15 scariest Japanese movies you should never watch alone, ranked

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With the first films like Ugetsu and Kwaidan, the state of modern Japanese horror was foreshadowed decades ago. By this, horror in Japan was designed to scare through tales that revere the past. This is why so many genre films have to do with ghosts and folklore.

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Culturally speaking, what frightens the average Japanese person may not be the same thing that frightens a Western viewer. Either way, fear is universal. And through the prism of Japanese culture, we can better understand what angers its citizens. Considering all of this information, there are some Japanese horror movies that will leave everyone terrified.

Updated on August 10, 2020: J-horror’s scariest can’t be limited to just ten movies, so five more have been added to this spooky collection of terrorist tales from Japan.


15 The Phantom of the Hunchback (1965)


The 1965 movie Toei by Hajime Satô Kaidan semushi otoko goes under several names in the West: The ghost of the hunchback, House of Terrors, and Satan’s Pit. Either way, they’re all the same movie. The black and white image is considered a lost gem as the Japanese version with the on-screen Japanese text intact has yet to be posted to the home video. However, it was rarely shown on television. There is also a mostly faithful but rare Italian dub.

The ghost of the hunchback is a supernatural film about guests gathering in the secluded estate of a recently deceased man. Disregarding the eerie warnings from the film’s namesake, the party is harassed by a disturbing presence haunting the premises.

14 Haunted School (1995)


The first in Toho’s family horror franchise, Haunted school (also known as Ghost stories at school) begins with a girl trapped in an abandoned elementary school with a scary reputation.

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While the movie doesn’t make the most sense and turns into a series of wacky sets, the special effects are pretty amazing for the time. The inclusion of regional folklore is also notable.

13 Kakashi (2001)


Loosely based on the story of the same name (meaning “scarecrow”) by the famous horror mangaka Junji Itô, Kakashi follows a woman in search of her missing brother. After receiving a letter sent by someone to a remote and bucolic village, the main character goes there in the hope of finding his brother. Instead, she stumbles upon the locals preparing for a strange local festival involving the worship of scarecrows.

As much as a movie like this doesn’t follow logic or feel inclined to explain itself, the eerie vibe is undeniable.

12 Be Natural (2018)


What appears to be a slice of life on rural and homely life in Japan ends up being one of Japanese horror’s most surprising discoveries. It’s a totally deceptive movie until the last act. Everything that happens before is worth seeing, no less. This helps add to the growing tension that is ready to explode at the right time.

Be natural requires patience, but the payoff is well worth it once the conclusion pulls its shocking head.

11 The Demon (1979)


It might seem odd to include this choice of criteria or call it horror, but fans of the genre realized there was more to fear than ghouls and ghosts. Real life can be just as scary, if not more.

The demon is a modernization of “Hansel and Gretel; »The mistress of an unfaithful husband leaves their children with him and his real wife before disappearing. Rather than looking after his little ones, the father tries to get rid of the children in a horrible way.

ten St. John’s Wort (2001)


With her ex-boyfriend Kōhei, Nami is developing a new video game. She is in charge of art, and she has based her designs on some of her recent dreams. When she and Kōhei visit an abandoned mansion resembling the one in Nami’s dream, they uncover lost secrets from Nami’s childhood.

Very little about St. St. John’s Wort (Otogirisō in Japan) will make sense. It’s a dream horror movie with an interesting color palette. The story is definitely undercooked, but the surreal atmosphere is precisely why St. John’s Wort is so disturbing.

9 The cabin (2005)


An arrogant radio host named Shogo is forced to temporarily move his late night show to an old radio station where another host committed suicide several years ago. During his show, Shogo receives a series of bizarre calls from a listener. As the night progresses, it becomes unclear whether Shogo is just imagining this, or if there really is an evil force at play in the studio.

The stall is filmed on video, but don’t let that deter anyone from watching. The suspense and psychological storm in this hidden gem is both deep and effective.

8 Uzumaki (2000)


A teenage girl notices that everyone in her town has become obsessed with spiral shapes. This includes her friend’s dad, who is caught filming snails and obsessed with narutomaki. This growing compulsion becomes fatal, however, because it kills people in unimaginable ways. Eventually, the curse reaches epic proportions.

