by OldAnimeLady & etherealtaekibum, December 25, 2019
18

Tokyo Ghoul S - 2019 

2019 has been an incredibly excellent year for horror films; any fan would argue. With releases like Midsommar and Hereditary from the West and the East giving us Parasite, Detention and more, horror is being seen in a different light. More non-horror fans than ever are beginning to look into the various films of the genre, looking at films they wouldn't usually. New sub-genres are making their way into cinema; directors are taking more considerable risks, and some new talent has graced the scene.

Japanese horror is a widely accepted sub-genre of horror in itself, loved immensely by worldwide fans. It's become a staple part of horror, with the names of iconic films on the tips of most people's tongues. With a cult fandom spanning across almost every country in the world, the excitement lies around the upcoming releases as each year comes to an end.
The end of 2018 saw us in excitement (or despair) at the announcement of Sadako witnessing a return to the screen. Zombies, ghosts, ghouls and anime live-action were all promised to us and delivered they were.

As we approach 2020, I wanted to recap the 2019 horror movies of the J-horror genre I managed to come across and see this year.
Please note: I have not read any of these novels, manga or seen any anime these films have been adapted from. All opinion comes from the live-action featured in this list, and the live-action alone. These opinions are from an avid horror fan who is being introduced to the franchise with all of these films.
Please also note that some of these sections may contain mild spoilers but will definitely not give anything significant away.

A massive thank you to OldAnimeLady for helping me figure this article out after a few hiccups.

Are you looking for a good horror? Or just want to know if that sequel or adaption was a cash grab? Sit back, soften the lights and read on.


The Thirteen
List for easier viewing

FILM
DIRECTOR
PLOT
Members of the ultra-dark idol group 'NECRONOMIDOL', Risaki Kakizaki, Rei Imaizumi, Himari Tsukishiro, have booked another concert. With a manager in toe, they arrive to find their hotel and venue is a little different than expected. There seems to be something... off about this concert. However, even the ultra-dark idols aren't prepared for the twists and turns of this live.

Ebisuzawa Kurumi, Takeya Yuki, Wakasa Yuri, and Naoki Miki all attend the same high school. They also live on campus at the school. The girls enjoy their time at the school until students become infected by a virus and turn into zombies. The girls are surrounded by student zombies, and they struggle desperately to survive. 
Kurosawa Akira, assistant director at a film studio, is a weak film nerd who loves class B horror because he is the type that can't deny when asked. At the scene of Kurosawa's current youthful romance film "Kabedon", he lives his days bullied by the director and staff. He always carries the script of "Ghost Master," which he has been writing and dreamed of filming when he become a director. However, Kurosawa's discontent and grudge-like love for "Ghost Master," which is filled with so many harsh scenes, summons a demon, who turns the filming scene into a terrible hellish place. 

Girls who were tragically murdered for no reason live as ghosts and fight against their killers for revenge. Their final wish is to rest in peace, and the mild-mannered living girl Rika agrees to help her new spectral friends. 

Etsuro Kurosu fails to get into a university and becomes a hikikomori. One day, he tries to hang himself from a hook on the wall in his apartment. He fails, but his attempt leaves a hole in the wall. Through the hole wall, Etsuro Kurosu can now see Rio Miyaichi. He becomes fascinated with the girl that lives next door.
Later, while peeping at her through the wall, Etsuro Kurosu sees her in the process of brutally murdering someone. He screams and is caught by her. Etsuro Kurosu confesses that he loves her and they start to date. Etsuro Kurosu feels happiness in his life, but what will happen to him? Will he be murdered by Rio Miyaichi? 


There is a rumour of a website called "Hell Correspondence" which only opens at midnight sharp. When a user types the name of a person to be gotten rid of, a hell girl brings the person to the hell. In return, the user will be sent down to hell at the end of his or her life. A high school girl, Miho, is worried about her friend Haruka being trapped in the evil scheme of a popular rock band after Haruka joins the audition and starts acting strange. As Miho tries to help her friend, she finds herself in the cursed world behind the "Hell Correspondence". 

Mei lives in an orphanage, but she is adopted by the wealthy and kind Uda family. The family already has an adopted daughter Rana. While Rana seems weird, Mei and Rana find that they have a lot in common and become like real sisters. The girls then learn that the Uda family's business has collapsed and they can only keep one of the daughters. One of the girls will be returned to the orphanage in a week. Revenge is soon planned.


