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[UPCOMING] Lakeland Lecture to Focus on Japanese Horror Films

[UPCOMING] Lakeland Lecture to Focus on Japanese Horror Films


[UPCOMING] Lakeland Lecture to Focus on Japanese Horror Films

"I define Japanese horror films as films that deal with ghosts, the supernatural, monsters, and haunting, or simply films that exist primarily to frighten or unsettle. When one speaks of 'J-horror,' though, the term usually calls to mind a small group of films released from the late 1990s to the early 2000s, frequently featuring vengeful female ghosts, some sort of malevolent force that moves via TVs, phones, or the Internet, and an emphasis on atmospheric dread rather than jump-scares or gore." - From Lindsay Nelson's book: Circulating Fear: Japanese Horror, Fractured Realities, and New Media (Lexington 2021). 

Meiji University professor and scholar Lindsay Nelson will be joining us on March 14, at 7pm. Her free talk, a part of our ongoing Lakeland Lecture series, is titled "Ghost Girls, Spooky Cell Phones, and Haunted YouTube: The Evolution of Japanese Horror," and will be held in LUJ Muskie Hall on the 6th floor. 

Below, Professor Nelson took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions to help 'warm us up' (or give us chills) before her talk, which will include a Q and A at the end. 

1) What would you say was the first film that got you hooked on Japanese horror? Can you describe that moment (where you were, who was with you, what 'media' were you using, etc...?)

I think the first film that really got me hooked was Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Pulse. I was lucky enough to see a celluloid print of the film in a small theater at the University of Southern California as part of a graduate seminar on contemporary Japanese cinema. I just remember everyone in the theater being deeply unsettled. And it was my first Kiyoshi Kurosawa film, so I just fell in love with how good he is at constructing a shot, using light and shadow, and just creating a palpable sense of dread.

2) Besides the shift from old media to new media, which you describe in your book, how else do you think Japanese horror films have changed in the last 25 years?

Unfortunately I think Japanese horror films haven't really changed for the better in the last 25 years. While there are a few outliers, I just feel like a lot of the films that have been made in the post "boom" period of the late 90s/early 2000s feel kind of thrown together and seem to be recycling old tropes and characters instead of saying anything new. But I'm still interested in how those films depict new media like YouTube and Nico Nico, because I think it's a great window into what scares us as a society when it comes to technology.

3) This is kind of a softball question, but we have to ask it...what are your top 3 horror films? Measurements could be based on the level of horror you felt and the quality of the story.

3) It's always hard for me to rank films of any kind! But if I had to choose three horror films that I consistently re-watch or recommend to other people, they would be 1) Dark Water (the Japanese version), 2) The Descent, and 3) The Babadook. I think Dark Water is just a genuinely poignant AND terrifying film. The Descent is one of the most visceral horror experiences I've ever had, and The Babadook is probably the most scared I've ever been watching a film. I remember that my fingers were sore for a while after watching it because I was gripping the sofa the whole time. And because I can't stick to just three, other intense/well-made horror experiences include Noroi, It Follows, Incantation, Paranormal Activity, The Night House, Resurrection, and of course Ringu.

For more information on the lecture, contact Lakeland Lecture director Roger Grabowski at