Adaptations of Japanese horror, are they respectful of the original content?

Since the rise of Japanese horror, it has become a common form of adaptation in within the American film industry, leaving behind the explicit nature of blood and gore to a portrayal dependent upon presence, silences and relevant fears. Eimi Ozawa (2006) evaluates that the primary effect of Japanese horror is its “unique aesthetics” and ability to “frighten audiences through ambiguities and implications, effects and silences” (Ozawa 2006, p.2). The form and framework of Japanese horror has thrived in its use of history and context to tell a deeper story of its villains rather than the victims. Is this conveyed through the American adaptation though?

America’s adaptation of Ringu/The Ring tells the story of Sadako as a young child rather than a mature 18-year old woman. The Ring draws it’s attention towards the technological aspect of horror where Samara appears at the end with a static hologram presence. Ringu’s introduction of Sadako in the frightening final scene, presents the character in complete humanistic form. My experience from watching both films perceives a clutter of effects within Samara’s climatic scene at the end. From performance we are constantly reminded to ensure our production is busy with creativity, however not so much where it’s a clutter of content. When there is a clutter it detracts from the concept of simplicity and with the comparison to Sadako in Ringu, it’s understandable to see the exgaerration of special effects within The Ring.

An important factor of the discussion, is the origins of Sadako’s performance. Japanese horror’s use of female ghosts is exemplary of the avant-garde dance performance style, “Ankokuh Butoh” dance (Ozawa 2006, p.4). Jean Viala describes the dance as enabling the body to “speak for itself” (Viala in Ozawa 2006, p.4). The dance takes the body and emulates it “into other creatures ot materials, such as insects, ghosts, animals, smoke or dust” (Ozawa, p.6).

Such inspirations for a frightening impact on audiences is no where apparent within the American adaptation. We see no attempt of a remix in Sadako’s performance asides from the fearful image of ghost children. In order to re-create or adapte a piece of work, producers must remain respectful of the inspirations and origination of the intended performance. In theatre we are often taught the basis of adaptation is in the remix of the original works inspirations in order to build upon and create a different experience. From my experience this was no where to be found in America’s take of Ringu due to Samara’s final scene presenting limited originality or a consideration of providing a strong performance through presence and movement.

Take a look at the differences in the video below and post your thoughts.


Ozawa, E 2006, “Remaking Corporeality and spatiality: US adaptations of Japanese Horror Films” in Forty Ninth Parallel Journals


  1. I have always found the popularity of horror in Japan to be an extremely interesting phenomena. What aspects of Japan’s culture do you think ties into this, if any? Is it a common concepion that Japanese adaptations of horrors movies tend to be ‘scarier’? Do you think there is truth to this, and if so, what makes them excel at this genre?


  2. I will actually be watching Ringu as part of my Artifact tonight so this post is particularly interesting to me. From my previous research into Japanese film it has become evident that as spirits and ghosts are a significant part of Japanese culture they are often utilising them in their media. Also the idea of creepy little girls has begun to slip into mainstream western media through similar movies. Exorcism/Paranormal films often feature at least one scary little girl. Also in video games such as Bioshock this idea is prominent.


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