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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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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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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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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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.