Japanese Horror

The experience of the Grudge/Ju-On Pt.1

My individual project came to me when my boyfriend asked if I wanted to see the ‘Grudge’ which is my most nightmare movie to ever watch. However I did not know that there was a Japanese version. The Japanese version back in 2002 was known as Ju-On and is actually the first and the American is classified as the remake. I found that depending on the order I would view the films as the American version has three sequels as well as the Japanese yet completely different stories which I may later follow through.

So I wanted to take on the two different views to compare the differences between them just by my experience of viewing them and then going further into researching key aspects to understand the film more. Like how we experienced within our first weeks of the semester with watching Godzilla, Akira and the documentary State of Play. I will be using Autoethnography to understand the side of horror in movies from the Asian area.

Easy definition: ‘Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience.’ – Ellis. (2011, pt.1)

By using Ellis reading to understand further an in-depth approach of Autoethngraphy requires one to first analyse the reading/source then go further to analyse its background/knowledge to better understand it.This is by using personal experience then comparing it to that of cultural.

In the simplest of terms: As a method, autoethnography combines characteristics of autobiography and ethnography. – Ellis. (2011, pt.2)

First part of my assignment I watched the Grudge, the American version.  I decided for this blog post I would not go in depth with specific information from the movie which is actors, dates, etc till after my second post that analyses Ju-On. I will not include the video footage I used during the process as I want to use it for my final project.

In Dot point form I found these key aspects that I wanted to further analyse after viewing The Grudge:

Source 

  • Key Quote: When someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage. A curse is born.
    • Religion/ Belief- (Sorrow/ Grief over a death)
  • Begins with a death of the man that is not fully explained during the start of the film
    • Continued on with another death of a woman that is not fully explained either

mv5bmji2odc1mjuxnl5bml5banbnxkftztcwmza2odcymw-_v1_sy1000_cr0014671000_al_Centres the main characters that seem to be an American couple that are embracing love for one another (Karen and Doug)
-Both seem to struggle with the different language
-Trying to look for job helping the Elderly
-Continuously shows the characters encountering Buddhist symbols and sort of rituals in the background

  • Location: Japan- Tokyo
  • Black Cat: Depiction of death and bad luck
  • Another main character introduced which is a little boy that was trapped in the cupboard depicted down below. (Toshio)

mv5bmtcymdc2njmwml5bml5banbnxkftztcwnjk0odcymw-_v1_sx1705_cr001705999_al_Rewind: The movie begins to time lapse when the man at the beginning had died but now is seen before his death in a picture with the woman and child before the grudge is seen to transport them again (Peter to the left and Toshio to the right)

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  • Rewind: The movie then centres on another American couple (Jennifer and Matthew) that is buying the house with their mother (above) and their sister. The elderly woman(Emma shown above) is present just before with the young American woman (Karen) before the grudge appears.
    • When viewing the house before buying the elderly woman begins to go crazy hearing sounds and staring at a black spot
  • The movie continues with the back lapse on the American family as the couple die and the elderly woman is left alone with the sister calling
  • Present day: Detectives become the main characters as the film becomes quiet quick paced showing lots of emotion yet little story in which the men find the dead bodies
    • The main detective finds Karen at the hospital and talks about the viewing of the young boy and that he had died 3 years ago
  • Rewind: Sister to American couple encounters the grudge sound and goes into the view of her taking the rabbits foot and then showing it was back to her
    • Rabbits Feet/technology when present with a ghost around to look further into which also can be found when the detective finds the tap tampered with by the grudge.
  • Present day: Goes back to the American couple showing a lot of emotion and love which would be interesting to see if it is in the Japanese version
  • Another death scene between care workers as his employee from the beginning that died (Asian Woman) had her jaw snapped off and haunting him
    • I believe for more suspense plus more death when all detectives die as they try to burn the house down but failed. The young American couple go in the house and the man becomes frightened by the grudge and paralysed. The woman tries to do the same as the detectives but fails as well and sees the grudge at the end haunting her.

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Source

  • It is found out that the original couple that lived in the house that created the grudge was a mother, father and son plus cat that all died from the father due to a jealous view of his wife and an American man that died at the beginning. Above shown.

=Images used are not my own but found from the IMBD website. Here.

Horror – Showing you what you weren’t meant to see

What are we meant to see?… This is a question in horror that continues to interest me. Reality I think is based on continuity and I feel that Japanese horror in particular is good at analysing specific elements that we use to build our perceived reality, and then systematically tests them and asks why do we give these elements the right to build our perception of truth.

