Feature by: Jack Foley
JAPAN is proving to be a fertile hunting ground for Hollywood
horror movies nowadays, given the success of recent remakes such
as The Ring and The Grudge.
Increasingly, the American market seems to be turning to different
cultures to generate the biggest frights, even employing the services
of the Japanese film-makers themselves to get the best results.
The Grudge, for example, marked the first-time that the Japanese
director of the original, Takashi Shimizu, was asked to direct
While Ring 2, the American follow-up to Gore Verbinski's remake
of The Ring, is being directed by Hideo Nakata, the man responsible
for the original Japanese Ringu trilogy.
So why is it that Japanese horror is proving so popular with
"Well I would analyse this kind of trend as being that American
and European young audiences have now become more patient, or
tolerant," explained Nakata, at a recent London press conference
for Ring 2.
"I would call Asian horror movies quiet horror movies. They
are very quiet, in terms of soundtrack, and also much subtler
in terms of scare expectance.
"Sometimes in our horror movies, the ghost can just stand
behind the main character and just stare at the main character
and do nothing but still look scary.
"Probably, if it were 10 years ago, American and European
young audiences wouldn't be scared by these quiet ghosts, but
now they have become more tolerant and more patient.
"I think they find it more interesting because they're slightly
bored with American mainstream splatter or gore movies."
Needless to say, The Ring 2 went straight to the top of the US
Box Office when it was released in March, easily surpassing the
opening weekend take of its predecessor.
Yet even though Nakata seemed like an obvious choice to direct,
he still had to follow the Hollywood rule book whereby the film
was submitted to test audiences before being re-edited in post-production.
The director viewed this as both a curse and a blessing.
"The major concern would be
where each scene is boring, or which parts feel slow," he
"The audience would indicate this scene, or this scene,
and then we're kind of almost forced to change the scene. Sometimes
it works and sometimes I felt like it may have been a mistake.
"But Hollywood movies are destined to be distributed universally
so we have to make sure a movie will be accepted universally.
Test screening is a necessary process."
Nakata admits to finding his Hollywood debut a little overwhelming
at first but now hopes to continue working in both America and
And the omens look good, particularly as America continues to
turn to the director's work for inspiration.
Another of his films, Dark Water, has already been remade for
release in the Summer, with Walter Salles directing and Jennifer
Connelly starring, which again looks set to use traditional Japanese
scare tactics to terrifying effect.
Principal among these tactics is the use of water, which features
prominently in both Ring 2 and Dark Water.
When asked to explain its relevance to the horror genre, Nakata
"When I was a boy I was always fascinated by water and how
it can change drastically when the typhoon comes - the river gets
higher and the speed of the river becomes very high and muddy.
I was always fascinated by the water somehow.
"But I think we all live on an island and then we have lots
of disasters, such as the recent tsunami, typhoons, and then because
of typhoons, landslides and river floods, so I would say almost
on a sub-conscious level, we have a fear of water.
"Water can be very violent. And, of course, the ocean, or
water, scientifically speaking is the mother of life, but it also
takes an enormous amount of life.
"I think Japanese people all share that kind of fear, although
we don't say that clearly in our daily life, but we do have lots
of casualties. So that's a reality-based feeling towards water.
"And Japanese ghosts are supposed to appear wherever the
water exists, like in the fog, or in the mist, or the riverside,
or the seaside. So there is a strong connection between water
and the supernatural."
The Ring 2 opens in cinemas on April 4.