Zombies in Training
July 19, 2009 6:40 PM   Subscribe

Saikyo Senritsu Meikyu (literally The Ultimate Horror Labyrinth) is the longest (900m, 60 minutes from start to finish) and "scariest" horror house in the world. ...Or at least it used to be.

The popular Japanese horror house in the Fujikyu Highland Amusement park closed temporarily on June 28 because it wasn't "scaring people enough" anymore. It reopened on July 18 after the zombies underwent some vigorous training near Mt. Fuji to become better employees. (Links in Japanese, but zombies need no translation.)
posted by misozaki (69 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
That was always my problem with this sort of thing. I'm kind of a jittery person, but even most places like this don't phase me for some reason. I'm sure something more suitably immersive and lengthy would push my buttons just right.

A bonus: Japanese horror is generally less campy and ridiculous then I perceive American horror to be. Maybe not the best example, but there were several moments during the movie Saw that me and my friends laughed at. Not because we're sick psychopaths, just that some horror movies just have absolutely ridiculous writing sometimes.
posted by Askiba at 6:44 PM on July 19, 2009

Please, please I beg of you. Do not judge all horror by a turd like "Saw." ;)
posted by brundlefly at 6:55 PM on July 19, 2009

A bonus: Japanese horror is generally less campy and ridiculous then I perceive American horror to be.

Okay, I really beg to differ. Japanese horror (of the post-Ringu school) tends to be more obscure and Lovecraftian, with a strong existential element and a preponderance of horrors that defy rational explanation (these two factors, obviously, being reciprocal), but there is no WAY a ghost kid crawling around in an attic croaking like a frog isn't at least a smidgen ridiculous. And, of course, the more visceral Japanese horror -- from Tetsuo to The Machine Girl(!) -- is often (deliberately...mostly) campy beyond belief.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:56 PM on July 19, 2009 [4 favorites]

Do not judge all horror by a turd like "Saw." ;)

Ok. I've had similiar reactions with Nightmare on Elm Street, for everything else good about it.
(I've had my share of horror)
posted by Askiba at 6:57 PM on July 19, 2009

No kidding, kittens. Japan is the land of camp, and their more serious horror doesn't hold a candle to a lot of Korean horror films in my opinion. Regardless, that really doesn't say anything about haunted houses, be they Japanese or American.
posted by Roman Graves at 7:02 PM on July 19, 2009

Maybe I have the wrong impression. =P I've only seen a dozen or so horror movies from Japan (one being Ringu). The first one, the croaking thing scared me: so I didn't perceive it as particularly ridiculous. I guess I need a better sample pool. Again, I get freaked out pretty easily, so I suppose you need to be pretty ridiculous, which I think American films tend to do more. Which is why I made the distinction that I think Japanese films are less ridiculous in some regards.

that really doesn't say anything about haunted houses
Does it? The designers of such an establishment surely would have gotten some inspiration from such things.

Sidenote: Korean horror? I am intrigued.
posted by Askiba at 7:10 PM on July 19, 2009

Please, please I beg of you. Do not judge all horror by a turd like "Saw." ;)

I LOVE horror films when they're good, but I can count the good one's I've seen on one hand. At least once a week I have the desire to see a scary movie. I'm generally out of luck. I keep trying, but each time I feel stupider and stupider for wasting my time and money. Both the American and Japanese ones I've see have, for the most part, been terrible.

But I have high standards. Here's what I expect:

-- no formulaic writing/directing: if you show me a close up of a corpse and then all of the sudden the corpse's eyes spring open (accompanied by sudden loud music), I'm done. If the monster is "dead" and then, five seconds after the movie is "over," he comes crashing through the window, I turn it off. If the heroine feels a hand on her shoulder, screams, whips around, and sees that it's her best friend and so says, "God dammit, Jane! You really scared me," I leave the theatre.

-- if I WANT the main characters to get killed, because they are all nasty frat boys and their girlfriends, then, fuck it, the movie is worthless.

-- I don't want to see camera tricks. I don't want to see monster-cams or fish-eye-lenses or sudden fast-motion. Those tricks call attention to themselves, make me aware that I'm watching a "clever-trick" movie, which makes me super-aware that what I'm watching is just made up. And so I'm not scared.

-- Only use CGI if it actually looks real. Which generally means don't use CGI.

-- No illogical or random scary stuff just because it's "scary" or "cool": I forget the name of that movie that was all set in a demonic hotel room, but it was 2 hours of one special effect after another. I had no idea what sort of powers the room had, what it didn't have, or how long the movie would go on. Boring.

-- No moralizing (e.g. people should LISTEN to wise old Indians).

-- No bad dialogue.

-- No bad acting.

