A Few Movies I Should’ve Watched Long Ago

DVD rental is still a thing in Japan. It’s gotten me through some of my movie backlog because:

  • Older DVDs are cheap (only 108 yen for a week)
  • I can watch recent films on flights for free
  • Streaming video is overheating my laptop, and I’m too lazy to fix it

The Ring

Year of Release: 1998

Year I first considered watching it: 2002

Percentage spoiled: 20%

Grade: +

I’ve never found horror movies to be scary. (In fact, the only scary movie I found remotely interesting around the turn of the century was Scary Movie.) However, The Ring is more of a mystery than a horror film. Even if you don’t find the horror elements scary yourself, you can understand why the characters in the film would be scared, and for the most part that’s what matters. The ending may even have been subjectively scary had it not been spoiled a thousand times over. That’s the price you pay for watching the most famous horror movie in your country of residence 19 years late.

Team America: World Police

Year of Release: 2004

Year I first considered watching it: 2004

Percentage spoiled: 10%

Grade: ++

Like 1984, Team America: World Police was great on the satire but flimsy on the plot. I initially gave the movie a +, but the songs stuck with me long enough after watching that I’ve revised it upward.

Battle Royale

Year of Release: 2000

Year I first considered watching it: 2012

Percentage spoiled: 50%

Grade: +++

Japanese movies are generally far inferior to Hollywood movies in terms of acting and cinematography. There are cultural differences too; sometimes things that would sound or look cool to a Japanese person just look stupid to me. Why, then, do I even bother with Japanese movies? Probably because there’s a certain level of crazy that would have to be sanitized in America (hence The Hunger Games). Battle Royale (hereinafter “BR”) is raw, unfiltered Japanese craziness.

BR doesn’t shove morals down your throat. It presents violence and insanity while leaving the interpretation to the viewer. I saw it as being about people in positions of power and privilege letting themselves get trampled on for far too long and finally taking their power back. Perhaps BR is more relevant now than ever before.

Ghostbusters

Year of Release: 1984

Year I first considered watching it: 2010

Percentage spoiled: 40%

Grade: +

When I watched the cartoon as a kid, I had no idea the movie existed. Even after finding out about the movie, I still didn’t realize it preceded the cartoon until fairly recently. If anything good came out of the Lady Ghostbusters controversy, it’s that I finally watched the movie from start to finish, instead of catching bits and pieces while channel surfing.

The movie is good, but it doesn’t live up to its reputation. Except for the marshmallow man, the ghostbusting was no better than you’d get on any given episode of the cartoon. The dialogue was good (and much different than you’d get from the cartoon) but I suspect it was quoted and memeified into something greater than it actually was. Plus, I could do without another film starring balding old Bill Murray trying to hook up with a chick way out of his league.

Lady Ghostbusters: ~

In all fairness, I didn’t give this movie a fair chance. I had zero interest in watching this movie until Dick Masterson did a commentary track, which made it worth the rental fee, but now I have to live with the knowledge that I somehow contributed to this movie’s financial bottom line.

When alleging that social justice makes movies worse, Lady Ghostbusters is the perfect counter to the “false choice” rebuttal. Messages shouldn’t have to detract from entertainment value, but as a practical matter they do. Cramming something other than entertainment into an entertainment product makes it less entertaining. Forcing restraints on writers limits their creativity. Lady Ghostbusters’ highest priority was being subversive, not being entertaining, and it handcuffed itself with rules on how characters had to look and act, as well as what jokes could and couldn’t be made. No wonder it cranked out an inferior product.

Ghost Bust-ers: ~~

Surely there are other erotic parodies of Ghostbusters, but “Ghost-o-Paiters” seemed like it would have a decent balance of tits and being an actual movie.

Unfortunately, Ghost Bust-ers turned out to be idol drivel. Fans of the idols may find some redeeming value. Anyone else should avoid it like the plague.

I should've watched these movies 8 years ago

  1. Half the time, the part I like the most about the horror movie is the atmosphere it wraps me in, like The Thing (Constant paranoia and dread, low and ominous). Other half the time, it’s about how FUN the premise is, like Demons/Demoni (Hellvirus outbreak in a locked movie theater, a pimp in a white suit organizes the survivors).
    I’ve likely seen more horror movies than I have any other genre, so I know enough to say that the trick here is that what we know as Horror or sometimes Slasher today owes the majority of its genealogy to the pulpy, gory crime thriller/mystery genre of Italy known as the Giallo – Themes of sordid and occasionally incestuous political and religious corruption come out of Italian writers naturally, for some strange reason.
    Surprisingly, Japan’s one of the few countries that’s kept track of this, and over there, the real trailblazers are actually paid their dues. The themes of the Italian school of horror resonate with them, weirdly enough.
    Half the time, if I want to buy a copy of, say, Stage Fright/Aquarius, that’s where I gotta look. (It’s known as Bloody Bird over there, for…reasons.)
    At any rate, the fact that you’re more interested in the mystery isn’t accidental, because that’s the very roots of the genre.
    Either way, as time went on, we lost track of the plot and began to worship the wrong things, so by the time of the late nineties to early 2000s, the market was completely flooded and sick to its stomach with wise-cracking slasher mascots. The fact that producers and distributors kept fucking with the formula and insisting upon computer generated, non-practical effects and long-running franchises didn’t help either.
    That’s not to say that those Italian directors were the only ones who knew what good horror was all about – John Carpenter and his Apocalypse Trilogy stand out as well.
    At any rate, if you have the time to spare hunting down a movie or two, I highly recommend getting your mitts on some of Dario Argento’s works – he’s a lot cleaner and more deliberate than his contemporaries. I particularly recommend Deep Red, Phenomena, and Suspiria.

    • That certainly explains a lot. Of course I’ll go Japanese first, but if the horror genre still piques my interest, I’ll try Italian next.

  2. The first Japanese and the first American Ring movies still belong to my favorite horror movies. Other horror movies I would recommend are Kairo/Pulse, A Tale of Two Sisters, Audition, The Eye and Ju-On.

    I have tried to find a scary horror movie for years. Horror movies can startle you with loud noises or make you throw up if they are disgusting enough, but a movie that’s actually scary is impossible to find. I want to find a movie that I can’t watch because how scary it is.

    The closest thing that I have watched is Mirrors. I actually found that movie really creepy. Most people don’t like it, but for some reason it worked for me pretty well. Something about seeing your own reflection smiling when looking in the mirror is really scary thought for me.

    I have also tried to find anime that’s even somewhat scary or creepy, but haven’t find any. All horror anime are pathetic. They can be entertaining. Like Another and Shiki, but they aren’t scary, creepy or sick in any way.

    If you want to see a sick horror movie then I would recommend watching A Serbian Film.

    And Ghostbusters is so overrated movie. Sure it’s fun, but I wouldn’t call it a comedy classic like most people do.

    • Horror is a very personal thing. What works on one person doesn’t work at all on another. As you’ve suggested, everyone has their own little quirks and weak spots to subjects that may seem entirely mundane or unremarkable to others.
      Wince-inducing business like finger-torture does nothing to me, but Audition was damned near unwatchable for me near the climax thanks to reasons you’re probably well aware.
      I, too, would recommend it. It was a nice blend of fear and revulsion couched in a pretty good bait and switch.

      J-horror really has its own thing going on, and a lot of the time, it’s too weird for its own good as a straight horror (like Suicide Circle), but, well…biggest thing I learned about horror movies is that review scores are literally meaningless, and the best movie in the goddamn world will easily get 3/10 on most review sites.
      If there’s one thing they do well, though, it’s physical revulsion. I don’t think I’ve ever spent quite as long cringing as I did throughout most of Organ.

      Speaking of revulsion: A Serbian Film. I knew what I was getting myself into, and still came out the other end insulted that the director expected me to watch something like that front to back, and then have the balls to say that it REPRESENTS something. I aughta kick his ass. Fuck that guy. Fuck that pointless-ass movie.

    • I have always been a fan of horror movies. To me, the constant feeling of impending dread and a subtle feeling of how “wrong” a place, situation, or person feels and how it steadily grows is some of the best parts of the experience. The recent movie “Get Out” gave me that feeling. I found Higurashi to be unsettling and creepy, and Shiki was also interesting, though I liked thinking about the implications of what the characters were doing and how they would pan out in the long term. Another…. was basically Final Destination: The Anime. Ghostbusters has always been a favorite of mine, and I would be willing to check out the idol version just to see. I’ve heard all sorts of stuff about Battle Royale and would definitely want to see that. Japanese media is strange to me. Their live action movies seem to be cheaply done, but their anime, novels (the one book I read), and manga seem to be excellent. It could be a sheer numbers’ game since I consume far more manga and anime than Japanese movies.

      • The idol version is one of those cheaply made movies you speak of. I could’ve given it a ~~~, but there was some redeeming value to the behind-the-scenes clips and commentary track.

    • Ju-on will probably be my next watch.

      While creepy horror doesn’t get to me, visceral horror does, but not in a way that makes me want to watch it.

      Ghostbusters oddly reminded me of two other “classic” movie letdowns. The first was Big Trouble in Little China, which had a lot of dull action scenes and aged special effects. The second was The Princess Bride, which was well-written but not nearly good enough to warrant the memeification it’s gotten. Maybe standards are just higher now?

      • Depending on when you watched it, the hype build up vs the actual viewing can create some dissonance in the sense that you walk away feeling underwhelmed. I had this same feeling when I watched Scarface for the first time some years ago. This movie was touted as one of the greats, and when I finally watched it in the early 2000s, the takeaway was that it was a good movie, but it wasn’t the best thing put to the screen. Also memes and the like tend to be from the best scenes of the movie, so you end up being constantly exposed to the “highlights reel” version of the movie which can cause people to be a little bored while waiting for “that one scene”.

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