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?
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.
One Missed Call (2008) is a remake of a 2003 Japanese film of the same name. It is also thought the be the worst American remake of a Japanese horror film ever, and it’s known for having an embarrassingly low rating of 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The remake was pretty spot-on with Takashi Miike’s original and even had some of the exact same scenes. Its plot is in the same vein as other J-horror films (Ringu, Kairo) in that technology becomes haunted. In the film, the characters receive a voicemail from their future selves revealing how they will die.
While both the original and remake got bad reviews in their respective countries, Miike’s version was actually a bit terrifying. The remake was diluted, to say the least.