Unless you're easily scared, a horror film won't work -- it won't scare -- unless it REALLY sucks you in and makes you forget you're watching a movie. For that to happen, the film needs to be crafted with more care and attention to detail that EVER. Horror films should be the most well-made films, but they're usually the worst. I don't blame the hacks. I blame the really good writers and directors who ignore this great genre. God bless Stanley Kubrick. We need more great directors making horror movies.
posted by grumblebee at 7:14 PM on July 19, 2009 [11 favorites]

I've been to this haunted house. It is massive. They basically built a (or commandeered a pre-existing) hospital building from scratch. It's all very Resident Evil/Se7en creepy, with very little light. You get a flashlight and walk through the set path, with real live folks set out to jump at you at just the right time.

Did I mention it's massive? It takes over 30 minutes to walk through this thing. Great fun, though.
posted by zardoz at 7:17 PM on July 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

The designers of such an establishment surely would have gotten some inspiration from such things

Absolutely, and I've never been to a haunted house outside of America so I'm certainly no expert (maybe someone else can weigh in?), but I would think that most haunted house regardless of culture and decoration are based around startling you. Obviously the more chilling the design the more immersive the experience, but it still comes down to an actor jumping out and scaring you, which in a movie is a pretty cheap scare.

Korean horror? I am intrigued

Check out A Tale of Two Sisters, Phone, or Whispering Corridors.
posted by Roman Graves at 7:22 PM on July 19, 2009

Wow, grumblebee, are there any horror films that make the cut? Which ones? I think "The Ring" might be the only one I can think of that might, though it has CGI.
posted by procrastination at 7:31 PM on July 19, 2009

Check out A Tale of Two Sisters, Phone, or Whispering Corridors.

But don't watch the Uninvited. That abortion of a remake almost retrospectively ruins the original Tale of Two Sisters for me. It's so bad the FAIL leaks. I'm fairly sure if you watch the remake first, the original will be ruined forever for you.

(That said, I did like The Ring better than Ringu, although Ringu 0's Sadako beats the crap out of both.)

Also, Thai Horror (and the Pang Brother's horror movies from Hong Kong, by extension). Extremely hit and miss (I've watched a couple crap ones recently), but Art of the Devil, the original Shutter and the original The Eye series are quite nice (for these I avoided the remakes, but I bet the above FAIL leakage warning applies)
posted by qvantamon at 7:40 PM on July 19, 2009

I don't hate CGI. I just hate it when it looks fake, because that kills the scariness. Here's a list of horror movies I've liked (though some have scared me more than others). It's subjective of course. It's also short:

- "The Shining"
- "The Innocents"
- "Dead of Night"
- "Psycho"
- "The Orphanage"
- "The Devil's Backbone"
- "Alien"
- "Aliens"
- "Let the Right One In"

I'm sure there are a few more (though not many more), but that's what springs to mind. It sucks, because horror is my favorite genre. I guess I'd be less disappointed if it wasn't.
posted by grumblebee at 7:40 PM on July 19, 2009

Oh, a wonderful film that's at least partly horror -- and is almost unknown -- is called "Paperhouse."
posted by grumblebee at 7:42 PM on July 19, 2009

C'mon grumblebee, those last two aren't horror movies and The Devil's Backbone (while a really great film) only squeaks by because it involves ghosts.
posted by Roman Graves at 7:43 PM on July 19, 2009

are there any horror films that make the cut?

Audition absolutely terrified the crap out of me, and surprise surprise, it's Japanese. I heard somewhere that one of the big differences between Japanese and American horror is that Japanese horror doesn't moralize: it's possible, likely even, for really terrible fates to befall people who absolutely don't deserve it. Contrast this with the cliche of promiscuous teenagers being killed off in a Hollywood horror movie while the pure-hearted one survives.
posted by Ritchie at 7:46 PM on July 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

grumblebee - The most terrifying, troubling horror movie I've seen in the last, geez, five years at least is marketed as a war movie. I find this to be egregious mislabeling, but I think you would really enjoy (and by "enjoy," I mean, "be frightened to your core and disgusted by") Come and See

Disclaimer: Viewers of Come and See risk losing all faith in humanity for months after first watching the film. YMMV
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:48 PM on July 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm going to go specific on grumblebee's "sudden loud music" and call for the banning of the fucking "power chord!". You know that cheap single dissonant "TAAAAAN!" to signal when you're supposed to get scared. It's like the canned laughter of horror.
posted by qvantamon at 7:48 PM on July 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think conversations about labels are silly (there was a really stupid one on the blue recently where people wasted barrels of words arguing about whether certain books were or were not sci-fi). I would call all of the films on my list horror or horror-mixed-with-some-other-genre.

If the main -- or one of the main -- emotional excitement I get from a movie is being scared, I'd call it horror.

