Asian Horror FAQ
This Frequently Asked Questions list was originally posted on the Creature Corner/ CHUD message boards. It aims to answer questions about the latest wave of horror movies from Japan, Hong Kong, and Korea. Note: The Creature-Corner links are now directed to back-up pages at Archive.org. Some of the pictures may be missing, but the text should be intact.
Asian Horror FAQ
LAST UPDATED JUNE 2003
The purpose of this FAQ is to help answer questions on the strange world of Asian horror on DVD. It is not meant to discourage discussion of these movies, only curb redundant threads. This is a work in progress. If you have anything to contribute or disagree with, please post it here and I’ll include your info in the next revision. Since many chewers (myself included) live in the U.S., I’m addressing some DVD region code questions also.
How can I see some of these Asian horror movies people are talking about? Are they available on DVD?
Some are available for Region 1, some aren’t. (Note: discs that are not region specific are referred to as Region 0.) Many folks are using region-free DVD players. Many are on VCD’s (video compact discs) that run on most DVD players and computers. There’s also the bootleg videotape route, but I won’t be listing links for that here.
How do I get a region-free DVD player?
There’s no simple answer to this question. Players that have been recommended on these boards include the Sampo line available at :
Sampo (and maybe the Malata?) available here:
And there’s always Ebay:
PlayStation 2 Game Sharks can act as Region-free DVD players. The Game Shark is usually used to “cheat” at video games.
I have a region-free player. Does that mean I can watch either PAL or NTSC?
Good question. The television standard in the U.S. is NTSC. The UK, Europe, and various other parts of the globe use PAL. All Region 1 discs are NTSC. Region 2 discs can be PAL or NTSC. As I understand it, most PAL players can run either PAL or NTSC discs. Most NTSC players are only good for NTSC. DVD players with built-in PAL to NTSC capability include the Malata N996 or 960, and any in the Sampo line. (If you’re in the UK and you know more about this, let me know.)
Where do I purchase Asian horror movies?
http://www.play.com (UK, but has Region 1)
http://www.dddhouse.com (Hong Kong – in partial english, amazingly cheap)
http://www.coolashop.com (Hong Kong – in english)
http://www.amazon.co.jp (Japan – in Japanese)
http://www.cdjapan.co.jp (Japan – in english)
http://www.dvdasian.com (partial english)
http://www.hkflix.com (import company in the USA)
http://www.pokerindustries.com (specializes in imports)
http://www.sazuma.com/ (specializes in imports)
http://www.videojunkie.com (has videotapes as well as DVD)
and there’s always http://www.ebay.com
Note: some sites (like DDDHouse) list prices in Hong Kong dollars. Just divide by roughly 7.70 to find out what they’ll charge you in U.S. funds. Your credit card company will figure out the math. Want to know today’s exact exchange rate? Go here:
What are some good Asian movie resources?
The Hong Kong Movie Database
Asian DVD Guide
Kung Fu Cinema
What movies do you recommend?
Here’s a short list of fan favorites, with synopses and links.
directed by Takashi Miike
“I have to say that this is one hell of a mindf**k movie. I mean, people usually focus on the last twenty odd minutes on the movie (don’t get me wrong, it is plenty brutal), but this whole film is quite trippy. it starts out as a serious melodrama, but it really starts going bad remarkably soon, with some very interesting time switching and so on. A great film… maybe not necessarily a pure horror film, but that doesn’t make it less of a compelling terror flick….” – Sethos
Audition should be easy to find for any region.
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
“‘Battle Royale’ is a film about the not-to-distant future Japan where the kids have become so unruly they never show up for school anymore, and would much rather stab their teachers then learn from them. A game is created called ‘Battle Royale’ where one particular class of kids is shipped to an evacuated island and left to fend for themselves with whatever they’re given by the sickos running it. Only one kid can be left alive at the end of the three days, or they all die.” – Johnny Butane
It is now legitimately available in the U.S. on DVD, as a special-order UK import via Tartan video.
