J-horror Inquirer article

Michael McCaskey mccaskem at georgetown.edu
Thu Jun 8 11:17:42 EDT 2006

Many thanks! I gave a lecture comparing recent Japanese films with more recent US remakes a year ago, and have been asked to do an updated lecture on the same topic a couple of months from now. This material from you has led me to several new items, and includes useful links as well.

It seems that in recent years, apart from Shall We Dance, and a contemplated near-future Ikiru remake, Americans are indeed largely focused on remaking Japanese horror movies.

Does anyone know about any other non-horror remakes, recent or on the horizon? Scorsese has talked about a remake of Shinoda's Chinmoku/Silence (1971), based on Endo's novel. This remake is supposedly going to be released in 2008, but I don't know if work has actually begun on it yet. It seems to me that I also came across a notice about a recent Japanese remake of Chinmoku.

Many Thanks,

Michael McCaskey

----- Original Message -----
From: wgardne1 at swarthmore.edu
Date: Thursday, June 8, 2006 8:56 am
Subject: J-horror Inquirer article

> For those who follow American media coverage on Japanese film, 
> there was an article in today's 
> Philadelphia Inquirer about the death and un-death of J-Horror. 
> The online version also includes 
> links to some web resources.
> http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/14765415.htm
> a copy is pasted below--
> Cheers,
> Will Gardner
> Swarthmore, PA
> -------------
> J-Horror haunts Hollywood
> http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/14765415.htm
> Posted on Thu, Jun. 08, 2006
> The Asian film phenomenon has studios scrambling to do remakes. 
> But you can scare up the 
> even creepier originals on DVD.
> By Tirdad Derakhshani
> Inquirer Staff Writer
> In "Ju-On," Megumi Okina plays a young woman who discovers the 
> house she bought is 
> occupied by vengeful spirits - of the previous tenants, brutally 
> murdered.
> J-Horror is dead.
> J-Horror has never been bigger.
> Banking on the success of two American remakes of Japanese films, 
> The Ring and The Grudge, 
> Hollywood has at least 16 more remakes of so-called J-Horror films 
> in various stages of 
> acquisition, production and release - a major gamble on a minor genre.
> During the late '90s, the Asian cinema - not just Japanese - 
> produced a bunch of deliciously 
> surreal and creepy flicks, including Tomie (she's so lovable, 
> you're compelled to kill her) and 
> Phone, about the cell phone from hell ("Can you hear me now? Good: 
> you're about to d-d-d... 
> aaagh!!").
> Even as the phenomenon is being promoted in Everytown U.S.A. (the 
> next remake, of Kiyoshi 
> Kurosawa's Pulse, opens July 14), cineastes and critics say the 
> original J-Horror mini-movement 
> is over. Kaput. R.I.P.
> Yet the transformation of the genre from cult to cash cow has had 
> one great side effect: It has 
> opened up the home video market to obscure Asian titles, many of 
> which are available from 
> small distributors, including Tartan Films USA and Media Blasters.
> Tartan U.S. president Tony Borg said his Asia Extreme line, 
> launched in January 2005, appeals to 
> the "17- to 28-year-old video gamer, anime fan and Maxim magazine 
> reader... . The 
> demographic is very young, hip, cool and edgy."
> Oh, the (J-) horror
> The "annoying" term J-Horror was, according to filmmaker and 
> critic Nicholas Rucka, slapped 
> onto a few, hard-to-categorize Japanese imports such as Ringu, Ju-
> On and Séance, by fans. The 
> '90s movies seriously wigged out horror devotees with their 
> gruesome, weirdly paced stories of 
> ghosts most sorrowful and vengeful.
> Rucka, who writes for Midnight Eye, an online journal about 
> Japanese film, said the movies 
> eschewed computer-generated effects, instead relying on great 
> lightning, cinematography and 
> offbeat stories.
> In contrast to Western tales, which are "logic- and morality-
> bound," Japanese yarns presuppose 
> "a belief that spirits inhabit most everything, from inanimate 
> objects to living creatures," Rucka 
> said. So there's need to explain the haunting, and the story can 
> give a deeper sense of the 
> ghost's psychology and its interaction with the world.
> He said the success of the American version of The Ring in '02 
> pushed the Japanese industry - 
> which had already exhausted the genre - to keep cranking out 
> identical films about "vengeful 
> ghosts [with] long stringy black hair, impossible physical 
> gymnastics, meowing little ghost boys, 
> cursed videos or cell phones or computers..."
> The effects-driven Ring, he said, was just too excessive. It 
> "missed the point. The original was 
> restrained, subtle, atmospheric... because that actually 
> heightened the tension and the horror."