Sato Sakichi
Mei lives in an orphanage, but she is adopted by the wealthy and kind Uda family. The family already has an adopted daughter Rana. While Rana seems weird, Mei and Rana find that they have a lot in common and become like real sisters. The girls then learn that the Uda family's business has collapsed and they can only keep one of the daughters. One of the girls will be returned to the orphanage in a week. Revenge is soon planned. 

University students Yuzuru Hamura and Kyosuke Akechi, who are both interested in Mystery Novels; with student Detective Hiruko Kenzaki from the same university, attend a summer camp and stay at Shijinso pension in the mountains. On their first day there, they must barricade themselves in the pension. The next morning, they discover a murder has taken place in the pension. 

Mayu is a psychology counsellor at a hospital. She begins to counsel a girl who is protected by the police. The girl does not remember anything, including her own name. Mysterious cases begin to take place around May. Meanwhile, Mayu's younger brother Kazuma is a YouTuber. He wants to get more viewers and decides to sneak into a burned down site where 5 people died. 

Nakata Hideo
When she was a child, Kyoko was sexually abused by her stepfather. As a coping mechanism, she developed Multiple Personality Disorder. Kyoko now lives with her roommates Naomi, Yukari and Haru. Naomi is a lesbian who likes Kyoko. Kyoko begins to have feelings for her novelist neighbour. Since then, Kyoko's fragile balance in her mind collapses.

Kaneki Ken is a university student. He is also half-ghoul and half-human. He agonizes over his situation. Trying to avoid other ghouls, he shelters himself at Anteiku Cafe and spends time with Kirishima Toka. One day, a ghoul, Tsukiyama Shu, appears at Anteiku Cafe, and he is called the "Gourmet". 


When Saki was a high school student, she often went to Toshimaen Amusement Park with her friends. Now, Saki is a university student. She decides to revisit Toshimaen Amusement Park with her high school friends. There is a rumour called Toshimaen's Curse. The rumour is about an old house at the amusement park. Saki believes the rumour is a joke and she enters the old house with her friends. Her friends begin to disappear one by one. Saki tries to find her friends and comes upon a terrible secret that created the curse. 

These are all the horror films released from Japan in 2019 that are listed on MyDramaList. This list may be missing some - if there are, drop me a message so I can add them into the database or send them in!


Movies that were unavailable to be watched with English sub by the end of December: Ghost Master, Hitsuju to Okami no Koi to Satsujin, Jigoku Shoujo, Kuroi Otome Q, Kuroi Otome A, Murder at Shijinsou, Satsujinki wo Kauonna  - I will watch these when they become available in 2020 and do reviews!



My Personal Pick


My personal pick from these films, one I watched for my sheer enjoyment and excitement, not for a challenge or for an article, is Beyond the Red. I am a huge fan of J-rock so stumbling across this during a 3 am search was like stumbling onto a gold mine. Having never heard of NECRONOMIDOL, I decided to take the chance and sit back to watch the four-part series on their YouTube. Just a small note - whilst the first and second episodes of the four have English subs; we are still waiting on subtitles for three and four. I did have to rely on the Japanese I've picked up over the years to understand what was going on in later episodes.

I do not regret this choice at all.
Coming in at an 8.5/10 from me, this was a wonderful short film that really works for the girls' aesthetic. This was the first time I had come across NECRONOMIDOL, and their performance of Kadath definitely pulled me in as a fan.
The girls act perfectly, the soundtrack is stunning, and everything about this feels like a good horror. It's got a few tropes, but they're not played completely - there's just enough to allow you to recognize them before they're pulled back. Unique for a musical piece like this and fitting their ultra-dark concept, this was frankly one of my favourite horror pieces I watched all year, including non-2019 scary films.
You can watch Beyond the Red here, and you can find NECRONOMIDOL's latest album release here.

Least Favourite


Ah, the end of a year, where you look at your yearly stats and have to remember that one film you despised. When a film is so bad, you barely remember watching it and have to read your own boring review to piece together what it was. Revisiting Ghost Squad for the purpose of this article hurt slightly in my soul.

