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Stacie Ponder – The Best and Worst Asian Horror Remakes

I know it may be a hard to fathom, but this startling fact is absolutely true: Once upon a time, the American horror scene wasn’t riddled with remakes of Asian movies. Why, as little as ten years ago, frights from the Far East hadn’t yet invaded our shores, and there was nary a ghost girl with long, wet hair to be found in domestic theaters.

But it’s like that dude said: The times they are totally a-changin’… and the Asian Invasion is still going strong. But how — how, I ask you? — are horror fans to separate the dross from the floss? By reading these lists, wherein I spout my opinions about the five best and five worst American remakes of Asian horror movies, that’s how. Oh, and I have no idea whether “floss” is actually a synonym for “good stuff,” but it sounds like something the kids might say… and if I’m anything, I’m hip regarding such matters. Right?

THE BEST

5. Dark Water
Jennifer Connolly stars as a stressed-out divorcee who moves into a creepy dilapidated building with her daughter. Things go from bad to worse as both her sanity and her apartment crumble — not to mention the ghost girl who wants to make Connolly her new mom. Though not as frightening as the 2001 Japanese original, the 2005 effort is nonetheless subtle and atmospheric… not to mention a reminder that it’s good to stay current on your renter’s insurance.

4. Mirrors
Director Alexandre Aja lets the blood flow in this haunted house-cum-psychological thriller. As an alcoholic ex-cop turned security guard, Kiefer Sutherland must do battle against his own inner demons as well as the all-too-real jerk demons living inside the titular mirrors. This remake of the 2003 Korean movie Into the Mirror certainly bears the familiar hallmarks of the genre, but there are plenty of shocks to be found.

3. The Uninvited
Fans of Asian horror cried out in a righteous rage when they heard the announcement that a remake of the beloved Korean picture A Tale of Two Sisters was in the works. What saved the world from certain annihilation at the hands (or keyboards) of angry fans? They were subdued with shock: The remake is actually sort of, you know, good. The tale (of two sisters versus a wicked stepmother) is streamlined here, resulting in a moody movie bolstered by a strong cast.

2. The Grudge
Perhaps The Grudge owes its effectiveness to the fact that it was directed by Takashi Shimizu, who made Ju-On, the Japanese original upon which it’s based. Or perhaps its effective because the movie’s twisted, gray-complected ghosts bore their way into your brain and stay there forever, making creepy noises as they scare the living everything out of you. It’s a toss up.

1. The Ring
Ah, the one that started it all. When The Ring hit theaters in 2002, America caught on to what most of Asia already knew: A cursed videotape can be simultaneously ludicrous and outright horrifying. Director Gore Verbinski added some jolts to Japanese director Hideo Nakata’s oppressively disturbing movie, audiences went bananas and American horror hasn’t been the same since.

THE WORST

5. Shutter
The original version of Shutter (2004) hailed from Thailand and is widely regarded as one of the best A-horror movies in existence. Hailing from the US of A, the 2008 remake isn’t considered much of anything except a colossal bore. Despite a few worthy sequences, this tepid tale of spirit photography wreaking havoc on the lives of some bland young honeymooners simply feels stale.

4. The Ring 2
On paper, the recipe looks as though it should work: The cast from the hugely successful The Ring, plus filmmaker Hideo Nakata, the mastermind behind the original Ringu series, baked at 400 degrees for 35 minutes or until golden brown. Wait! I mean, put them together and have them craft a sequel to the tale of that damned VHS — how could it not work? How and why The Ring 2 ended up stinking so terribly remains one of science’s greatest mysteries.

3. Pulse
The original movie (Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 2001 Kairo) is a sublime example of J-Horror: It’s a deliberately-paced, dark meditation on our fears of both isolation and technology. The 2006 update starts out as a promising rehash, but quickly devolves into a garbled, dumbed-down mess that reeks of studio interference.

2. The Eye
As in the 2002 Hong Kong version, the 2008 American update of The Eye revolves around a young blind woman who receives corneal implants which allow her to see… dead people. Though it would have helped if star Jessica Alba had received an acting implant before production commenced, The Eye‘s biggest offense is that it’s just sort of there. Even the ghosts are just there, standing around — not even standing around in a particularly menacing fashion. If anything, they’re a mere annoyance… sort of like the movie itself.

1. One Missed Call
In 2003, notorious Japanese director Takashi Miike delivered a movie that was both a frightening example of the evil technology/evil ghosts formula and a knowing wink at what had already become an overworked subgenre. By the time 2008 rolled around, the formula was on its last legs… actually, it had already lost all its legs and had to borrow some from the neighbor next-door. In other words, you’ve seen this one a million times before — although you may not have seen it done quite so heinously. Avoid it and rest assured that this is one call you’ll be glad you missed.

Almost a decade on, the American remake train keeps right on chugging. Some items on the docket, such as Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy, elicit a “Wait, really? Noooo!” from fans, while the never-ending franchise that is The Grudge barely causes a raised brow anymore. If I’ve demonstrated anything here today, it’s that some remakes will be good, some will be bad, and the times aren’t a-changin’ again anytime soon. Profound, I know!

A fan of horror movies and scary stuff, Stacie Ponder started her blog Final Girl so she’d have a platform from which she could tell everyone that, say, Friday the 13th, Part 2 rules. She leads a glamorous life, walking on the razor’s edge of danger and intrigue.<

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