Book: Asian Horror


Asian Horror

English Book Title

Asian Horror


Andy Richards


Oldcastle Books/Kamera Books





By: Nicholas Driscoll

Recently I have been doing research for a class I am teaching in which we look together at adaptations of Japanese films as well as depictions of Japanese people, and one of the biggest imports from Japan was the J-horror craze from back in the late 90s and early 2000s. It was for that reason that I picked up Andy Richards’ Asian Horror, part of the Kamera Books series, which has also looked at such diverse cinematic genres as the Neo-Noir movement and the history of gay cinema, among many others. I believe I have their volume on Ghibli movies lying around somewhere. At any rate, Asian Horror is a short read with a lot of information, a decent introduction, but somewhat shallow and left me wanting more.

Just really quick let me run through what this book has to offer. Although Richards’ book is titled “Asian Cinema,” the largest section by far is focused on Japanese cinema, which has multiple chapters of commentary and analysis on multiple ages of horror cinema. Richards also covers Korean, Hong Kong, and Thai horror films. Basically, Richards sets up his book to include at least one chapter giving cultural and historical background for each nation’s horror cinema, and a chapter on the biggest directors who made these films, and at least one chapter of reviews of the films themselves. This set-up can create some repetition sometimes, and as mentioned before, Japan rates much more detail with five chapters instead of three—most likely because Japanese horror films (and films in general really) are available in much larger numbers in the West. There are no sections on other Asian horror cinema, such as India or Indonesia. In the back there is a chapter on horror remakes as well as a chapter on “interactive terrors”—which is to say, horror video games, which inevitably focuses on Japan again, but for only about four pages. Pictures (in full color, at least on the Kindle version) are included in the back from some of the movies.

The introductory chapters have a lot packed into them, with many, many more movies at least mentioned than are subsequently reviewed—the review chapters tend to select particular films rather than trying to cover everything. That is probably wise, given that Richards covers so many films from so many countries, and includes even Godzilla (1954) and Death Note (2006) within his umbrella of horror cinema, as well as more familiar horror fare as Kwaidan (1964), Ring (1998), A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), and many, many more. The reviews are very short, consisting of a terse summary (including spoilers), a paragraph or two of background information, and a swift verdict slammed out in just a couple paragraphs. The biographies of the filmmakers aren’t much longer.

Still, Richards, despite this being his only book on cinema (apparently), is an engaging and vivid writer, and I found few mistakes (which is more than I can say for David Kalat’s J-Horror). For the uninitiated, there is much to value in the volume. Its main flaw is simply its lack of depth and the fact it feels somehow incomplete (the book just sort of ends), but for those who WANT that sort of book, this one certainly fulfills the niche. Still, despite some glaring flaws, I prefer Kalat’s J-Horror over this.