4 Asian Horror Films that Should Never Be Remade by US Studios
With the constant stream of Asian and foreign horror remake news, the fear and dread grows that pieces of storytelling and visual art like Takashi Miike’s “Audition”, Kinji Fukasaku’s “Battle Royale” or Chan-wook Park’s “Vengeance Trilogy” are and will be remade for the US audiences as well as ripped apart by a US studios. The vast, beautiful, terrifying and unique world of Asian cinematic horror is being lessened and cheapened by many domestic studios with the goal in mind of $$$ and a blurred perspective of art. Now, not all Asian horror films have had terrible remakes. I am the first one to give remakes the benefit of the doubt (The Ring, Shutter, American Guinea Pig series and Pulse). However, I think about Spike Lee’s version of “Oldboy”, “One Misssed Call” or the decent remake of “Dark Water” and want to put my curse on a video tape for revenge! Some film studios have been able to open eyes, made many scream and terrified countless victims with well crafted, smart and visually arresting stories.
In the twisted spirit of the February 29th ARROW DVD/Blu-Ray steelbook release of Miike’s “Audition” and the recent “Martyrs” remake as well as the up and coming version of “The Grudge”, I went through my library of Asian horror titles deep in The Bunker. I compiled a short list of four films that should never be remade by US studios. There are definitely more than four titles (see below) that should escape the dark pit of remake hell but for now these will do. They are pillars of Asian cinema, macabre masterpieces not to be touched.
- Ab-Normal Beauty/Sei mong se jun – Oxide Chun Pang (2004) Hong Kong
Beyond that fact, that this ranks as my favorite horror film overall, “Ab-Normal Beauty” has an obsession that no mainstream studio could capture. This psychological gem is directed by Oxide Pang Chun of the infamous Pang Brothers (The Eye trilogy). The Pang Brothers are effective, masterful filmmakers of suspenseful and horror storytelling. Oxide Pang is one of the best filmmakers in the last ten years for his ability to write hooking dialogue, building layers and his ability to cultivate some of the darkest character spirals that never lets you go. The obsession… the idea of photographing death… For a person to lose themselves in that macabre thrill as well as rationalize the honest art and true beauty of loss chills me to the bone. Watching as each photo taken, each moment that goes by and each deadly action leads deeper into the dark and spider-webbing mind of Jiney (Race Wong) as well as a figure in the shadows who a blended voyeur is palpable. Pang’s direction, visual style, relatable characters and storytelling is layered with insanity, twists and creepy visuals that no US studio could ever replicate. Find out more at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0434762/?ref_=rvi_tt
- Audition/ Ôdishon – Takashi Miike (1999) Japan
Methodical in its storytelling and considered by many including “Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments” to have one of the Top 10 scariest, intense and hard to witness final sequences in film history, Audition is a slow burn gem very few can match. Directed by the brilliant and diverse Takashi Miike (13 Assassins, Ichi the Killer and Yakuza Apocalypse) and adapted from the Ryu Murakami novel, “Audition” intensity and storytelling could never be handled by US audiences or studios. This is stated for too many reason to discuss in this paragraph. One that needs to be stated however is not for the intense and disturbing content of torture or even the disturbing images that are woven within the narrative but the mystery and dramatic build up that populates a majority of the run time. This methodical story of a widow who hosts fake auditions to find his next wife is a project that only Miike’s and very few others could ever tell effectively. The performances of Ryo Ishibashi (Shigeharu) & Eihi Shiina (Asami) are iconic. Their characters emotion damage and obsessive actions make you feel dirty and sear into your very soul. Miike’s very expressive direction, Kenji Shibasaki sound and Hideo Yamamoto cinematography produce a dreamlike effect throughout the film and the infamous climax that makes you so intimate with Shigeharu’s sensations and Asani needles, wires and delicate frame that you will need some time to yourself afterwards. I don’t believe that any mainstream studio is brave enough to recreate a film like this on any level. As much as I respect both versions of “Martyrs”, you see the difference of budget, a US filter and storytelling priority that each of them had. I believe this to be true also for the J-Horror classic “Audition”. Find out more at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0235198/?ref_=rvi_tt
