Go Deeper

Intro to Japanese Horror: choreographer Daniele Strawmyre picks her fave 5 flicks

Posted May 24th, 2010

Choreographer Daniele Strawmyre is not only a big fan of Japanese horror films (or “J-horror,” as the cool kids call it), she also draws inspiration from them for her work. We asked Daniele for a quick J-Horror 101 lesson to brush up on our basics before her next show Kaidan, which debuts at the Live Arts Festival this September–she is one of the featured choreographers of 8 (eight choreographers / eight new works. Here are her top 5 and why she loves them–track these down and check ’em out!

1. Odishan (Audition) by Takashi Miike

Miike is one of my all time favorite directors. He’s brilliant and a total deviant freak. Audition starts out as a romantic story between a widower and a beautiful, soft-spoken young woman. The pace of this movie is pretty slow throughout and then suddenly, BAM!, out of nowhere everything is crazy, scary, creepy, and violent. Pretty graphic, not for the weak hearted.”

2. Koroshiya Ichi (Ichi the Killer) by Takashi Miike

“More of a serial killer movie. Stars a creepy sadomasochistic yakuza (organized crime) enforcer with a Glasgow smile. He’s a real demented fella who’s into pain, both receiving and giving. Smile reminds me a little of the menace of the Cheshire cat but like WAY scarier.”

3. Chakushin Ari (One Missed Call) by you guessed it, Takashi Miike

“A movie in which women receive phone calls from the near future documenting their death. As each one dies their phone dials another unlucky lady and so on. I really love the use of technology and its intersection with the supernatural.”

4. Kairo (Pulse) by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

“Another scare the shit outta you with your beloved technology movie. This one is about ghosts invading our world through the internet and computers. Really beautiful, subtle stuff. I like this movie because although it’s about technology, it doesn’t rely much on special effects or gore to scare you. Interesting lighting and bizarre physicality do most of the work.”

5. Kwaidan by Masaki Kobayashi

This movie is a classic J-horror from the 50’s based on 4 traditional Japanese ghost stories. Really beautiful, this movie doesn’t rely on gore or special effects but slow build-ups of tension. His style is expressionist, lavish and utterly lovely. This movie is a little more of the visual style that I’m going for. It lends itself well to the stage.”

If you’re still hungry after that feast of creepiness, here’s dessert: a handful of films that aren’t Japanese, or aren’t horror movies, but still found their way into Daniele’s heart and, maybe, her dance.

Dreams by Akira Kurosawa
A Tale of Two Sisters by Kim Ji-woon
Gin gwai (The Eye) by Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang
Oldboy by Chan-wook Park

–Daniele Strawmyre with additional reportage by Mara Miller

Photo of Michele Tantoco, performing Daniele’s piece in Mascher Space Cooperative’s INFLUX (2009 Philly Fringe) by Bill Hebert
Photo of Daniele by Josh McIlvain