The movie Uzumaki or in english, Spiral, tells the story of a town possessed by spirals, yes that’s right, a symbol that has a malevolent intention for a whole town. The spiral is meant to symbolise a vortex whose sole purpose is to consume whoever gets too close. It consumes people in a way an obsession consumes someone, they start to see spirals in everything, in the way that if it’s possible to see a spiral in something they will find it, eventually those that are affected by the spiral curse will find a way for their body to also become a spiral. This often involves mutilating the body or grotesque mutations.

Lovecraftian horror wekipedia defines as ‘a sub-genre of horror fiction that emphasizes the cosmic horror of the unknown (and in some cases, unknowable) over gore or other elements of shock, though these may still be present.[1] It is named after American author H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937).’

And one of its themes is described as

  • Preoccupation with viscerate texture. The horror features of Lovecraft’s stories tend to involve semi-gelatinous substances, such as slime, as opposed to standard horror elements such as blood, bones, or corpses.

The students in Uzumaki in their pursuit of things that are shaped like a spiral actual begin to turn into snails, which is safe to say pretty disturbing.

I find it interesting that cold and slimy and the body are big aspects for initiating fear, perhaps this is something to with us being mammals and our preference for dry soft warm things, then horror tests this idea through what we like to define as conducive to our rational state. As an example I think about what it would be like to have thousands of slugs all over me, and the idea is positively sickening.

The Spiral movie or Uzumaki was created from a manga series, Wikipedia gives two ways of referring to  manga, one Japanese and one English. Manga in Japanese refers to all cartoons, comics and animation. In English it refers to specifically Japanese comics. An art form that originated in the early 19th century it is highly regarded as an entertaining and an informative staple of Japanese culture.

I continuously get excited thinking about how rich and colourfully documented Japan’s history is, they have so many diverse intersections of human development. The last movie I looked at showed thousand year old samurai battles and was riddled with supernatural experiences, including intervening ghosts that can take body parts. This movie Uzumaki (Spiral) again has supernatural conflicts at its base, however, the general unknown force of a curse I feel is an even more abstract way of developing a horrifying idea, and then specifically using the authority that symbols have to test what we use to structure our beliefs.

Curses particularly are present throughout a lot of the Japanese horror movies I’ve come across. This belief that some unknown evil force outside of being controlled or predicted will determine your future is not something I ever considered as a real possibility. My theory behind this is that because my understanding is built upon scientific results, the fact that it doesn’t involve tangible results for its existence, I then experience difficulty in believe it. Although what I perceive as my reality is constantly being shaped by things that I have not yet learnt how to measure or understand, for example computer technology, so in this way perhaps in order for me to understand the supernatural world I would have to adjust my perception to a gauge that was comfortable with using the tools that are needed for measuring it, that is a deep understanding of how the supernatural world works, and belief that it does exist, one of which I am yet to have any experience with beyond movies, which are somehow able to suspend my belief, so if a movie can manipulate my reality, it stands to reason that unknown supernatural force perhaps could also do this. I don’t know, sounds strange but I think the unknown force of movies and technology could lead me to perhaps wanting to have more of an understanding of the supernatural, I wonder how I would frame my understanding if I believed both in science and the supernatural.

Commencing live tweeting on Japanese horror

Redmond (2013) discusses fetishism of the exotic and consuming the Other, Miike Takeshi the director of Audition is mentioned as a tester of (Western) decency. I know to some degree I have probably been involved in some exoticticising and consuming of the Other, however, through my research I seek to understand the origin of my interests and through this hopefully gather more of an idea of what it means to consume the Other.

My fandom of Japanese cinema is fairly recent and not very deep, I actually have a  bigger history of researching it academically than as just a naive observer, as it were. This concerns me because I think that it will impact how I view the films, in such a way that I may get caught up in analysing and then whatever I reflect may turn out to not be my genuine thoughts, but instead I would contrived them in a way that would avoid falling into the traps that I had previously read about.

Watching films and discussing it with friends has been for me something that happens after the event, however, so I can get more of perhaps an honest idea of what I think of the films I will be live tweeting as I watch them.

Narrowing my field of research to only Japanese horror was chosen mainly because it specifically has garnered a particularly large Western audience and I want to see if my tweets plus my research will give any indication as to why this is happening.

I have not chosen the films I will be watching yet, however, in the pursuit of the extreme only those that are reviewed as indubitably scary will make the cut.

It should be known that I was not always a thrill seeker of movies, mostly I liked to laugh and have thoughtful reflections, it was the study of film that brought out my desire for horror. Something about knowing more about how something is made I think makes you want to explore all the options it can offer.