- I Saw the Devil/ Ang-ma-reul bo-at-da – Jee-woon Kim (2010) Korea
From writer and director Kim Jee-Woon (A Tale of Two Sisters and The Last Stand), “I Saw the Devil” may be one of the greatest revenge/horror films ever brought to life. A huge statement to say but never proven wrong in my opinion to date. Brutal as it is stunning, Jee-Woon finds a way to cultivate an intense and emotional revenge story that is triggered by one of the most heinous acts imaginable. Revolving around a cat and mouse game of bloody revenge, the wave builds into powerful symphony that takes the viewer through so much pain, fury and loss that you cannot catch your breath, hard to find with many mainstream horror. “I Saw the Devil” is shot beautifully and reminds you of how truly stylish and creative Korean cinema is with their lighting and structure. Within the same breath as fan favorites “Oldboy”, “Sympathy for Lady” and “A Bittersweet Life”, “I Saw the Devil” rises above them in many ways. We return back to Spike Lee’s version of “Oldboy” and realize a film like “I Saw the Devil” has very little chance of every respectfully being remade by a US studio. One of the biggest reasons why not, the emotional, line bending and at times sinister performances that are embodied by two sides of the same coin. Byung-hun Lee (Hero, A Bittersweet Life & Red 2) as the cop Kim Soo-hyeon who is out for bloody revenge after his wife and unborn child are murdered and butchered by psychopath Kyung-chul played by legendary Asian cinema actor Min-sik Choi (Oldboy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance and Lucy). Beyond the true power and intense narrative of “I Saw the Devil”, is a driving score and an emotional story that takes you deep into these two main characters lost souls as the chase goes on. The overall impact of their actions and their decisions that affect so many during the runtime is a force of nature. The film on so many levels captures you and makes you feel each painful and insane moment showing you characters that are deep, both man and monster. Find out more at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1588170/?ref_=rvi_tt
- Marebito – Takashi Shimizu (2004) Japan
Based upon the novel by and later written for the screen by Chiaki Konaka, director Takashi Shimizu’s (Ju-on franchise, Tormented and The Grudge) presents a twisted tale of need in “Marebito”. This dark and chilling obsession themed narrative surrounds a very driven freelance cameraman named Masuoka (Shin’Ya Tsukamoto) who is focused on his craft and urban legends. Masuoka learns of a particular urban legend that takes him deep into unforeseen worlds below our feet. Venturing into the subways, underground caverns and dark corners of a world forbidden, Masuoka finds a being called “F”. Being consumed by the discovery, he removes “F” out of its world and bringing it into his own. As he deals with this discovery, he learns that some things should never be removed for a many deadly reasons. After watching this film, I was so pleasantly shocked by the pace, placement and overall atmosphere of “Marebito”. Reading further about it, I had not realized the lineage of quality Asian cinema that director Shimizu has laid before us. Even the US versions of “The Grudge” may be one of the few entries that has achieved the goal of being respectfully recreated for US audiences. With that being said, “Marebito” may be the only film that actually have a chance to be remade here in the states. It is not without similar entries that capture the tension, macabre and visual story. The one aspect that I find very unlikely to replicate effectively, is the sense of dread that stains every aspect of this film without Shimizu cultivating it. It is evident from almost the first moments. For me especially, the essence and impact of dread is so effective in Asian horror cinema and is found in the selection of locations by Shimizu and crew. Watching the sequences underground, reminds me of the effect “The Descent” had on the story creating dread, uncontrollable fear and thick tension. As Masuoka ventures further down, thinks he has control and losses himself to the subway system, you feel the dark heartbeat that surrounds him. This darkness and what is in it not only engulfs you but is a psychological profile of Masuoka’s fall deeper into layers of hell before him. Find out more at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0434179/?ref_=nm_flmg_dr_19
What are some that should also be on this list? Should stunning and stylish Asian horror films like “Silk”, “Ichi the Killer”, “The Last Supper”, “Tokyo Gore Police”, “Living Hell”, “Meatball Machine” or “Infection” be remade here in the states by mainstream studios?
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