East vs West: Asian horror movies and their remakes

Who scared best in this tourney of terror?

Asian horror movies are not only scary, but also rich in unique cultural identity; so it’s no surprise that quite a few of our beloved scare-fests manage to attract Hollywood studios, scoring themselves a tinseltown makeover. But like many of the cosmetically altered members of the celebrity A-list, Hollywood’s efforts to “improve” upon the source material often leaves a lot to be desired…

So while it’s a proverbial feather-in-our-Asian-caps when Asian horror movies make their journeys across international boundaries, they tend to arrive at their destination rather twisted and mangled. Some have survived their Hollywood-isaton, but few have transcended their origins while maintaining the authenticity of their creeps and chills. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to put together a list, so join us as we recount the best and the worst of Asian horror movies and their remakes.

Ring (1998) and remake - The Ring (2002)

Good: Mainly authentic

Bad: Sadako looks like Linda Blair in the morning (zing!)

Let's start on a good note. The American remake of the Ring was the introduction of J-horror to western audiences, and it did so very competently; paving the way for a deluge of Asian horror remakes. The American version starred Naomi Watts, and more or less retained most of the critical plot points of the original.

But while the original never showed Sadako's face, the remake thought it'd be scarier to give Sadako a look they cobbled together using prosthetic make-up they scraped up out of The Exorcist's production dumpster. It's a great example of the differences in Asian and Western film-making: Asian horror films prefer to creep you out, whereas Hollywood horror tends to be about in-your-face visual shocks and jump scares.

Dark Water (2002) and remake (2005)

Good: Jennifer Connelly

Bad: Creepiness and supernatural hijinks sacrificed for domestic drama

Since The Ring was such a massive hit, of course Hollywood would jump at the chance to capitalise on another film by the same creative team. Both the original Dark Water and The Ring even shared the same lead actress. The Dark Water remake starred the beautiful raven-haired Jennifer Connelly, which immediately makes it hard for us to say anything bad about the film... but we'll try anyway.

Although it is certainly true to its source, and doesn't muck about with the story, the remake spends too much time on the domestic dispute aspect of the narrative, sacrificing some of the scares of the original for super-exciting divorce related interpersonal tensions. Come on guys, if we wanted family drama, we would have stayed home with mom and dad...