How do other countries see the homegrown horrors we create on celluloid? When “A Nightmare on Elm Street” debuted in Japan, did horror fans on the other side of the world get to see the art of painter Matthew Joseph Peak? Or when Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” finally made its way through the tangle of draconian censorship laws in the U.K., were audiences greeted with the original, jarring image of Leatherface going to work on one of his victims–or something stranger?
Throughout the month of October, we’ll be looking at the iconic cover art and posters for some of our favorite horror films–as they were seen around the world.
Up to this point, we’ve looked at how other countries have reinterpreted horror films from the U.S. And we’ll definitely keep doing that throughout the month, but after our Ghanian excursion, it felt like a good time to make yet another detour, this time to Japan, who’ve provided some of the most notable reinterpretations of Western films while, of course, generating their own unique homemade horror movie art.
For the purposes of this entry, I wanted to take a look at some of the posters accompanying the late ’90s/early ’00s J-horror boom, the era which saw directors like Hideo Nakata (“Ringu”), Takashi Shimizu (“Ju-On”), and Sion Sono (“Suicide Circle”) approach horror with varying degrees of artistic ambition and scope. of course, each of these movies was targeting a different audience: the “Tomie” films and the seemingly endless “Ju-On” series hitting that sweet spot for teen viewers looking for an annual franchise scare while the icy “Pulse” and “Suicide Circle” offered haunting (sometimes bloody, in the case of the latter film) commentary on what the filmmakers saw as increasingly disconnected societies.
But what about the posters?
I’d wanted to show you a shock of the kind of weirdness and variety that goes into marketing Japanese horror film, but nearly forgot that in spite of their popularity at home, Japanese horror films were kind of under-marketed to their audiences. As here, most J-horror films are low-budget, verging on direct-to-video affairs. Hell, as well-known as one-time bad boy Takashi Miike is here, he still toils off and on with medium to low-budget spectacles with the occasional adaptation thrown in.
That’s not to say you don’t get the occasional cool image like this poster for “Ringu 0: Birthday” (imagine getting a major release here in the U.S. without the floating head of at least one of its stars somewhere on there), and the restrained “Suicide Circle” (AKA “Suicide Club” on these shores) conceals the bloodshed that will follow.
Again, lacking love from the studios, these films didn’t get the elaborate photo montage re-imaginings of the Western imports, and some seemed hastily assembled just to get an image out there (the “Audition” art improved on its release here in the U.S. and abroad).
So that we don’t leave on a completely somber note, I’ve included a couple of posters from a pair of horror classics: the artful anthology “Kwaidan” (1964) and Kaneto Shindô’s hothouse thriller “Onibaba” from the same year.