"Let the Right One In" doesn't neatly fit a category, and it did many other things besides scare me, so I'd call it a hybrid.

If you want me to stick to films that 95 out of 100 people would call horror, than my list would get even shorter:

- "The Shining"
- "Dead of Night"

All the other films on my list are questionable and I could see one person or another arguing that they aren't horror. Whatever. Boring argument. All I know is that when I get the itch to see a "scary movie," any of the films on my longer list will do -- and very films not on that list will work for me.
posted by grumblebee at 7:50 PM on July 19, 2009

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy x infinity

Yeah, +1 for the shining. The brilliance is in the more psychological way of scaring you. BATHTUB LADY AAAAAH!
posted by Askiba at 7:51 PM on July 19, 2009

I'm going to go specific on grumblebee's "sudden loud music" and call for the banning of the fucking "power chord!". You know that cheap single dissonant "TAAAAAN!" to signal when you're supposed to get scared. It's like the canned laughter of horror.

- How about the obviously evil character that nevertheless manages to lure the hero and his friends (the characters I'm supposed to care about) into his house.

- And that endless slew of slasher-films where having sex (or trying to) means that you're doomed.
posted by grumblebee at 7:53 PM on July 19, 2009

The original Ringu scared the shit out of me.

I had it from a bootlegged divx copy with not-great english subtitles, and I knew nothing about the movie. I was watching it in my bedroom, sick, on a small TV.

(spoilers follow)

The fake ending completely threw me. I don't know what I was expecting when the TV came back on, and the girl comes out of the well. For some reason, I thought it was going to be like a happy ending where the girl like waves goodbye or something, but she came THROUGH the screen, with like no foreshadowing that it was gonna happen, I actually got one of those deep full-body shivers and threw the covers over my head. I don't think I've ever had that reaction from another scene in a horror movie. It wasn't 'shock', it was 'dread'.

I thought the American version just ruined it, because they completely tipped off that something bad was going to happen. It was kinda like "Hey, look at this, this is gonna be cool... hey, watch this.. here it comes..... OOOOH WASN'T THAT A COOL EFFECT?" *yawn*
posted by empath at 7:55 PM on July 19, 2009

- I'm also fond of "Spider," a little-known film by David Cronenberg (my favorite of his films). Is it horror? Depends on your definition of the genre. It's certainly creepy.

- I also really like "Jaws," but I think I need to not see it for the next 20 years. It seems to be on TV pretty much every night. It must be going cheap or something.
posted by grumblebee at 8:01 PM on July 19, 2009

The only thing more certain to get you killed than having sex in a horror movie is opening the refrigerator door. You know, in that way that blocks the camera, and when the refrigerator door is closed, BAM! there it is!
posted by qvantamon at 8:02 PM on July 19, 2009

The only thing more certain to get you killed than having sex in a horror movie is opening the refrigerator door. You know, in that way that blocks the camera, and when the refrigerator door is closed, BAM! there it is!

Being skeptical about the existence of the monster is dangerous, too.
posted by grumblebee at 8:07 PM on July 19, 2009

The Mirror is my favorite piece of horror, personally.

Though I would consider Silence of the Lambs to be at least partially horror, and that's pretty damn good too.
posted by arcolz at 8:33 PM on July 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

I would venture to say the romantic comedy is the only (non-porn) genre more hackneyed than horror. In both case it's because there's a hardcore constituency that really wants the payoff and doesn't care that much how they get there.

I know there was a huge backlash, but I was genuinely disturbed by Blair Witch Project.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:38 PM on July 19, 2009

Isn't that Japanese zombie trainer guy the same dude from Takeshi's Castle? (MXC)
posted by Go Banana at 8:42 PM on July 19, 2009

-- if I WANT the main characters to get killed, because they are all nasty frat boys and their girlfriends, then, fuck it, the movie is worthless. a comedy.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:22 PM on July 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

The zombie boot camp videos are the best thing I have seen all day.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:28 PM on July 19, 2009

The last really scary movie I saw was [REC], which is a spanish film. As an adult I haven't seen anything scarier than The Grudge. Saw it five years ago and the imagery still returns to me in quiet moments late at night, when I'm alone and seeing things out of the corner of my eye.
posted by autodidact at 9:47 PM on July 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

"-- No moralizing (e.g. people should LISTEN to wise old Indians)."

But you potentially lose the common sense element.

