Happy Halloween! Everyone knows the one where the girl crawls out of the TV. And the one with that chubby boy with black eyes. But what about the one where the grand piano eats the girl? Or the one where the dude gets licked by a man with a goat’s head? Didn’t think so. This Halloween, if you really want to give yourself nightmares, check out these 4 bizarre and obscure Japanese horror films.
By far the most obscure film on this list, Sweet Home has yet to be released on DVD anywhere. Only a VHS version exists, but thanks to the YouTubes you can watch the movie in its entirety (note: even though it says English subtitles, there aren’t any. Sorry.)
I’m not really sure why this film isn’t more popular. A film crew goes to a creepy old mansion to uncover a mural by a reclusive painter and stumble upon the enraged ghost of his dead wife. The cinematography and special effects are fantastic. The film plays with shadow in a lot of creative ways as well. Sweet Home is a fantastic haunted house film that deserves more attention, or a DVD version at the very least.
We go from a standard haunted house romp into this. I don’t even know where to begin with Gozu. It’s dark, surreal, and downright disturbing at times.
A yakuza member named Ozaki starts to lose his mind, believing a sweet little chihuahua to be a trained yakuza assassin. From there, underling Minami is tasked with killing Ozaki by driving him out into the countryside for a long goodbye. Things go awry when they get into a fender bender and Ozaki ends up breaking his neck and dying anyway. Then his body disappears while Minami asks for directions in a strange coffee shop. And it just keeps spiraling more and more out of control from there.
There’s a man with a goat’s head, innkeepers obsessed with milk, a mysterious woman who claims to be Ozaki, and a lot of other things that make varying degrees of sense. Everything about what you’re seeing on screen has the logic of a fever dream. And you just can’t help but keep watching until the (uplifting?) confused end.
Now for something a bit more traditional. Onibaba is the story of two women living in the remote countryside who kill wandering soldiers and loot their bodies for gold and valuables. Wholesome family entertainment.
Released in 1964, this black and white classic gives off a heavy mood. The monochrome palette, along with the eerie imagery of the river and susuki grass field that the woman live around creates a claustrophobic atmosphere. It’s this ominous air that really sets the film apart. The image of the vengeful demon woman floating among the tall grasses at night is something that won’t easily leave your mind. It certainly isn’t a gore-filled scare fest, but if you’re looking for something more subversively terrifying, then Onibaba is it.
If you thought Gozu sounded weird, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet. At least Gozu is tonally consistent for the most part. House, on the other hand, jumps from girly friendship film to horror to comedy to something I find hard to put into words. The special effects are purposefully cartoonish (sometimes they’re actual cartoons), the hand-painted backdrops are reminiscent of something out of Wizard of Oz, and those shifts in tone are whiplash-inducing. House needs to be seen to be believed.
For a haunted house story with such a bland title, it’s pretty amazing how ambitious this film is in terms of the creative ways it finds to scare. That grand piano eating the girl that I mentioned in the intro? Yep, that’s this film. Other highlights include a disembodied head biting a girl in the rear and a cat painting spewing gallons of blood. Because the title is so generic, just make sure you look for the 1977 film when seeking it out.
So there you go, 4 films for your viewing pleasure this Halloween. Even if they don’t scare you, they’re sure to unnerve and confuse you.
What films will you be watching for Halloween? Know of any others that people may not have heard of? Let us know in the comments below.