I watched this for the Drama/Movie watching challenge this year for the task "watch something with less than 1000 completed members". With an average score of 2.1 out of 10 by just 3 users when I picked it (1.3/10 including my vote), I really should have got the memo. Alas, I sat back for 1 hour and 46 minutes of ghosty goodness only to find myself... feeling like I was having a bizarre hallucination.
I am all for over the top, half-nonsensical horror films. This felt like someone let a two-year-old behind the camera and gave them full-reign. There is so much in this it's just... ridiculous. Cue the typical butt, crotch and chest shots, a bunch of props that are so fake it's painful and some over the top drama, and you've got Ghost Squad

It left me very disappointed, extremely confused and with a severe migraine kicking in. I was left disappointed; I'd heard a lot of good things about Iguchi Noboru. He does excel with this over the top, ridiculous horror and horror-comedy style but this was such a bad miss. This plot was excellent, if he'd just toned it down slightly, it could have worked - and he could have done this over the top but still toned down. It's put me off watching his other works, in all honesty. A really lack-luster film full of tropes and terrible decisions, I advise skipping this one and throwing it onto the "Not Interested" list.

Returning Franchise

Sadako has been a prominent feature of Japanese horror since 1998 when Ring was first introduced to theaters. Sadako horrified Japanese audiences and later went on to terrify the West with a 2002 remake. With the franchise running across eight films (and three in the West), Sadako becomes the ninth film in the Ring franchise. This news came to many people's exasperation and other people's excitement. Sadako could easily be the film to push the franchise fully into overdone; another franchise lost to overexposure.

Sadako has been directed by the original director of the first two films (Ring and Ring 2) as well as L: Change the World. All three of these films have been highly enjoyed by the general cinema populous, all three films rating highly across MDL, Letterboxd, IMDb and TMDb. If this is enough to save this film franchise - I'm not entirely sure. With an hour and forty minutes of new content - it's going to be a hard one to judge.

Sadako is just very underwhelming and very average. There's no nice way to put that really - I was bored, I kept checking how much time was left, and I couldn't get into it. Whilst there are some lovely moments of tension that made me uneasy and nervous, the rest of this film falls pretty flat. The ending of the movie is reminiscent of so many others - One Missed Call, was the one that kept coming to mind. With the final two frames being so cringe (I rolled my eyes so hard, they hurt) the ninth instalment of this series probably would have done better kept on paper. Whilst Sugihara Noriaki's writing holds strong; it remains the same as every other cursed object/ghost movie that has been released recently. 

This could have been stronger, but it also could have been weaker. I hesitate to call this a cash grab, however. Hideo created this series, and this is the first Ring series film that Hideo has done since the first two. You can feel the director's love for his series in his directing, but that's all the movie really has.

Probably best watched only if you're a hardcore fan of the series, Sadako brings us to a time where it's truly time to exorcise Sadako, let her be free from that damn well, and let her rest in peace.


Most Cliched/Trope Ridden

At just 10 minutes into this film, I knew precisely what subheading this belonged to on this article: and that's never a good sign. Gakko Gurashi starts with a floundering, clumsy female lead with a crush, a caring but naive teacher, and a young, slightly socially underdeveloped girl who can never seem to read the room.
This is the summary of the first ten minutes and thirty seconds. It looks pretty grim at this point. Three minutes later, we get the horrendously fake body parts being held by extras (which really don't do a convincing job as zombies) and already, I'm struggling to keep interest.

Now, you'd think this would be fine as it comes across as a horror-comedy. It all matches up to something of the horror-comedy genre, seems like it's almost satirical and having a bit of fun. You would be wrong.

Gakko Gurashiis a full length, survival action horror that isn't meant to be satirical, humorous or gleeful. Surrounding four girls and their teacher who live in school, the girls have found themselves a safe part of the school to hole up in until help arrives. As their supplies run low, they must go further and further away from their safe zone to survive. With three of the girls played by members of J-idol group LaLuce, it's no surprise that the girls fall in despair at the sight of any zombie - you'd think considering that they've survived this far that they'd be able to handle themselves but, again, you would be wrong. A script so cringe-worthy a child could have written it and very questionable decisions by the characters bring this film to the top level of "tropes and cliches - and overused". There seem to be some exciting parts in the form of how they show PTSD and a character's mental state; however, these aren't fully developed and remain as something else I wanted to see more of.
Whilst the girls themselves did amazing with what they were given, the characters themselves were relatively insufferable, and I wanted to see them all torn apart before an hour of this hour and the forty-one-minute movie had passed.

Directed by Issei Shibata, the director of films such as The Chasing World and The Chasing World II, massively well-loved pieces of horror in J-horror, I have to say I am thoroughly disappointed. Knock off some of the tropes, tidy this up in a few places and you'd have a decent zombie survival. Instead, I'm left disappointed, bored and wishing I'd chosen a different subject for an article, so I didn't have to watch this through.