Smed: "Nice town. Pretty small and weird. But I'm glad we're finally here to stay in that cottage we rented on the beach."
Codger: "Gotta wahn you folks, there's a rain of frogs tonight. A-ha, isn't that right Midge?"
Midge: "Ayuh, I know it sounds weaad, but it rains frogs once every seven years on this day."
Codger: "Waaz I you, I'd get outa town. Fhai wahnin."
Smed: "Hnh...Too bad we can't stay."
*in car*
Mrs. Smed: "Hon, you have a gun. Just shoot them."
Smed: "Sweetie, they're either crazy or they're right. Either way - I don't have enough bullets for everyone in town or for every frog that comes from the sky. And what do I tell the local P.D if they are nuts and I do have to shoot them? No, I don't want any part of this bullshit on my vacation."
*Mr & Mrs. Smed asleep comfortably on plane*
*Deluge of carnivorous frogs destroys Maine town*

I think "The Thing" is underrated. I like horror. Doesn't scare me. But I like the philosophical stuff. Cube comes to mind. Not a great film per se, but I enjoyed it. "Prince of Darkness" as well. Although the dream sequences did creep me out. Plus - Alice Cooper and his death bike.
Horror is a bit like comedy or science fiction or or super hero films, it's hard to get a studio (because y'know, I know hollywood inside and out, big player over here) to take them seriously.
I'm thinking Lucas with the Chewbacca Tarzan yell. Just screams "I don't care/this is just for a buck."
Kind of sickens me when I hear how much fun people had making a film. You had a lot of fun? Swell. Except, we're supposed to have fun. Y'know, the audience.
I'd like to hear "Man, we busted our ASS on this film. I really want people to enjoy our hard work because we took telling this story very seriously."
Everything else seems to follow.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:57 PM on July 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

The first Cube and Saw movies weren't that bad. The writing and acting are not the greatest but I liked them. The Thing is brilliant, although I watched Ghosts of Mars recently and I'm not sure what the hell Carpenter was thinking with that piece of shit.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:34 PM on July 19, 2009

The first Cube and Saw movies weren't that bad

I thought the first Cube was absolutely brilliant. I refused to watch the sequels.
posted by empath at 10:49 PM on July 19, 2009

Back to the haunted house thing, I've been to this one too. And it was awesome, one of the best theme parks rides I've ever been on. What's cool is that they have the exit right next to the queue (which you have to wait in for hours, obviously), and sometimes you see people running out screaming, and sometimes just walking out calmly.

If anyone does go to this, I would strongly recommend going in a decent sized mixed group of guys and girls. The person at the front has the problem of the stupid torch not working (I would have sworn that they were using radio control to turn off your flashlight at the really scary bits), but then it is the people in the middle who always get jumped. When I went, I was the chump at the front, and so I would creep into the next room, then all I would here is screaming behind me and I turn around and find out that the girls everyone has started running back the way the came and then I am all alone, in the dark. Or on the odd occasion I would hear screams behind me, then everyone would come sprinting past me and the christ did I also start running. The 'actors' are pretty clever at splitting your group up, and once they see that you have people that are really panicking, they go nuts. It is really bloody long too! You might think that creeping through darkened rooms where you can't see shit is fine, but over the course of an hour, it the stress FEAR sets in.

And so our group must have had the most humiliating exit of all since we got chased right up to a curtain that took us back outside before we knew, in the bright sunshine and being stared at by all the people in the queue. We also looked pretty shaken up, and two of us were bleeding quite a bit (there are no chainsaws or anything, but at one point everyone started running in such a panic that we all fell over each other a la Scooby Doom causing a grazed knee and a cut elbow). There was a hilarious two second transition where we tried to un-panic ourselves and then start walking away in a conspicuously "I'm cool" kind of way. So we were the ultimate chumps, completely suckered by this haunted house. If anyone here gets the chance to go, I would recommend you be a chump too.
posted by theyexpectresults at 10:52 PM on July 19, 2009 [9 favorites]

I thought Cube was Saw for pretentious people.

You know what gets me? Atmosphere. Session 9 scared six or seven specific kinds of the fuck out of me, and the whole point of the movie is building up the atmosphere. That it was filmed in the old Danvers asylum before its demolition is icing.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:35 PM on July 19, 2009

Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door is the only film I've seen that I found genuinely disturbing since the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre was first released.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:50 PM on July 19, 2009

Cube was Saw for pretentious people.

Maybe Saw for people who have taken intro to Philosophy? I didn't think it was very pretentious.
posted by empath at 11:59 PM on July 19, 2009

This is why I love MetaFilter. I post some silly videos about zombies in boot camp and come back a few hours later to an in-depth discussion about what kind of horror movies are the best! Plate of beans, indeed. But seriously, thanks to everybody for turning this into an unexpectedly interesting thread.