> Travis Crawford, who programs the "Danger After Dark" series for 
> the Philadelphia Film Festival, 
> said, "Some of my favorite horror films have been remakes, 
> including [Philip] Kaufman's Invasion 
> of the Body Snatchers and David Cronenberg's The Fly... but I have 
> yet to see one of those [J-
> Horror] remakes that hold a candle to the originals."
> "That whole wave of Japanese horror had already peaked by 2001," 
> he said. "Now it's just caught 
> into a cycle of redundancy." (There are nine versions - including 
> sequels, prequels and a 
> television spin-off of The Ring in Japan, the States and Korea, 
> with a 10th, The Ring 3, due next 
> year.)
> The few great filmmakers who have emerged from the J-Horror scene, 
> such as Kiyoshi 
> Kurosawa, use horror metaphorically to explore the human 
> condition, said Smithsonian film 
> programmer Tom Vick. Films such as Séance and Cure show that "the 
> whole universe is this 
> mysterious force which is controlling you and which is potentially 
> dangerous."
> Dead or alive
> "I say humbug to the whole 'J-Horror is dead' thing!" said 
> Hollywood screenwriter Ste-phen 
> Susco, who wrote the screenplay for the remake of The Grudge and 
> The Grudge 2, due out in 
> October. Susco said he conceived of The Grudge as a small-budget 
> homage to the Japanese 
> original. But he had a hard time selling the idea in early 2002.
> "Studio execs... are baffled by Asian horror, which is so unique 
> and unconventional," he said. 
> "Right, there's no happy ending," he said, in imitation of the 
> pitch to a studio exec. "And, no, 
> you can never kill the bad creature; and, yep, the film has a lot 
> of spiritual stuff... ."
> Fast-forward a few months to October 2002, when The Ring racked up 
> $129 million at the U.S. 
> box office. "Everybody," Susco said, "started calling us again."
> He said the remakes aren't as extreme as the films by Japanese 
> masters such as Takashi Miike, 
> who directed Audition and Visitor Q.
> "Thank God for the rise of the DVDs, because that way people can 
> at least see those movies," 
> Susco said.
> The ghost in the DVD
> So there's no need to commit seppuku. J-Hope springs eternal - on 
> DVD. Two lines are perfect 
> for the task: Tokyo Shock by Media Blasters, and Tartan's Asia 
> Extreme collection.
> Media Blasters' Richard York exudes optimism, with reason. 
> Launched in 1998, his Tokyo Shock 
> line has more than 125 titles in extreme genres, such as horror, 
> action, gangster and samurai 
> films. Its films include Bushinsaba, by Phone director Byeong-ki 
> Ahn, and Takashi Ishii's deeply 
> disturbing film about a woman seeking revenge on her three 
> rapists, Freeze Me.
> "We are also film fans ourselves," said York, who said the company 
> is seeking out films from 
> Korea and Thailand, where some of the best horror fare is being made.
> The Asia Extreme line, which has 28 titles, is a series of 
> gorgeously packaged DVDs, including 
> the fabulously melodramatic Korean schoolgirls ghost story, 
> Whispering Corridors, and its two 
> sequels; Shinya Tsukamoto's Tetsuo: The Ironman and his heart-
> rending tone poem about a 
> med student who has to dissect his ex-lover, Vital; and Marebito, 
> the first truly great film by 
> Grudge director Takashi Shimizu.
> Tartan company also distributes some of its titles theatrically, 
> including Lady Vengeance, the 
> last entry in Korean director Chan-wook Park's brilliant Vengeance 
> trilogy, which opened in 
> Philly on Friday.
> Borg, Tartan's U.S. president, said the abundance of Hollywood 
> remakes "will actually help us, 
> by raising genre awareness." Think of it as a form of cultural 
> consciousness-raising: Borg said 
> Wal-Mart - Wal-Mart! - enthusiastically carries one of Tartan's 
> first titles, A Tale of Two Sisters.
> (Wal-Mart J-Horror. Wal-Mart J-Horror. Wal-Mart J-Horror. The 
> room's beginning to spin...)
> J-Horror Resources on the Web
> A selection of Web sites about Asian horror films.
> News and Information
> Kyonsi Online Reviews, news and DVD sales: www.kyonsi.com.
> Midnight Eye Online Journal about Japanese Cinema: 
> www.midnighteye.com.
> Tom Vick's blog tomvick.blogspot.com.
> The Ring fan site www.theringworld.com.
> Subway Cinema Organizes the New York Asian Film Festival, June 16 
> to July 1: 
> www.subwaycinema.com.
> DVD Distributors
> ArtsMagic DVD www.artsmagicdvd.com.
> Asian Pulp Cinema www.asiapulpcinema.com.
> Asian Vision www.asiavisionfilms.com.
> Elite Entertainment: www.elitedisc.com.
> Media Blasters www.media-blasters.com.
> Panik House www.panikhouse.com.
> Tartan Films USA www.tartanfilmsusa.com.
> Tartan's Asia Extreme www.asiaextremefilms.com.
> Unearthed Films www.unearthedfilms.com.

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