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Based on the story of the manga of the same name by Junji Itō, Uzumaki (Japanese for “spiral”) is a prime example of creeping cosmic horror. It’s riddled with dark humor and visual shocks. If someone can’t get enough Uzumaki, a four-part animated adaptation is slated to air on Cartoon Network in 2020.

7 Dark Water (2002)


Dark Water - Japanese Horror

As her divorce proceedings become more complicated, a mother is forced to move into a dilapidated apartment building with her young daughter in the meantime. They find another child’s bag at the scene, but the manager claims that no other child lives in the building. If this is true, then who is the young girl that mother and daughter see, lurking in their apartment?

Hideo Nakata balances drama and horror with mastery in this bizarre adaptation of Kōji Suzuki’s short story “Floating Water.” Like the unsettling water stain on the ceiling of the protagonist’s apartment, the tension steadily rises in this poignant scary story.

6 The Ring (1998)


Ringu - 1998 Horror Movie - Sadako

A journalist investigates the recent death of a loved one, who died of sudden heart failure. His investigation leads to an urban legend on a cursed videotape. It is said that if anyone looks at him, he will die in seven days. The reporter is understandably skeptical, but becomes a believer when her son accidentally watches the video. Now she’s looking for a way to remove the curse before she and her son succumb to their doom.

All Japanese ghost movies released in The ringThe Wake of strove to emulate the sheer unease found in Hideo Nakata’s 1998 film. Some have undoubtedly come closer. Although most have not been as successful in terms of creating awe.

5 Guinea pig (1985-1988)


Guinea pig is a series of Japanese films that celebrate extreme body horror. They are known to have a sordid history. Although these movies are fictional, they have been mistaken for real snuff movies. It all started in the early 1990s when Charlie Sheen reported to authorities what he thought was a snuff movie. What he actually looked at was a Guinea pig movie. The filmmakers then had to prove that the Guinea pig the series is wrong. A film was also found in the possession of serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki.

The Guinea pig the films are partly obnoxious and partly oddly clever. They are not for everyone; even in Japan, they are no longer easy to find after all the controversy. If someone stumbles upon a copy, just make sure they can handle excessive gore.

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4 Sweet Home (1989)


A film crew visits a lonely painter in his mansion. Their goal is to restore the paintings of man while documenting the process. During their visit, the crew are subjected to a series of paranormal incidents linked to the painter’s dark secrets.

Sweet home was released along with a Capcom game of the same name. Many claim that the game is a pioneer in the genre of survival horror RPGs like resident Evil. The film walks heavily in the footsteps of The haunting and Fighting spirit. On the other hand, Sweet home is packed with top-notch practical effects courtesy of makeup artist Dick Smith (The Exorcist). To date, Toho has yet to release Sweet home on a format greater than Laserdisc.

3 Perfect Blue (1997)


Perfect blue

When she leaves her pop music group, Mima embarks on comedy. Everyone is excited for her. Well, all but one fanatic follower who doesn’t understand why his idol would “betray” him. In due course, Mima suffers a visceral nervous breakdown in reaction to her new career and what she needs to do to be taken seriously as an actress.

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Initially, Perfect blue was intended to be a live action movie. Whatever the medium, the late and great director Satoshi Kon outdid himself in his film debut. There are elements of giallo as well as psychological thrillers which would even make the pride of David Lynch.

2 Evil Trap (1988)


A television show host receives a video that may or may not be a movie snuff. So the network sends him and a film crew to the abandoned factory where the video was shot. During their investigation, the host and her colleagues are ripped off, one by one, by a bloodthirsty maniac.

Evil Death Trap is a bizarre, exploitative villainous video that endures due to its macabre style, sharp direction, and unforgettable antagonist. This slasher certainly runs out of steam in the third act, but the other parts are biting to watch. There are also two in-name-only suites.

1 Noroi: The Curse (2005)


When a paranormal expert goes missing after searching for a mythical Japanese demon called the kagubata, his images are recovered and reconstituted.

Kōji Shiraishi is a director well versed in the marriage of popular horror and the medium of false reality. His groundbreaking film is undoubtedly Noroi: the curse. This lengthy mock documentary is genuinely convoluted in its plot, but it is a remarkable undertaking for both the director and the audience. His other films found as Shirom and Worship don’t stray from their branded formula, but they all have solid jump scares.

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