In Japan, summer has always been the season for all things scary for some reason. I guess the "chilling" effect that scary stories have was welcomed in times when no air conditioning was available, and the hot, humid nights that must have been much darker and deeper than modern times brought out the dark side of people's imaginations. It's still the norm for kids to tell ghost stories (Kwaidan by Lafcadio Hearn (Project Gutenberg text here) is a good place to start if you're interested in traditional Japanese ghost stories) and scary urban legends (generally referred to as kaidan here) to each other or hold kimodameshi dares (waiting until after dark to walk through cemetaries and such and getting something from the end as proof that you didn't cheat) during summer get-togethers. Traveling haunted houses are built at summer festivals and are consistently popular attractions. So this renewal of the haunted hospital in an amusement park is definitely timed to draw in the summer vacation crowds seeking a "chill."

For what it's worth, I personally can't watch horror films but my husband is a great fan of anything horror, and he recommends Ju-on and Ringu from the so-called J-horror genre for those of you who haven't seen them. This haunted house is probably more in the vein of survival horror video games like Biohazard (Resident Evil in the States) and Silent Hill, though. Or so I've heard. How should I know, I'm NEVER going into that thing!
posted by misozaki at 2:20 AM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

What follows is yet another ramble in a long line of slimepuppy rambles about the awesomosity of horror. Not related to Japanese house of horrors.

High standards and horror rarely mix, unfortunately.

Horror is my favourite genre, without a doubt. (personal favorites: Night of the Living Dead, Lost Highway, Rosemary's Baby, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Shining, The Thing, Alien, the original Nosferatu to name a few.) When a horror movie is great it transcends the genre and leaves a lasting impression.

The great horror movies have given me an appreciation for the crap and mediocre ones. I've mentioned this here before, but I've come to appreciate horror movie cliches in the same way as some people do romantic comedies. Yeah, I know that the psycho killer isn't going to be really killed by the end. Yeah, I know the promiscuous teens aren't going to survive the night. Yeah, I know this particular music cue/shot is going to end up in a boo!-scare. It gives me comfort and enjoyment in the same way that everyone knows Hugh Grant is going to get the girl in the end. In my case it just happens to be Jason Vorhees who gets the girl in the end.

On another note, horror movies tend to be a great return of investment (low budget in relation to returns), so a lot of people get their first steps in the industry through horror. This often means that the films look, sound and play out like someone's first film. It's a cliche ridden genre with a lot of crap being churned out year after year. This also enables a very innovative, if rough, field. If you can suffer through the crap, there are genuine surprises to be had as low-budget horror directors can take risks that high-budget studio horrors would never consider (hence the constant stream of generic remakes of Japanese horror movies and iconic 80's slasher flicks).

On topic: that zombie training camp video is amazing. It's reminiscent of the old school 'White Zombie'-style of using zombies as manual labour.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:59 AM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

grumblebee: "-- if I WANT the main characters to get killed, because they are all nasty frat boys and their girlfriends, then, fuck it, the movie is worthless."

Ooooh yes. The last two "true" horror movies I remember watching were Turistas and The Ruins, and in both of them I rooted for the bad guys. I mean, I can understand that you want to make your cast resemble the audience you want to attract, but do they have to be so goddamn stupid? When you cheer the monsters on for doing Darwin's work you know there's something wrong...

@topic: loved the second video, especially the montage of the zombie learning to do the "on-camera flicker teleport" thing that has recently replaced the "off-camera teleport" of Jason Voorhees and other classics.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 4:54 AM on July 20, 2009

The only things that have ever given me nightmares are stories - The Colour out of Space and House of Leaves.

Although the one scene in the original Alien where he is in the ventilation system makes me jump, even though I know exactly when it's coming.
posted by synthetik at 5:59 AM on July 20, 2009

I love being scared, but don't scare very easily. I guess I also have a sensitive stomach--people being hacked to pieces in gruesome ways != scary (for me at least). For example, I couldn't get through Audition because one scene brought me thisclose to vomiting. But it wasn't in the least bit frightening.
posted by orrnyereg at 6:08 AM on July 20, 2009

ok, in that link to the zombie training program, i wonder if the head zombie trainer guy was on purpose looking very michael jacksonesque.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 6:26 AM on July 20, 2009

Love horror films... watched them since I was a kid and allowed to stay up late during the summer for the Horror Double Bill on the BBC during the 70s/80s (a Hammer and a Universal usually... though they added more contemporay shockers towards the end)

That said most horror nowadays is pretty poor... Saw is pretty rough round the edges, and the sequal I've seen was very MTVesque (teens, slick visuals, no real shock - problem with a lot of cinemia nowadays out side of horror).

