How have none of these Asian horror flicks been adapted as anime by now?!
Anime does a lot of things right. The coming-of-age story, the sci-fi action thriller, the hero's journey. And you can bet the list of genres that anime hits out of the park time and time again includes horror. From the romantic reimagining of Dracula in Shiki to the devastating nihilism in the Cube-reminiscent Angels Of Death, anime and horror have always been a great team.
It makes a lot of sense. Horror is meant to dive deep into the psyche, to make the viewer uncomfortable and to explore social and moral taboos. You can do all that with real people, of course. But there will be far fewer restrictions when using animated characters. The scenes can be darker and more dangerous when the actors have less at stake. So... why haven't these Asian horror films been adapted into an anime series yet?
Audition - Japan
This one might seem obvious to fans of the Asian horror genre, it's one of the most popular pieces ever, but that notoriety has been earned.
Audition is a cautionary tale in which a femme fatale puts the patriarchy squarely in its place. Aoyama is a single father looking to move on after his wife's death. He's quiet, successful, he's a real catch! Except he... uses his position as a television producer to audition women to become his new lady friend. That might seem really messed up, but just wait until you meet his bride-to-be, Asami. Asami is shy, pretty, and has a ginormous axe to grind. Abused growing up, she very quickly turns her rage toward the men in her life and the results are memorable.
To put it bluntly, the film is weird. But weird in a way that perfectly lends itself to an anime series. The live-action movie is so creepy and disturbing already what with the piano wire torture and... ugh... the vomit! Imagine how much more could be done with animated characters as opposed to actors. With that in mind, an anime version of Audition would be very hard to watch.
Sick Nurses - Thailand
Sick Nurses' story takes place in a very shady hospital that harvests the organs of dead patients for sale on the black market, and that's one thread. The second big hook is the flirty manipulation of Dr. Taa, who turns up the charm to gain the admiration and loyalty of his staff. Each girl believes Taa is in love with her, and this plays a major factor in the story to come. When one of the nurses loses her resolve and decides to out the doctor's dirty dealings to the police, she finds herself on the operating table, instead. The nurse's ghost returns to haunt the hospital, murdering her fellow crew in ways that match the doc's manipulation of them.
This film is haunting enough as it is. The entire story is packed to the gills with revenge, love triangles, and dead bodies. Not to mention the movie's creepy, spooky setting—a dark, seemingly abandoned hospital inhabited by a bunch of neurotic nurses being manipulated by Doctor Lothario. This one is a fun story filled with treachery, lust, and psychological horror, which would make for a thrilling anime!
Sadako vs. Kayako - Japan
Sadako vs. Kayako is basically the Freddy vs. Jason of the Asian horror genre and it is an utter blast! When two schoolgirls accidentally come across a haunted videotape, they turn to an urban legend obsessed professor for help. Will they be able to rid themselves from the curse of the tape? Yes. But only if they pit Sadako against the ghost of Kayako, a spirit who dwells in a local haunted house. Does that make any sense? Probably not. Does it need to? No, it's fun as heck.
If there were ever a film that warrants itself to both classic horror tropes and slick action sequences, this is it. Need examples? Try the scene in which Yuri and Natsumi first play the haunted videotape, which spares one of the best friends thanks to modern teenage boredom and the instant gratification of a cellphone. Or, there's the epic battle at the end of the film that pits the Ringu and Ju-On: The Grudge villains against each other in a relentlessly fun sequence that borders on slapstick. What I'm saying is: This. Would. Work.
The Eye - Hong Kong/Singapore
Think Tokyo Ghoul but with ghosts instead of cannibals. The titular eye lends its original owner's psychic abilities to its new recipient. Now, instead of being blind, she has been gifted with the abilities of normal and second sight. Not only has Mun's vision been restored, but she can also now see the spirits of the dead and must discover the source of her newfound powers.
This could lend itself to some interesting visuals (pardon the pun) as Mun seeing for the first time could be portrayed through her point of view, leaving the audience disoriented and out of focus as she adjusts to her new vision, while the ghosts' appearances could be framed in a variety of ways, depending on their individual personalities and backstories.
Satan's Slaves - Indonesia
Satan's Slaves is what happens when a home invasion film muscle's its way into Rosemary's Baby. A desperate woman wants a child and makes a deal with a devilish cult to make it happen. But there's a catch, of course. She can have as many children as she wants, but her youngest child will be given up to Satan on their seventh birthday. Mom keeps having babies every seven years to keep the devil at bay, but old age waits for no woman and eventually, her youngest kiddo's time is up.
The rest of the film centers on the family's discovery of how they all came to be, their grappling with their mother's past, and their fight to save Ian, the youngest child, from the forces of evil. Devil cults, chronic pregnancies, a terrorized family. There is a lot of potential here for dark storylines, character growth, and great visuals. It's a truly horrifying look at family, sacrifice, aging, and death.
Fatal Frame - Japan
One of my favorite games of all time. And, yes! There's a live-action movie! The original Fatal Frame is kinda sorta based on a true story, inasmuch as there really was a Himuro Mansion in Japan where creepy rituals took place. The ghosts and subsequent ghost-hunting are obvious embellishments. Those who enter the haunted locations in the games and film must use a mystical camera to capture the souls of the ghosts that attack them, all while trying to piece together the mysteries that called them to these spooky places to begin with.
Created by Japanese game developing company Tecmo, Fatal Frame would be absolutely perfect as an anthology series with some overlapping threads throughout each season. Curses, ghosts, and the legendary camera obscura would add tension and scares. But the major draw would be the relentless moxie that allows this story to totally kill off main characters without batting an eye. Follow a new game title each season. Or follow the manga. Or throw both into the mix! As long as Crimson Butterfly (the best game title, thank you) is involved you can't go wrong.
Honorable Mention: Penance - Japan
To be fair, Penance is a series, not a movie, but it would still be a fantastic choice for an anime adaptation. This series is for those who love a slow burn. Emili is brutally murdered on school grounds, four of her friends waiting for her to come back to play. The girls have seen the killer but are young and scared and offer little help to the investigation of Emili's death, leaving her mother distraught. Emili's mother, Asako, holds the four friends personally responsible for not bringing justice to her child's death and swears they will pay her a "penance" for what has happened. Throughout the course of the series, we see how Asako's verbal abuse and blame has affected each girl and how they are coping (or not) in adulthood.
This is a much more understated tale of grief and accountability that could allow animators to really focus on cinematography and character development. Focusing on an ensemble cast and multiple story threads, there is opportunity here to experiment with timelines, camera angles, and music as each girl's story is portrayed in a unique manner that suits their fate and personalities. Each character can be presented with their own vibe and visual style, creating an anthology feel in one single series.
Both anime and horror films use their respective modes of storytelling to dive deep into the parts of the human psyche normally left unexplored. Through these stories, we'll sometimes see the results of scared and desperate parents protecting their children from a living nightmare in a dirty boiler room. And it's sometimes where we see just how far an average teenager will go to avoid future (un)certain death in order to become a god. It's a glimpse into the scarier parts of the soul with lots of room for innovation on all sides. Has there ever been a more perfect match?
Got any favorite horror flicks that would make a great anime? Make your case in the comments!
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