Region 0 NTSC DVD from the UK
BR fansite http://www.battleroyaleonline.com/
Directed by Wilson Yip
“… heavily based on Dawn Of The Dead by way of the survival horror game genre. It’s a really weird film, part slapstick, part zombie film, and I quite enjoyed it. It needed more zombie gore to make it a true classic, but if you’re open to a little offbeat Eastern horror, it’s worth tracking down.” – Dan Whitehead
Region 0 DVD:
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
“The whole film just has a subtle dreamlike atmosphere, which gradually increases throughout the thing. At the start of the film its presented as murder mystery, and the viewer will feel that he is already one up on the detective by the first 30 minutes, but as the film goes by everything becomes less tangible, and viewer learns that maybe the murder mystery itself isn’t what’s important.” – Frank Booth
Directed by Hideo Nakata
“At it’s heart ‘Dark Water’ is not really a ghost movie. It’s a drama with a ghost put in to help empahsize what’s really going on. Abandonment is a huge theme throughout, and you can’t help but wonder if Nakata hasn’t experienced or known someone who went through the same type of thing, since he’s got a good grasp on how it can affect a person years down the road.” – Johnny Butane
“The one thing that was missing from “Ring” is here laid on in spades: emotion.” – Straxboy
Directed by Herman Yau
“…a classic of hideous proportions.” – Dave Davis
“I’m of the opinion that people who are monumentally stupid only get what they deserve, and ‘Ebola Syndrome’ takes that belief and literally grinds the noses of the moronic head first into their own filth.” – Girlcreeture
EVIL DEAD TRAP
Directed by Toshiharu Ikeda
“I’ve never seen anything else by director Toshiharu Ikeda so I cannot tell what his track record is, but the guy must be a SERIOUS Argento fan. The soundtrack, the storyline itself in some ways, the way the movie is shot; all these elements are reminiscent of Argento and the giallo genre. As previously mentioned, there is eyeball violence present in Evil Dead Trap and much more by way of cruel death that any giallo horror fan would appreciate it, from the manner of each victim’s death to the atmosphere created in these scenes. There’s also a bit of Raimi injected in the film as well, with some crazy first person POV’s done in the same deadite fashion as, you guessed it! Evil Dead!” – Girlcreeture
Region 0 DVD – buy through the EvilShop:
EVIL DEAD TRAP 2: HIDEKI
Directed By Izo Hashimoto
“Sequels rarely compare to their originals, but in this case the sequel to the original Evil Dead Trap is far greater… While Evil Dead Trap 1 was an homage to directors like Sam Raimi, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and David Cronenberg (who seems to have made the greatest impression on Asian cinema of recent times) complete with scenes borrowed (or stolen it depends how you look at it) from some of their well known films, packed into a slasher flick, Hideki is more Asian in origin. Argento’s influence by way of dreamlike moments, and a surreal use of colors is evident, but the psychology and content of the film can be traced to film makers like Shinya Tsukomoto.” – Evan
Directed by The Pang Brothers
“At the age of two, Mann has been blind. We’re never told why, but when we meet her, she is preparing for a very risky cornea transplant surgery to restore her vision. It takes a while after the surgery, but eventually she is able to see just fine, despite some flashes of weird stuff here and there. That’s just her brain learning how to deal with processing all that visual information now, right? No, they’re not. Her first real encounter is one of the freakiest things I’ve seen in a long time…” – Johnny Butane
Region 0 DVD regular edition:
Region 0 DVD special edition
THE GRUDGE (JU-ON)
directed by Takashi Shimizu
“Taking the classic idea of a haunted house story and flipping it on its head, Shimizu weaves a vengeful tale about a family whose own demise was filled with so much ire and hate, an unforgiving grudge manifested and was unleashed upon the world. While the concept may seem similar to another Japanese masterpiece about vindictive curses, the execution is a reinvention of classic tactics and storytelling sensibilities recognized in the horror genre.” – J. D. Nguyen
HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS
directed by Takashi Miike
“It’s a distinctly parodic brew that wears a commendably straight face throughout its wild running time. As if Roger Corman had taken a couple of cabaret composers on the piss and subsequently been contractually obliged to make good on a drunken promise to produce their small ensemble musical a la “The Fantasticks”, getting round his genre niche compartmentalizing by including every micro budget trick in the book. Everything you’ve heard about this picture is as bizarre as it is true.” – Straxboy
Review (as part of the London Fright Fest coverage):
Directed by Atsushi Muroga
“While certainly nothing in comparison to other humorous zombie movies like ‘Dead Alive’ or ‘Return of the Living Dead’, ‘Junk’ is still an enjoyable popcorn munching flick. I don’t think it was meant to be considered a ‘funny’ movie, but the bad acting and silly, paper thin plot have nudged it into that category, whether it wants to be there or not, and it’s quite amusing.” – Girlcreeture
All Region PAL DVD:
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
“My GOD what a kick ass movie. Freaky as all hell with some of the best use of sound I’ve ever heard in a movie. Too few filmmakers realize the improtance of good, creepy sound in the creation of atmosphere. If you love Japanese horror or just want to see how damn good at it they are, FIND THIS MOVIE!” – Johnny Butane
Region 2 DVD:
Region 2 and Region 3 at
Directed by Byeong-ki Ahn
“There are some truly creepy scenes where you really have no idea what’s going to happen, and this is what I’ve found the Asians to do best in their horror. They have a way of pacing out a scene in which something’s going to happen…you can feel it coming…but you just don’t know what. And usually when it does happen it scares the shit out of you, too.” – Johnny Butane
RING (RINGU), Ring sequels and remakes
“A videotape makes it way around a circle of friends. Strangely, everyone who views the video tape seems to die exactly one week afterward. After believing this to be an urban legend worthy of an article, a cynical reporter watches the tape and shortly thereafter unsettling occurrences begin to happen to her. Is she slated to be the next victim of some kind of bizarre and seemingly supernatural force?” — Dreamworks synopsis.