The only decent horror I've seen lately came from well outside the Hollywood mainstream such as Let The Right One In, one of the best films I saw last year. À l'intérieur (Inside) was a great low budget gore-filled shocker from France. Mum And Dad - a British film shot on a micro budget got right under my skin - probably because, like Inside being mostly in one location makes it very claustrophobic, plus the fact it's based on/inspired by real events (The West murders)

When I first saw Ringu I though I might actually have a heart attack myself at the climatic moment... helped by watching it in total darkness. I was somewhat obsessed with it from a while and wrote an article about it (self link). Still got a keyring with a frame from the film (the well in the video)... but I don't have on my keys any more as it cracked. . I think Sadako wants to get out...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:48 AM on July 20, 2009

I'm a big fan of Ringu. Saw it at a film festival in Helsinki pretty soon after it had come out in Japan, so there was no hype to it yet. It was among the 12 or so movies I was going to see that week and I'd bought a ticket for me and a friend just because Japanese horror was a bit new and different around that time. I hadn't read a synopsis or anything really. It's one of the only films I remember seeing that year at the festival. It was a unique experience and nothing's quite come close since.

The sound design in that film is remarkable and pretty much carries the scary. The very idea was a stupid one, but the thing that the American remake truly messed up on was the cursed video itself. The Japanese video is creepy in and of itself, mainly thanks to the tortured audio and imagery (watch at your own peril). The American one is overproduced, lengthy, flat and, as one of the characters points out, it looks like a student film (watch here).
posted by slimepuppy at 7:47 AM on July 20, 2009

Yeah, I'm gonna back misozaki up here. Thanks for turning my humble opinion into a pretty awesome discussion about J-Horror and horror in general.

On the subject of Saw, I have a question. I can't seem to find anyone who's ever watched the movie Senseless, or read Stona Fitch's novel that inspired it. It's Saw-esque but in this kind of detached way: torture is there, but it's not quite the reason you're watching. I thought it was decent, but it did have that "pretentious arty vibe" to it sometimes.
posted by Askiba at 8:05 AM on July 20, 2009

(My bad: broked link)
posted by Askiba at 8:06 AM on July 20, 2009

First, I agree w/ grumblebee's general sentiments in this thread. And Aliens is definitely a horror movie, to me at least. That movie scares the shit out of me.

Surprised nobody's mentioned Jacob's Ladder-- I guess it's a 'psychological thiller' but whatevs, comedy to me.

Finally, Koreans own this spacE!
posted by jcruelty at 9:18 AM on July 20, 2009

I guess this is even more towards 'thriller' but the original Vanishing (Spoorloos, not the American remake which no doubt blows) is a really scary movie. I still get creeped out thinking about sometimes.
posted by jcruelty at 9:21 AM on July 20, 2009

And hindsight may cast a jaundiced eye, but I remember when I saw Blair Witch Project (the 1st, didn't see the sequel). The end? SCARY! And when we came out the theatre had tied up little bundles of sticks and hung them from the ceiling... that was great. Shivers.

Oh and +1 for Ringu. Tale of Two Sisters on the other hand, I thought was a little hackneyed. I guess it was more of a mystery than anything.
posted by jcruelty at 9:24 AM on July 20, 2009

I thought Blair Witch Project was creepy, not scary. I have more time for good creepy over bad scary.
posted by slimepuppy at 9:59 AM on July 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

For anyone still reading this thread. I have to push this indie film Home Movie as one of the most chilling things I've seen in ages. Great building up of atmos and dread. Should appeal to asian horror crowd (well it worked for me at any rate). Doesn't feel low budget in the slightest (having adrian pasdar probably helps).

trailer doesn't do it justice, but it's all there is: trailer
posted by Smegoid at 10:03 AM on July 20, 2009

I thought Blair Witch Project was creepy, not scary.

I remember that when that came out, it was very fashionable to say that it wasn't scary at all- which was hilarious coming out of the mouths of people I'd seen coming out of the theatre looking around nervously.

I maintain that Blair Witch is a mirror for your attitude. Go in looking to be creeped out, it's great. Go in looking to not care, you won't.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:12 AM on July 20, 2009

Jacob's Ladder was a bit like Prince of Darkness in atmosphere. Those bit shots - the guy with the head, all that.
Altered States - same sort of thing. Really goofy (the bit with the monkeys I almost wet my pants over here), but seriously heavy in parts if you take it at all seriously.
Blair Witch I enjoyed but... I got motion sickness for the first time in my life though. I mean, I flew back from ROTA in a cargo hammock through a major storm after drinking a bottle of rum and I went surfing the next day. Blair Witch, I couldn't eat popcorn for a week.

