“I defer to the new cinematic revolution coming to Japan, which manifests women’s victory and men’s defeat”
 (Pio D’Emmilia,  film reviewer)

Other possible descriptive schemes are more likely to emphasize cultural factors directly.  An interplay of sex and death seems present in certain strands of Japanese popular culture that encounters no general prohibition against depiction of the sadistic exercise of absolute power.  One version of the Okiku legend involves an attempt by her Lord to coerce the maid into a sexual liaison, which she escapes by drowning herself in the well.   Although it might seem obvious that the artistic treatment of sadomasochistic behavior would be related to the relevant position of women in Japanese society, horror – by its very definition – violates the boundaries of accepted norms.  Japanese horror films by no means exclusively situate the female body as an object to be deconstructed in bizarre ways.  Female characters themselves exercise lethally sadistic control from the time of “Onibaba” to “Banquet of the Beasts.”  In these film contexts sex itself may be used as a weapon by women – a means of sadistic control – in a manner that directly challenges background assumptions of patriarchal power or entitlement.

Lady Snowblood
If horror is defined by the “liminal” or boundary-violating, then such films may provide a record of the boundary conditions in contemporary Japanese culture that form the fault lines between power and submission, conformity and individualism, life and death.  As an example, the “Shurayukihime” (“Lady Snowblood”) films of 1973 and 1974 are not generally regarded as horror.  However, their themes of serial killing and embrace of the abject in the form of an “Eta” (“filth”) clan or of persons with the plague could clearly be described as boundary violating.  Embrace of the abject – particularly in the context of the radical politics of the 1970s – may itself constitute a subversive act.
Ghost System
Potentially interesting cultural differences may be found in the construction of “the abject.”  Much of Western horror film could be characterized as grounded on an unexpected return of the primitive “other.”  In such narratives, city dwellers are depicted as feminine or feminized and are frequently accosted by marginalized individuals who inhabit or emerge from remote locations.  Sometimes the monster or monstrous influence is an animal.  Threats often lurk within the natural, non-urban world – in the forest, caves or beneath the ground or ocean.  The lycanthrope may return to the forest, while the dead may rise from the earth itself.  This construction pits technological, rule-governed humankind against that which is natural and rural.  Intolerance of animism is deeply rooted in Western culture, while animism is central to Shinto.  For Western culture the locus of the uncanny may be at the periphery of urban life or in the scientifically inexplicable, while Japanese culture embraces and reveres the natural world – at least in principle – although to the highly urbanized characters of films such as “Ghost System” or “Hallucination” a remote rural setting is redolent with threat.
Consequently, the source of the uncanny in much of Japanese horror may differ from Western horror films.  Perhaps the greatest recent existential threat to Japanese culture has involved “outsider” influences, of which unrestrained modernism and imported technological practices are contemporary visible manifestations.  It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that Japanese horror might dwell on the socially destabilizing influences of shocking American crime figures, informal social behaviors, or even everyday technology.  All have profoundly altered Japanese cultural traditions in ways that have been popularly perceived as threatening, and in postwar Japanese cinema violence itself sometimes serves as a metaphor for anxiety over American cultural control.  Japanese horror films tend to situate the uncanny with the forces of technology and social change.  In the highly popular Miyazaki anime “Mononoke-hime” (“Princess Mononoke”) the modernizing forces of “Irontown” (led by a woman) seek to subdue and destroy the forest spirit and the source of life itself.  Technology and social progress – not the reclusive forest spirit – is the existential threat.  When “Godzilla” tramples and burns Tokyo with his fiery breath this perhaps recalls the 1945 firebombing that constituted the most concentrated act of mass destruction in human experience.
Cannibal Holocaust
Beyond any consideration of the uncanny, there is also the intriguing issue of possible cultural differences in viewer response to horrific stimuli.  During the 1960s and 1970s the British horror film studio Hammer Films produced three versions of its titles, the strongest and goriest being for the Japanese market.  The notorious 1980 Italian quasi-snuff film “Cannibal Holocaust” was one of the top ten highest grossing films of its time in Japan.  Contemporary Japanese horror films may have a reputation for bloodthirstiness, but it is fair comment that many of their most egregious content such as medical experimentation, dismemberment, eyeball piercing or the disturbing conflation of bodily destruction and sensuality were all pioneered by European horror productions between the 1960s and 1980s in titles that were also consumed in Japan.
Deep Red, Cat O Nine Tails
These “Eurotrash” and, specifically, Italian “giallo” titles were part of a broader cultural movement against conventional mores and censorship restrictions that can trace its lineage to the Parisian Grand Guignol Theater of the early 20th Century.  Such popular culture influences may have resonated with similar modernizing themes in Japan, and both stage and cinematic adaptations of the Grand Guignol have been cited by prolific J-Horror screenwriter Hiroshi Takahashi as explicit influences on the script of his contemporary work “Crazy Lips.”  However, expressions of sensuality and bodily excess have never been as constrained in Japanese popular culture and the arts, lending a differing context to notionally “subversive” material.  Fetish, ritual and nuance have played a more prominent role in Japanese cultural expression – both high and low – suggesting that the depictions of the body in extremis may resonate differently in this entertainment culture.  Takashi Ishii’s extended examination of nawa shibari in “Hana to hebi” (“Flower and Snake,” 2004), for example, has no possible equivalent expression in Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut,” despite obvious plot similarities.