J-horror Inquirer article

J.sharp j.sharp at hpo.net
Fri Jun 9 07:17:41 EDT 2006

> Japanese horror since the mid-eighties has certainly been increasingly
influenced by Western horror, but that covers a multitude of cultural
backgrounds with no single identity.

With EVIL DEAD TRAP perhaps best representing this trend, with its
Argento-esque music and lighting and Cronenbergian imagery.

>As for the first American horror boom, the >Universal years, look at the
central figures: >actors like Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lionel >Atwill,
George Zucco, Claude Rains, Basil >Rathbone, directors like Tod
Browning, Roy >Neill, and James Whale, scriptwriter Curt Siodmak >and his
director brother Robert Siodmak, even >Universal head man Carl Laemle Sr-
all the big >names, and every one of them European.

To this don't forget to add the German cinematographer Karl Freund, who
basically brought the same expressionistic style he had developed at UFA to
Are you sure that Todd Browning is European? I always thought he was one of
the only American's who pioneered the genre at this time in America- film's
like THE UNKNOWN, THE UNHOLY THREE, and FREAKS are particularly interesting
in this case, because they do establish their horrific/fantasy elements
within an American context.

>  talent.     Jim.  "J.sharp" <j.sharp at hpo.net> wrote:  I think
it is a mistake to analyse this in terms of a basic dichotomybetween East
and West as represented by the two extremes of Japan andHollywood. Horror as
a global cinematic genre has over its history receivedinspiration from all
sorts of diverse sources, and had a long andinteresting history long before
Hollywood belatedly discovered howprofitable it could be with its
coffee-table horros like Rosemary's Baby andThe Omen.Firstly, horror is most
certainly not an exclusively all-American genre. Inits most simple model,
its literary origins, the writings of Stoker,Shelley, Conan Doyle, Le Fanu
et al are British or Irish (with the exceptionof Poe). Its cinematic
origins, the expressive use of light and
>  shadow andcamera movement was brought by the Germans in films like
Caligari, Faust andNosferatu. These elements were first combined and applied
in a commercialformula in the Universal films from the 1931 adaptations of
Dracula,Frankenstein and the Invisible Man onwards. But the first American
horrorboom from Universal was pretty short, barely lasting into the 40s
where itcame to an ignoble end with all those ridiculous House of
Frankenstein typemad monster conventions, where they'd throw in Dracula, the
mummy, thewolfman, Frankenstein and the rest of them into one 70-minute
film. For the50s, Hollywood was more concerned with paranoid "reds under the
bed"fantasies, with the Russians represented by flying saucers or
giantradioactive insects crawling around Arizona. Horror was effectively
replacedby science fiction in America after the war.But this I think makes
the synchronous arrival of the groundbreaking
>  genrefilms of Terence Fisher at Hammer studios and Nobuo Nakagawa at
Shintohoall the more interesting.Why did two countries at opposite sides of
the world begin work in a genrethey had never really touched before (ok,
there were British horrors in the30s, but it was never a hugely successful
market) but which was to become solucrative to their industries (albeit at
different points in history). Partof the answer is probably due to a
relaxation in censorship after the war -weren't horror films banned in the
UK during the war?One thing that I have always been unclear on is the
question of where NobuoNakagawa's increasingly bloody Kaidan films like
Ghost of Yotsuya were inanyway influenced by Hammers films, or in other
words, were Hammer filmsever released in Japan during the late 50s. I don't
think they could havebeen, because most of these works were being made at
exactly the same time.Its just a
>  coincidence.Anyway, during the 60s horror was pretty much dominated by
the Europeans -mainly the Italians, Germans and British. America had a few
notableadditions later on in the decade, namely Rosemary's Baby and Night of
theLiving Dead, but for the most part its contributions were either
forgottonz-grade exploitation films for the drive-in market or in the case
of RogerCorman's Poe adaptations, emulations of European films.The Japanese
horror film in the 60s boasts one interesting sounding title Ihave never
seen, entitled Ghost of the Hunchback / Kaidan Semushi Otoko(1965), directed
by Hajime Sato for Toei . The Aurum Encyclopedia of Horrordescribes this as
belonging to a gothic tradition then very prevalent inItaly "with lighting
and costumes and modelled on the gothic films of MarioBava and Antonio
Margeriti". Could this really be true? Were Bava's filmsreleased in Japan in
the early 60s?So in other
>  words, rather than looking at J-horror vis-a-vis American
horrortraditions, its necessary to look at the whole picture and ask
questionslike why did Italy start making horror films the same time as
Britain andJapan. Did these countries continue making horrorf films perhaps
becausethey were easy to sell to the American market? Which American,
British,Italian German or whatever horror films were actually screened in
Japanaround the same time they were released?Regarding the second point,
Nakata has never denied his influence fromHollywood films, both in
Videodrone, The Haunting, Poltergeist for the firstRing, and Exorcist 2 in
the second - he always in interviews cites these asexplicit influences. As
the genre's strongest proponent in Japan, KiyoshiKurosawa has very eclectic
viewing habits for example, and I know that he isas big a fan of Italian
gothic films by the likes of Mario Bava as he is ofthe work of Jean-Luc
>  Godard, and he certainly watches a lot of Americanhorror too.This is just
my view of the complex picture to counter all these articlesabout J-horror
and threads I keep seeing on film websites to the effect of"Japan is a new
source of inspiration for Hollywood but thats ok becausethey have been
stealing ideas from Hollywood for decades".Any thoughts on this,
anyone?Jasperhttp://www.flipsidemovies.comhttp://jimharper.blogspot.com Send
instant messages to your online friends http://uk.messenger.yahoo.com

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