I think the best horror films are completely deadpan in the plot. The Shining for example, is about a writer and his family and some of their problems, except something goes seriously awry.
There's what's supposed to be going on and what is going on that seems to cause the tension (because, y'know, I'm a big time screenwriter). Just from watching a lot of film, that seems to do it. Guy just wants to write, get back in touch with his wife and kid...y'know, that goofy trailer that reworks the Shining into a happy family film sort of works to illustrate that.
Here are people who would otherwise work through their stuff like normal folks except for this horror.
The horror can't be the pretext. Because I think in most cases people just bail when stuff gets too weird.
Which (to struggle back to topic) is what's neat about a lot of Japanese (et.al) horror in that it is more existential and builds slowly.
A zombie jumps out at you, you're gone. A zombie just standing in the yard... hmmmm.
Yesterday I saw a homeless guy walking down an exit ramp, ragged clothes, head cocked to the side, oblivious to speeding traffic and the 1/2 foot margin between himself and the concrete barrier, looked just like a zombie in a movie. I caught the light and he's getting closer and I'm thinking a number of things, but what I'm not doing is anticipating that he *is* a zombie.
Which is what would catch you off guard. The unreality of it. The tension between 'real' life and circumstances. My huge multi-million dollar screenplays notwithstanding (smirk) seems to me that's where horror tends to come from.
Chet and Babs get hacked to death by some slasher, hell, that's barely news.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:54 AM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I thought the end of "Blair Witch" was brilliant and there was some scary stuff in it. My main problem with it was the main character (the woman making the movie). I found her insufferable. I know that was purposeful. It was -- once again -- the bitchy character who gets everyone into trouble. Another cliche. It's one of my least favorites, because as a viewer, I'm forced to live with the bitchy person.

Don't take "bitchy" as misogynistic. I also count the billionaire businessman who insists everyone come to an island with him to trap the giant Whatever. In addition to being a billionaire, he's also always a nasty asshole who pushes and threatens people. And, of course, he's going to die horrible. Which makes the film a simplistic, moralistic fable.
posted by grumblebee at 11:56 AM on July 20, 2009

Smedleyman, I think the real problem in "The Shining" is that the writer hates his wife, his kid and himself. In a non-horror film, the result of this would play out in a less operatic way, but it would still be pretty terrible. From the beginning of the film, it's pretty clear to me that this family is not going to have a happy ending. The supernatural stuff just magnifies the pre-existing dynamics.
posted by grumblebee at 12:00 PM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

One of the great things about Blair Witch when it first came out was the uneasy idea of it being a real video. They had websites and all kinds of viral marketing for that thing and this was like in 1998. Then the actors showed up at a film festival and everybody kind of went with it being just some low budget put on.
The best thing to come out of that movie are the Scooby Doo Blair Witch videos Cartoon Network made
posted by P.o.B. at 12:05 PM on July 20, 2009

I don't get kicks from being scared, so I don't like much in the way of horror movies (and horror video games even less so), but there are a few that I've enjoyed, generally because of some interesting macguffin or puzzlyness or a sense of a large mythology that you're only seeing a fraction of.

Hellraiser -- The mythology and the Box are interesting. I like the first and second ones, and the fourth one (because it's about the Box itself, but other than that it's not a great movie). The third and fifth ones were terrible.

Phantasm -- The spheres are neat. Reggie is a great hero. The Tall Man is a great villain. Every movie answers a few questions, and adds as many new ones. Pity they never wrapped it up.

Cube -- as previously mentioned. Don't watch the sequels.

Saw -- I like the first one a lot, loved the puzzles. Haven't seen the sequels, though I hear the latest ones are becoming good again.
posted by rifflesby at 12:36 PM on July 20, 2009

Forgot to mention in 'decent recent horror films' is The Descent. Especially as it's pretty damn mainstream with a cute teen-friendly cast. I love Neil Marshall's other films as well, Dog Soldiers and Doomsday. The latter was pretty much panned, but I love all the films it ripped-off, was a tribute to, so I pretty much loved it as well.

And I forgot to slag off Hostel. Wow, that was bad... laugh out loud terrible.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:49 PM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Smegoid: Home Movie looks great! I've added it to my Netflix queue. Thanks for the recommendation.
posted by orrnyereg at 1:02 PM on July 20, 2009

I thought the American version just ruined it, because they completely tipped off that something bad was going to happen.

Yeah, really?

Ringu: pick up phone post-video, freaky ass sounds greet you. Strange and mysterious.
The Ring: pick up phone post-video, stage whisper: "SEVEN DAAAAYYYSSSS!" Dumb and telegraphed.

Glad for the commentary in this thread though, as I have Let The Right One In queued up and ready to go, and keep forgetting to get ahold of Spider. Also: the fourth Hellraiser is good? I would have never known, not forcing myself to go past the third (liked 1 and 2). I liked the original Cube. I also found Ju-on pretty effective.