My method includes tweeting what I see then reflecting on these tweets and this will then all be incorporated into a storify blog. I am using this platform particularly because it will make it easier to include other media sources that may become relevant while discovering insights.

I have experienced immersion I think in fandom culture once before, this was in music. Redmond (2013) talks of the director Kitano as being ‘a body-without-organs’ (p.11) and of his fluid existence in films by way refering to his celebrity identity that occupies many personas (‘grude comedian, film director, violent actor’) . It would be great if I could find out through my tweet analysis whether my identity, it being more solid than Kitano’s fluid one, was in fact able to be immersed or not. I would like to test this and watch it develop.

 

References

Redmond S 2013, The cinema of Takeshi Kitano; flowering blood, Columbia University Press, New York

English subtitles for Japanese Ghosts

While searching for Japanese ghost videos on YouTube I came across the above show. It seems to be a sort of reality TV show where they get people to watch a series of viral ghost videos and get their reactions. I’m unsure of the name of the show or of its popularity, but it’s existence and over 2 million YouTube views give some evidence to the pervasiveness of the horror genre in Japanese popular culture. 

The Ghost videos are all edited or faked, some significantly better than others, but still give off a creepy vibe followed by a good jump scare. Once the clip has played the show plays an instant replay of the jump scare but still with live footage of the people watching, seeing their horror intensify as they are forced to watch the scare again. 

After watching about 15 minutes of the show and understanding none of the Japanese being spoken I was a bit lost on the purpose or context of the show. I trawled the comments for some sort of insight and saw one user mention Closed Captions. I then realised that YouTube had Closed Captions available for the video, albeit in Japanese. Luckily Google has integrated all of its services so it can instantly translate the Japanese subtitles into plain English for me…
re-watching one of the clips (at 9:40) the only context it gave me was “Damage due to High Crude Oil prices also a profound…” JUMPSCARE! so that didn’t really help my understanding at all. Even further into the video I’m great with this translation

the installed ratattat

 

Which again gives me no context or understanding. Just an urge to make this

install

This week I was trying to look at viral Japanese ghost videos as a peripheral media and potentially look at the digital stories they told. Instead I was left struggling with translation and laughing at horrible subtitles, let’s call that a success.

-Nathan Smith

Celebrity Directors to Philosophical Insects, what a week…

Sticking on a similar theme to last week’s Blog, this week I have been looking at the Director of Dark Water, Hideo Nakata. He is most well-known for his directing of Ring (1998) Ring 2 (1999) and directing the American remake of his own film, The Ring Two (2005). Nakata has gained a sort of cult following by ‘J-Horror’ “Enthusiasts” with him being labelled “the Ring Master” in an interview with Off Screen in 2000 and “The Godfather of J-Horror” by the Japan Times earlier this year. Despite his fame, Nakata’s ‘Ring’ was by no means the beginning of Japanese Ghost and Horror Stories.

In his interview with Off Screen, the interviewer brings up the “older tradition of Japanese supernatural stories … Such as Kwaidan or Ugetsu”. Nakata replies, saying that he has studied them both along with an old Kabuki theatre production Yotsyua Kaiden.

I’ve come across the film Kwaidan (1964), literally translated to ‘Ghost Stories’ (Which, incidentally is the name of an anime series, which is totally worth its own study in cross cultural production of content and meaning), in previous weeks as I’ve been searching for influential and important Japanese horror films to watch. I’ve seen the trailer, and have downloaded a copy (tsk tsk) to watch this week. Doing more research on the film, I learnt that it was based on the writings of Koizumi Yakumo, who was also known as Lafcadio Hern. Hern was born in the Ionian islands of Greece in 1850 and emigrated to Ireland with his family in his early childhood. In 1869 Hern Travelled to America where he lived and worked as a writer until 1890 when he moved to Japan as a Newspaper Correspondent. His book ‘Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things’ is his English interpretation and recolouring of old Japanese stories from Japanese books “such as the Yaso-Kidan, Bukkyo-Hyakkwa-Zensho, Kokon-Chomonshu, Tama-Sudare, and Hyaku-Monogatari”, interestingly and strangely followed by a semi-scientific and definitely philosophical study of Insects.

After reading his story “THE DREAM OF AKINOSUKE“(of Chinese origin), his study of insects has become more clear. The story uses a butterfly and an ant as metaphors. The three drunken characters in the story discuss how what these insects might mean in relation to the dream that Akinosuke has in the story. Herns discussion of insects at the end of his book seems to be a study of their potential meaning in Asian literature.

