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The Wrathful Onryō Of J-horror, ARMY OF ONE And MORE!
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The Bite #99
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The Wrathful Onryō Of J-horror, ARMY OF ONE And MORE!

March 3, 2020

In this Issue:


HORROR HISTORY: THE WRATHFUL ONRYŌ OF J-HORROR

By John Bogna

We all remember the scary movie, book, or image we saw as a child that still turns our guts to ice. I should be in therapy from the art in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark alone and, growing up, it was Halloween. Micheal Myers’ unstoppable slasher was a personal boogieman for years.

Until I saw The Ring.

The 2002 film about a cursed VHS tape redefined fear. I looked at the small television in my room with dread when the lights went out and watched, waiting for it to click on of its own accord. I was deeply frightened by this new breed of horror and had to have more.

Two years later, I got my wish. The Grudge was filled with slow, nail-biting psychological terror, the characters tormented by a violent ghost consumed by rage. The spirit haunting that ramshackle house in Tokyo didn’t care who it hurt; it just wanted them to suffer.

Other horror villains could be defeated; you could blow them up, kill them, sink them in a lake. But the ghost in The Grudge could show up anywhere from the sheets of your bed to the folds of your hair. And its curse stuck to you like a plague until you died.

The Ring was based on a 1991 novel by Koji Suzuki, the first in a series. The Grudge was modeled after the 2002 Japanese film Ju-On. Both films introduced Japanese horror, or J-horror, to mainstream North American audiences along with their murderous ghost, the Onryō.

Based on a Japanese mythological figure dating back to the eighth century, Onryō translates to “vengeful spirit” or sometimes “wrathful spirit”. According to folklore, Onryō are created when someone dies in the grip of a powerful negative emotion like rage or jealousy. Their spirit, known in Japanese as tamashii or reikon, becomes corrupted and stays behind to torment the living. They can also be created when a spirit doesn’t receive the proper last rites and, instead of becoming a protector of the family, it returns to the living world to exact vengeance.

Onryō can possess the bodies of the living and reenact their deaths, killing their human puppets in the process, or use their powers to psychologically torment their victims. Some legends even blame lightning strikes and earthquakes on an Onryo’s rage. And once they curse you, they’re impossible to escape until they’re placated. If they even can be.

They usually target the ones responsible for their death, but their curse can rub off on anyone they come into contact with. It’s said the spirit receives sustenance from suffering, often letting the target of their wrath live a long life while wreaking havoc on their psyche and drinking in their pain, and their appearance or mannerisms usually reflect how they died. In The Grudge, for instance, Kayako’s neck was snapped by her jealous husband and, in death, the unearthly croak of her mangled vocal cords is a sign her ghost is near.

But despite the lag in popular J-horror in recent years, the Onryō continues to haunt North American cinema with Nicolas Pesce’s remake of The Grudge from earlier this year. The news brought back old memories of warily staring at my television in the still hours of the night or watching for a shift in the covers of my bed.

I’m reminded of Aiden at the end of The Ring. “Don’t you understand, Rachel?” he says as his nose begins to bleed, “She never sleeps.”


*John Bogna is a freelance writer based in Houston, Texas. His work has been featured in Medium’s One Zero, as well as the Seattle TimesThe Houston Press, and SyFy Wire. More of his writing can be found on Medium.


IMAGE OF THE WEEK

Image Of The Week #99 - Army Of One By Junji Ito - The Bite

Nobody Likes A Lonely Only

Junji Ito is a master of creating painfully haunting imagery that will etch its way into your mind, permanently. This panel from Army Of One is no exception to that rule.


TINY BITES

DRACULA PARROT, THE INVISIBLE MAN, CANDYMAN AND MORE

Inspired by a particularly disorienting moment in The Invisible ManThe New York Times highlights five shocking detours in horror from Psycho to Parasite.

The Invisible Man production designer Alex Holmes talks about the challenges behind bringing the suit to life.

Evidently there is a supremely gothic breed of parrot known as the Dracula Parrot and we’re obsessed.

Nia DaCosta’s highly anticipated Candyman finally graced us with a chilling trailer that featured the Destiny’s Child remix we never knew we needed.

American Horror Story Season 10 is bringing back fan-favorites Evan Peters and Sarah Paulson alongside some new cast members as Macaulay Culkin’s joins the spookiness.

Ever wonder what horror movie posters look like in other countries? BuzzFeed’s got you covered with these 14 alternate international posters.

The University of Pittsburgh has a film studies class called Making the Documentary: George Romero and Pittsburgh and their final assignment is, appropriately, making a documentary on Romero’s connection to the city.

These 15 disturbing sci-fi horror flicks should give you the nightmare fuel you’re looking for. From Event Horizon to Tetsuo: The Iron Man and just about everywhere in between.

Adventures In Poor Taste explores the power of women in horror reflecting their real-life fight for their lives and their voice.

Though vampires have very little stake in Japanese culture, Vampiric: Tales of Blood and Roses from Japan, a collection of short stories, should give you something to sink your teeth into.

Katie Holmes spoke to Refinery29 about why mothers are the perfect figures for horror.

Book Riot looks at queer representation in horror literature through five novels, from Joseph Sheridan La Fanu to Edgar Cantero.

World Of Terror, the horror video game created by one-man developer Panstasz, is taking the horror gaming community by storm, and Super Jump Magazine is here to praise its lo-fi success.


THINGS WE LOVE

Things We Love #99 - Video - The Bite

When Rock Meets Wrath

The video for Japanese rock band Queen Bee’s song Seisen (Holy War) stars a very special (and terrifying) guest — none other than Sadako herself. The song was used as the main theme for the J-horror-comedy face-off flick Sadako vs. Kayako.


HEY, THAT’S US! – SHUDDER IN THE NEWS

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