10 Most Savage Japanese Horror Films Ever

The Land of the Rising Sun. And filth. And depravity. But no pubic hair.

Grotesque Film
Media Blasters

The Japanese are a nation of devoted cinephiles, and it sees, to be horror that excites the country's film fans the most. The apocryphal tale of Cannibal Holocaust out performing E.T. at the Japanese box office likely has some truth in it.

And of course, there is a similar tale of the ridiculous death hag fodder - Faces of Death - out-grossing Star Wars in Japanese cinemas. How fabulous would it be if that is true?

What is verifiable about Japan is that their love of deviant cinema has always made the country a rich breeding ground for creative, pioneering and very powerful horror films. From ghost stories to torture porn, from the kinky pinky to over the top gore fests, Japanese cinema does it all with aplomb.

The horror film community in the West always keeps an eagle eye on what is trending in Japanese cinema. This is due to the simple fact that Japan produces the best horror films in the world and Hollywood just loves to remake them. The Grudge, Ring, and Dark Water are all examples of imitation of Japanese cinema by mainstream American cinema, and as they say in the old adage "Imitation is the highest form of flattery".

But it's also a pale imitation. What you really want is the real experience of sampling Japan's best gutter trash, from the respected classics to the downright reviled and revolting.

If a little Nippon nastiness is what you fancy, you will be well looked after.

10. Shogun's Sadism (1976)

Grotesque Film
Toei Company

An absolute jaw dropping film due to its graphic depictions of torture, violence and all kinds of highly nasty activities, Shogun's Sadism is 1970s Japanese ero guro (erotic films with heavy violence) at its finest.

The film features two tragic romances set in the feudal era in Japan. The first one concerns the ill fated affair between a young Christian girl and a Samurai. The next story is centred around the shenanigans between a brothel towel boy who is in love with one of the prostitutes. Happily, she reciprocates his affections and they elope, but can they evade the merciless authorities who are chasing them?

What to say about this transgressive cinema masterpiece? The movie is also known as Oxen Split Torture, which gives the viewers a strong indicator as to the spirit of the film. Decapitations, forced abortion, crucifixion, being roasted alive, limb removal in the most extreme manner and so many variations of horrific yet inventive torture, you will probably begin to feel slightly nauseous if they are further detailed here.

The most surprising aspects of Shogun's Sadism are the good acting, solid plot, convincing effects and the production values - which are definitely higher than what you would expect of an exploitation film of its time and ilk. The aesthetic of the film could con the viewer into thinking that a fairly lavish but innocuous soap opera is about to unfurl on the screen.

And naturally this veneer of quality considerably amplifies the degree of barbarism in the film when the brutality kicks off. It is a curious film for these reasons, but highly recommended for viewers who like to investigate the bowels of Japanese cinema.


My first film watched was Carrie aged 2 on my dad's knee. Educated at The University of St Andrews and Trinity College Dublin. Fan of Arthouse, Exploitation, Horror, Euro Trash, Giallo, New French Extremism. Weaned at the bosom of a Russ Meyer starlet. The bleaker, artier or sleazier the better!