underlying conflict between traditional Japanese culture and the growing inclination towards westernization.

House [1977] | Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi

“She eats unmarried young girls. It is the only time she can wear her wedding gown.”

This surrealistic horror/comedy from Nobuhiko Obayashi will give you an absolute psychedelic experience. What happens when a school girl comes to visit her aunt along with her friends in a dismal and desolate ‘House’? This movie is ingenious, bizarre and certainly indescribable. Watch this for a spooky, fun-filled acid-trip!




Kaidan [2007] | Directed by Hideo Nakata

Hideo Nakata’s Kaidan is a visceral story of doomed love, betrayal and revenge. This period drama is very much traditional in its approach. If you are looking for a frightfest, then you might not like Kaidan. Because this slow burner is for the viewers who enjoy psychological horror with a strong articulate storyline.

Reincarnation [2005] | Directed by Takashi Shimizu

Takashi Shimizu’s Rinne is an underrated gem. It tells the story of a young actress, who has been cast in a horror film, based on the mass murder in a hotel room. This alarming art-house thriller adroitly deals with the arcane issue of reincarnation!

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  • Rohan Hassan

    I would love to add PULSE/KAIRO by Kiyoshi Kurosawa as well 🙂 Great list.