I think the only way you're going to enjoy this film is if you're a fan of the franchise, a fan of LaLuce, or enjoy very trope-ridden horror. 

You can watch LaLuce's latest music video here.

Looking Forward To

So, when I first started this article, there were actually about nine of these films available to be watched with subs. When I came back to them two days later to make progress, all but four had disappeared and are no longer able to be viewed. So I do apologise for how limited this article is. 

However, from the remaining 9 films, there are quite a few I'm looking forward to being able to watch - and you can find those below!

NotePlease remember this is the horror genre - not all trailers are going to be SFW in various ways.
None of these trailers could be found with English subtitles, I apologise.

  1. Jigoku Shoujo - Whilst this premise doesn't sound remarkably unique (there was even a drama with the same premise in 2006), Shiraishi Koji is one of my favourite directors. He's produced some of my favourite curse based horror films in the Japanese horror genre, and I eagerly await being able to view his newest film. You can see the trailer for Jigoku Shoujo here. Whilst it looks slightly cringe-worthy, time and time again Koji has taken something that you'd usually flinch at and release a hidden gem. (Trailer - NSFW)
  2. Toshimaen: Haunted Park - I haven't seen too many films like this in Japanese horror. Whilst I have seen films reminiscent of this idea, I haven't really seen a proper horror where they go to one location like a theme park, a forest, etc., and things happen from there. Usually, a lot of films are set in a school, an unmarked grave or a graveyard or just the middle of a city, so this is something that caught my eye for no other reason than that. It also seems to be a mix of found footage and usual cinema footage. Asian horror doesn't have much-found footage content - it is a sub-genre I do love, so I'm curious to see how this turns out. You can see the trailer for Toshimaen here (Trailer: SFW)
  3. Satsujinki wo Kauonna - As mentioned before, Hideo directed the first two Ring films, which are personally two of my favourite J-horrors. Seeing him release a second film in 2019, despite the fact the plot doesn't exactly appeal to me, I want to see it. Hideo has such skill in his directing and such a distinct form that I'd love to see what he does with this film. You can see the trailer for Satsujinki wo Kauonna here (Trailer: NSFW)
  4. Hitsuji to Okami no Koi to Satsujin - this film seems absolutely remarkable. This may, in fact, be one of the few adaptations I enjoy this year. The premise is very curious - I haven't really heard of anything like this before - the cast choices seem very solid, and it looks like it's going to be a fun, inquisitive and a very 'wtf' kind of film. I'm intrigued. You can see the trailer for Hitsuji to Okami no Koi to Satsujin here (Trailer: NSFW, severe trigger warning for the first few seconds!)
  5. Lastly, I'm curious about Murder at Shijinsou. Honestly, there's no primary reason other than the pretty coloured film poster caught my eye. This is a very Sherlock/Cluedo like the style of the film. It reminds me of the Korean Busted and the Japanese Anata no Ban Desu. I'm very curious to see how this more comedic detective approach to horror goes. You can watch the trailer on the film's info page. (Trailer: SFW)

Overall

Overall, 2019 has frankly been an utterly remarkable year for horror. Within Japanese releases, it hasn't held up the mantle as other countries have. Out of the four that have been available throughout 2019 for non-Japanese audiences, it has fallen rather flat. I cannot lie, as a J-horror fan, I am left thoroughly unimpressed, a little shocked and just in despair at what I've seen from this year so far. All 3 feature-length films showed promise that seemed to be snuffed out by their own directors or just fell really flat. With terrible and average films across the board so far, and with the upcoming 2020 releases for January looking a little on the poorer side, it's looking like it might not be a good time for J-horror fans. With hope, 2020 brings up some wondrous films. With luck, 2020 will bring us the rest of the 2019 horror with subtitles. With a little bit of panache, hopefully, directors from Japan will join in on this new sub-genre revolution that seems to have gripped the rest of the world's horror directors.

It's a shame that the promising films haven't yet been released with subs this close to the end of the year. If you're interested - once they are available I will be reviewing them here and if enough come out, I will look into doing the second part of this article!


So what do you think?
Did you catch any of these releases?
Did you see any of the thirteen on MDL? What did you think about them?
Are there any you're looking forward to the subs being released?
See you in the comments - and remember, maybe it's safer to skip that "cursed video" on YouTube!

Ring - 1998

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