Some scary movies aren't very "cool" -- The Entity, The Exorcism of Emily Rose.
Most cool movies aren't that scary -- Nomads, Prince of Darkness, the Hellraisers, the Phantasms.
I still put my money on In The Mouth of Madness for the best of both worlds. (heh)

Also: Korean horror films freak me the fuck out.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:05 PM on July 20, 2009

Also also: please post a horror thread once a week. I can't read enough of them.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:05 PM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just going to throw this out there:

Synechdoche, NY is a horror movie, isn't it?
posted by empath at 3:09 PM on July 20, 2009

I watched A Tale of Two Sisters a few months ago, after hearing a bunch of hype for it. I just don't get it. It was slow (if you prefer, "suspenseful") and more weird than scary.
posted by graventy at 3:14 PM on July 20, 2009

I've mentioned this here before, but I've come to appreciate horror movie cliches in the same way as some people do romantic comedies.

I sort of feel the same way. I view genre conventions as the parameters of a formal poem. There are all these beats a movie has to hit (structurally, thematically), but the way it hits those beats is where the meat is.
posted by brundlefly at 3:31 PM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

It was slow (if you prefer, "suspenseful") and more weird than scary.

That is (my apologies) very much the way I felt about Ringu, which admittedly I did see after I saw The Ring -- a movie I think is only about a few dozen times better, and not just because of when Naomi Watts goes into the well in her super-clingy white shirt. The obvious, on the nose thing for me to say here is that The Ring is just a superior movie, but I'm willing to concede that cultural factors may come into play: I may be conditioned to react more strongly to special effects more advanced than, um, a photo negative shot that means you're dead, for one thing (and by "conditioned" I mean "spoiled by movies with astronomical effects budgets"). I may be conditioned to react with eyerolling when faced with a weepy female protagonist and her barking husband, but highly accepting of a career woman/manchild/problem child dynamic, because the latter feels more like real life to me. (Oh, does it ever.) I may be more predisposed to appreciate a story as fleshed out as that of The Ring, and less interested in the vaguer, more ephemeral threat of Ringu. And so on. I tend to think The Ring is just a more accomplished film (it is, to continue with my film heresy, a damnsight better than Verbinski's following films, nine-hour throbbing headache factories I find nearly fucking unwatchable), but I do wonder how much of that comes down to an unconscious bias toward American films. I also wonder if maybe I'd just like Ringu more than I do if it had better subtitles.

posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:00 PM on July 20, 2009

"The supernatural stuff just magnifies the pre-existing dynamics."

Right. That's what I'm saying. 'Terrible' in the sense that there's a story there without the horror elements. There needs to be a story. Then you can have the horror.
Too much of the genre stuff seems to focus on that rather than the story. Look kids! Space! or Look kids! Guts!
Cube, et.al have that realism to support the suspension of disbelief for the horror. The Shining has it in spades. Psycho too. And Audition takes that concept completely off the rails (to head back towards the Asian horror), where it's completely real, but unreal, because hey, there was a whole story going on here and a character you can get empathize with and it was all headed somewhere, but now it's different.
I guess you get a sense of loss? Dunno. Wish I was more literate in this stuff.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:05 PM on July 20, 2009

I think it's probably better with worse subtitles. The bootleg I watched had terrible subtitles and it just made the movie more disorienting.

posted by empath at 4:07 PM on July 20, 2009

The Descent is one of the scariest things I've ever seen, though the version I saw in Japan ends in a manner that makes the proposed sequel impossible, which is great, because that movie shouldn't have a sequel. The use of lighting, the idea that the film would be lit only by things the actors were carrying gave the film a terrifying aspect. I watched it in the middle of the afternoon, bright daylight outside, and I wanted to turn the movie off at several points because it was just too much (and I like horror).

I'd actually argue that the Japanese Ringu is, due to the effects, just a touch dated. Turning the film negative when bad things happened, it's laughable now. The American version, I thought, was fantastic as an example of atmosphere and mood.

Blair Witch was pretty decent, though the best thing from the film was the timeline of the "real" Blair Witch from the 1600s on through the present. I remember seeing it as an ad in a Rolling Stone Magazine, just a list of all of the random things that had happened in the woods (including the hunting party showing up on the rock, bound to each other, all with their tongues cut out... kind of a creepy image, really).

The kicker, though, was the ending. That night, at home, I went to bed. I realized then that I absolutely could not open my eyes. I was convinced that, if I opened them, there would be someone standing in the corner of the room, with their back to me, looking down, and then the thing which I couldn't see would then, well, y'know.

Last bit: I saw this in the summer before I went to China. We kept up with movies through the massive markets of pirated VCDs in China, and my American co-workers there watched the Blair Witch for the first time there. The problem was, the version that they had was copied from a promotional disc. As the woman ran down the stairs into the basement of the old house, the screen went dark and carried the words "Go see The Blair Witch Project in theaters this summer!" They were stunned, and demanded to know how it ended. I told them that, really, the film ended less than a minute later, but they refused to believe me.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:01 AM on July 21, 2009

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