Japanese Cinematography – Horror

I didn’t really want this post to be directly research, this is my own interpretation of Japanese cinematography within the horror genre. I’m looking in to this as I plan to experiment with Japanese cinematography and create my own three minute horror based on Hitori Kakurenbo/ Hide and Seek Alone.

For this I looked at an extremely popular Japanese Horror films which have been re-made in Hollywood. I won’t talk much of the Hollywood versions of the films, as I think they are awful representations of the generic crap Hollywood seems to be pumping out of every orifice. I want to mainly focus on the close-ups and extreme close-ups as I think they project human emotion really well, especially in Japanese horror. The Japanese for me, seem to have this powerful technique that really projects hope and fear in a way that creates an uncomfortable atmosphere. This is what horror should do.

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Ju-on: The Grudge 2002

The Grudge or Ju-on is a prime example of excellent Japanese cinematography. This horror film has all the techniques I intend to practice, close-ups and extremes to project the emotions of hope and fear. Throughout the film there are frames of shaking hands and fearful eyes to capture the fear the protagonist is feeling. It’s the same with other emotions such as hope, an extreme close-up would be used to frame a smiling mouth or hopeful eyes.

Close-ups and extreme close-ups are not the only shots used to capture extreme emotion. The shot below is also from the Japanese version of The Grudge. This wide shot frames the protagonist in bed as two antagonists torment her. What is especially good about this shot is the fact that the only part of the body that is visible on the protagonist is the eyes. The lighting is also very film noir like as the little boy at the end of the bed is only just creeping out of the shadows, the girl hanging over the bed frame is lit quite brightly in comparison to the little boy, but both faces are covered in darkness. The only face visible is the protagonists.

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The shot below is a mid shot showing the awkward body language and fear in the girls face.

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Through more research I am learning that the cinematography is a huge part of inflicting fear into the audience. However, it isn’t just close-ups and extreme close-ups as I first thought. This has been quite a vital part of pre production as I feel I have learned more than I thought I would. I have learned that I will need to light the set well and frame my shots carefully to be able to inflict fear in my audience in the same way as The Grudge.

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