You don’t want to know too much before seeing this movie. It involves a cursed tape and a ghostly girl named Sadako. The popularity of the first Ring kicked off the current Japanese horror trend. A Hollywood remake comes out this fall.
The major entries in this series are Ring (also known as Ringu), Ring 2, and Ring 0. Here’s everything, for you completists:
Ring – Based on a Japanese horror novel. The best of the bunch.
Rasen – A sequel based on the book’s sequel. Everyone hates it.
Ring 2 – A more well-received sequel.
Ring 0 Birthday – A prequel of sorts, tells the story of Sadako.
Ring Virus – Korean remake. Reportedly pretty bad.
The Ring – U.S. remake due this October.
TELEVISION SPECIALS (Japanese)
Ring: Kanzenban (Ring: The Complete Edition)
Ring: Saishuushou (Ring: The Final Chapter)
Rasen: The Series
Ring review: http://web.archive.org/web/20040206135728/
Ring 2 review: http://web.archive.org/web/20040206121258/
Ring hype news: http://web.archive.org/web/20040603234019/
Ringu is now available on Region 1 in the U.S.
RingWorld fansite: http://www.somrux.com/ringworld
How to get the various versions: http://www.somrux.com/ringworld/ringMerchandise.htm
“Order the Japanese Ring TV mini series if you get the chance. No subtitles, but there’s a full transcript online. Very good stuff IMO, and emotionally powerful… goes a lot deeper into the whole Ring mythos.” – Adam_72
Transcripts for the 12 episode Ring Saishusho (Saishuushou?) television series:
(Dreamworks remake directed by Gore Verbinski)
There were several sites created to hype this movie last year. Some are gone now, some have been absorbed by the official site.
Strange site that has disappeared, but left a 17mb file in its place:
Voltes’ analysis of Verbinski’s remake:
ST. JOHN’S WORT
Directed by Shimoyama Ten
“St. John’s Wort is pretty good. It’s based on Survival Horror videogames and quite often uses conventions from those games rather than movies…dialogue appears above character’s heads in text boxes, important items are obviously highlighted…it’s a very well shot movie, highly inventive with what seems to be a small budget. The plot revolves around a girl inheriting her father’s mansion and going to check the place out with her ex-boyfriend, a videogame designer looking for new ideas for his next horror game. Needless to say, a rainstorm traps them in the old, dark house and dark family secrets soon come lurching out of the closet.” – Scareycrow
Region 3 DVD:
TELL ME SOMETHING
Directed by Yoon-Hyung Chang
“‘Tell Me Something’ is more of a thriller than straight horror, but when the horror’s there, it’s got the gore and the tension you want. In the same vein as ‘Silence of the Lambs and ‘Nightwatch’, it’s a serial killer flick worthy of a look-sie by all you lovely creetures.” – Girlcreeture
Directed by Higuchinsky
“I was happily reminded of the wish segment from ‘Twilight Zone: The Movie’, particularly, the scene where the woman does not get to see that the boy has wished his sister’s mouth away (but we do, oh boy do we ever get see that nightmare) and she ignorantly follows him to some other room in the house, oblivious to the horrors around her. That’s very much what Uzumaki is like.” – Girlcreeture
Region 3 DVD:
Written & Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura
“At the very least its the best japanese/martial arts/zombie/yakuza/prison break out movie ever!” – TheRealSnausage
Media Blasters has announced a U.S. DVD release July 29th, 2003. Read the story here: http://web.archive.org/web/20040226183318/
The VCD is currently available, though many complain about the readability of the subtitles.
Region 2 DVD:
There are various bootleg DVDs available from time to time on Ebay. Some are horrible. Some aren’t.
Versus official website in Japanese: http://kss-movie.com/versus/
Directed by Tetsuro Takeuchi
“Don’t expect serious horror with this one. Why? For one, it stars Guitar Wolf, a Japanese post-punk rock band who sounds a lot like The Ramones. The band’s trio (Guitar Wolf, Bass Wolf, and Drum Wolf) are not seasoned actors so the most they can do is reek of tough-guy attitude in their leather jackets and sunglasses and ham it up for the camera…you love every minute of it. It’s hilarious.” – Ryan Rotten
All Region PAL DVD (German edition):
DON’T LOOK UP (Joyuu-Rei) Remake news:
Article on Hideo Nakata’s American film project, True Believers:
General Asian Movie forum: