In the early 2000s, there was a boom of Asian horror remakes in America, particularly of Japanese (J-Horror) and Korean (K-Horror films). It all began with The Ring in 2002 and, from there, Hollywood started gobbling up Asian horror films and spitting them back out, oftentimes at the detriment of the remake. Most of these remakes lack the same sense of dread and menace found in the Asian originals. A select few remakes do a fairly decent job and try to stick to the original atmospheric elements. You’ll be surprised that some of these American movies were based on A-Horror.
Obviously, lots of spoilers ahead, because of course there are.
The Ring started it all for the Asian horror remake boom. The Ring (2002), directed by Gore Verbinski, is a remake of the J-horror film Ringu, directed by Hideo Nakata. Both films were based on the horror novel Ringu by Koji Suzuki.
The remake, starring Naomi Watts, does a pretty decent job of sticking to the original plot, which follows a reporter investigating several deaths linked to a cursed videotape. But the remake did have more jumpy scare tactics than the original, and also showed Samara’s face, which takes some of the creepiness away. In the original, Sadako’s face was never shown.
Both films were box office hits. Ringu became the highest grossing horror film in Japan. Some critics even think the remake is better than the original, saying that it evokes feelings of utter dread, while the original was based more on shock value.
The Grudge (2004) was an almost-perfect remake of the Japanese original, Juon (2002). Well, that’s probably because both films were directed by Takashi Shimizu. The remake also had an advantage in that it was produced by Evil Dead creator, Sam Raimi.
In the remake, Karen, the character played by Buffy... er... Sarah Michelle Gellar, moves into a haunted house with a ghost that holds some serious grudges and haunts the sh*t out of anyone who dares to enter her home. Almost everything is the same, including the Japanese setting, which did alienate some American audiences. Despite this, the remake did extraordinarily well and was followed up by two sequels. But it does make you wonder: why bother remaking a film if it's just going to be a carbon copy of the original?
Mirrors (2008) is the only remake on this list that was a legitimate departure from its original. The original, Into the Mirror (2003), was the film debut of K-horror director Kim Sung-ho. But the remake director, Alexandre Aja, wanted to make the film more coherent and he changed several aspects of the film. He kept the basic premise of the original: Ben (Kiefer Sutherland), a former detective, takes on a security job at a run-down department store full of haunted mirrors. But Aja focused more on Ben trying to win back his family than the supernatural parts of the story.
Aja’s version was gorier than the original, reminiscent of his 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes. However, the film got lackluster reviews. Also, Sutherland always seems to fall back into the character of Jack Bauer, which was essentially who he played in the remake.
After the success of The Ring, Hollywood figured it would try its hand at remaking another J-horror hit with Dark Water. Like The Ring, Dark Water (2005) was based on a novel by Koji Suzuki. Hideo Nakata also directed the original Dark Water in 2002. While the plot does stick to the original - a mother (Jennifer Connelly) and daughter move into a haunted apartment during a custody battle - the remake focuses too much on family drama. It steers away from the supernatural elements of the original film and unnecessarily delves into the fallout of divorce. The original film received much more critical acclaim than the remake.