Right… so that didn’t exactly focus on the role of celebrity, but more a flow of research for the week. I’m looking forward to reading more of Herns stories and deliberations on insects when I have time, and seeing if any of these themes or ideas, flow through to modern day Asian horror films.

My Experience of Dark Water “Honogurai mizu no soko kara”

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Last Friday I was invited to go and experience my friends’ new home theatre room. Armed with a six-pack of James Boags, an armful of Thai food and my bright yellow fox onesie, I was ready for a long night of thrilling theatre. 
Descending the stairs to their once creepy basement, now beautifully carpeted theatre room, the group was presented with our choice of films for the evening.
Amongst our selection was; ‘Hansel and Gretel and the 420 witch’, ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ and ‘Dark Water’.
Being aware of the potential for Japanese horror to mentally scar us, we opted to watch Dark Water first and then sooth ourselves with the other two movies afterwards.

Settling down into the dark theatre room, I began to devour a healthy serving of fried rice with chicken & cashews as my friend proceeded to put the movie onto the big screen. Beginning to feel the flow of alcohol, we joked and carried on throughout the beginning of the film, trying to keep up with the introductions of the characters and the general basis for the story

In brief, the movie follows a mother and her young daughter who have recently moved into an old apartment block after the breakup of their family. The apartment has problems with water leaking from the ceiling (Dark water), and the mother starts seeing a ghostly figure of a small girl around the apartment. As the story unfolds we began to learn that this ghost child used to live in the apartment block and had gone through a very similar situation to the real child, facing the possibility of being neglected and forgotten during her parents’ divorce.

As it turns out, this ghost child was referred to as ‘Kawaii’ throughout the movie. I assume that was her actual name, but as slightly inebriated children of the internet generation we could not stop making jokes about how cute ‘Kawaii’ was in all of the jump scares and ‘frightening’ scenes of the film. While these scenes were definitely well directed and horrifying, as a group we laughed our way through the terror, yelling at the screen and enthusiastically enjoying the film.

Interestingly our collective understanding (or Misunderstanding) of the Japanese term ‘Kawaii’ shaped our experience of the film, regardless of how insignificant its use seemed to the overall story.
As I understand it, the term ‘Kawaii’ means adorable or cute and has been attributed to a section of Japanese popular culture that embody these qualities. In the context of this film, it seemed odd to name the ghostly apparition that was depicted as threatening and horrifying, after a term that was used to describe things that were cute and innocent.
Looking back at the ending of the film and the motivations given for the ghostly girl, the name Kawaii seems slightly more apt to the character and was probably a conscious decision by the film makers.

-Nathan Smith

Japan – Making horror beautiful

‘… when you feel the need to inflict pain?’

Is what you might be thinking when someone you know says they are going to watch a horror movie.

Well, maybe not so cut and dry as that but there is a definite attraction to pain in most horror movies, an attraction that Japanese film makers seem to convey so beautifully. With regard to horror movies though, the movie Audition is the most ethereal experience I have ever had.

The director of the movie Audition, Takashi Miike, does not intend to classify his movies as any particular genre, even though after viewing Audition I was left with a feeling that resembled anything but safe. This is a serious warning; if you watch Audition, watch it with friends or family.

Upon seeing Audition I had the expectation that afterwards I would be scared of dark spaces for a while, I wasn’t scared of dark spaces though, I was confused, I was confused about what reality was as a whole and how I existed within it, and that was a wee bit more scarier, hence the reason why you need a familiar face around to see you through it.

The first time I watched Audition I was lucky enough to obtain a copy of it from my lecturer, the second time I watched it– I watched it on YouTube.

However, I don’t recommend this for a first time viewing. The colouring in Audition is one of its best features and the lack of resolution in the gritty YouTube image, cheapens the whole experience, to the point where I wouldn’t bother.

I couldn’t hire it at my local video store but you might have better luck. Otherwise I’m sure you could order it online.

Made in 1999 and set in the present day there is every reason Audition would include some reference to cyber-culture, which in the last decade had made a prominent presence in Japanese Horror, however, culturally I felt the story was more traditional, using family and love as the main destructive forces. Body disfiguration is a key component to its horror value.

My interpretation of the submissive orient did impact how I saw many of the characters’ mannerism, and often when I saw how the women in the film would make themselves small and look down when talking, I thought they were being unnecessarily shy. As I said though, I think this could be my lack of understanding of social dynamics in Asian culture, resulting in me using stereotyping to perceive their presence in conversations. In general I feel a twinge of concern about the position of women in the film, however, the storyline I think might portray enough of a detachment from reality to give it some reprieve.