Cult Japan

Charting the wilder extremes of Japanese cinema: twisted visions, deranged erotica, and badass women.

Our Cult strand celebrates Japan’s proud history of outré cinematic expression, a tradition well established in the country's literature and art long before ever shocking a cinema audience. 

And Japan is arguably alone among national cinemas in elevating sex and violence from the margins to the mainstream. Major companies such as Toei cultivated a longstanding brand known as Pinky Violence, while Japan’s oldest studio Nikkatsu focused almost exclusively on their ‘Roman Porno’ line for over 20 years. Both those strands were offshoots of the Pink film - Japan's singular take on softcore erotica, which famously piles up implied perversions while chastely removing all traces of pubic hair.

Genres and sub-genres are rife and increasingly bizarre, through to trends like 'Ero guro' - the unique mix of carnivalesque grotesquerie and deviant sex seen in the films of Teruo Ishii (Orgies of Edo). Such trailblazers would inspire a second generation of shockmeisters, such as Sion Sono and Shinya Tsukamoto, whose work spearheaded a later wave of releases more widely seen in the West. And while these films may contain many questionable elements for contemporary audiences, strong and interesting women are always front and centre - from the zany schoolgirls of House (1977) to kick-ass heroine Meiko Kaji and the unforgettably chilling Asami from Takashi Miike's Audition (1999).

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Horror1999115 minsDirector: Takashi Miike

Takashi Miike burst to international prominence with this deeply disturbing tale of a deadly young woman who turns the tables on her middle-aged suitor.

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House [Hausu]House [Hausu]

Horror197788 minsDirector: Nobuhiko Obayashi

An unforgettable mixture of bubblegum teen melodrama and grisly phantasmagoria, Obayashi’s deranged fairy tale House is one of Japanese cinema’s wildest supernatural ventures and a truly startling debut feature.

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The Happiness of the KatakurisThe Happiness of the Katakuris

Comedy2001113 minsDirector: Takashi Miike

The Sound of Music meets Dawn of the Dead in Takashi Miike's deranged mix of grotesque stop-motion animation, surreal musical numbers, and zombie melodrama.

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Female Prisoner #701: ScorpionFemale Prisoner #701: Scorpion

Crime197287 minsDirector: Shunya Ito

The iconic Meiko Kaji's career-defining turn as 'Scorpion', an unjustly imprisoned young woman who must escape to exact revenge upon the man who betrayed her.

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Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl BossStray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss

Drama197081 minsDirector: Yasuharu Hasebe

Japanese cinema's kick-ass heroine Meiko Kaji made her name as leader of a ruthless girl gang - which takes on a crime syndicate - in Yasuharu Hasebe's riotous rebel biker flick.

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Love ExposureLove Exposure

Comedy2008237 minsDirector: Sion Sono

Japanese cinema's enfant terrible, Sion Sono, unleashes this demented, whirlwind tale of cults, love, violence and perversion.

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Tetsuo: The Iron ManTetsuo: The Iron Man

Fantasy198867 minsDirector: Shinya Tsukamoto

Shinya Tsukamoto's wild cyberpunk tale of a businessman's agonising transformation into a walking scrap heap is a jaggedly dehumanised vision of the future.

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Tetsuo II: Body HammerTetsuo II: Body Hammer

Horror199181 minsDirector: Shinya Tsukamoto

Shinya Tsukamoto's sequel has the Iron Man transforming into a cyberkinetic gun when a gang of vicious skinheads kidnap his son.

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Tokyo TribeTokyo Tribe

Action and Adventure2014116 minsDirector: Sion Sono

Sion Sono's unique brand of subversive cinema explodes onscreen once again with this ingenious hybrid of Yakuza gang action and hip-hop musical.

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Orgies of EdoOrgies of Edo

Drama196994 minsDirector: Teruo Ishii

Teruo Ishii's landmark ‘ero-guro’ film tells three stories of moral sickness set during Japan’s prosperous Genroku era.

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Gushing PrayerGushing Prayer

Drama197174 minsDirector: Masao Adachi

A jaded young woman embarks on an odyssey of self-discovery in this radical pink film from experimental film artist, agent provocateur and underground political soldier, Masao Adachi.

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Inflatable Sex Doll of the WastelandsInflatable Sex Doll of the Wastelands

Crime196786 minsDirector: Atsushi Yamatoya

A hitman is hired to track down a kidnapped girl in this hallucinatory mix of erotica and yakuza violence.

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Blind LoveBlind Love

Romance200565 minsDirector: Daisuke Gotô

In this bizarre but bittersweet erotic comedy, a ventriloquist supplies the voice for his best friend when he begins dating a visually impaired girl. Daisuke Gotô