Interview: Takashi Shimizu Tackles Tales, Time, and Terror in HOWLING VILLAGE

The prolific Japanese horror Director discusses balancing different horror elements in the first installment of a trio of folk horror tales

Takashi Shimizu is one of the key auteurs of the J-Horror movements of the 2000s with Ju-on: the Curse, a creepy, chronology-twisting haunted house series that would birth an iconic franchise that spans ten films across Japan and the United States. Later films like Reincarnation, Shock Labyrinth 3D, and Tormented further proved Shimizu as a vital talent in Japanese Horror, infusing the genre with a distinct sense of both dread, humor, and a signature malleability of time and space. Shimizu’s latest film, Howling Village, is one of his first films to get wide distribution stateside–and is an effectively creepy tale that peers into the more sinister side of a Japanese urban legend.

Shimizu took a brief moment to discuss his approach to Horror and his filmography, and what draws him to play with time as an effective storytelling device.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity, as well as to accommodate translation logistics.

Ju-on: the Grudge (2003) / Howling Village (2021)

JULIAN SINGLETON: Your scope seems to be getting wider with each series of films that you make–with the Ju-on films, it was a house, then in Reincarnation a hotel, with Flight 7500 a plane, all featuring large ensemble casts. Here, it’s an entire town and as well as several generations of victims. As a filmmaker, do you enjoy pushing yourself for a more expansive vision of horror?

TAKASHI SHIMIZU: This is the first time I’ve been told that — I didn’t really realize that was happening. It wasn’t really a conscious decision. (Laughs)

JS: There’s also an intriguing blend of styles of horror in Howling Village–not just ghosts but creatures as well, and connections to folk horror like The Wicker Man. How do you navigate the balance of different kinds of horror?

TS: There is definitely a balance between ghosts and monsters and “real” people in the film–and that balance is tricky to strike. It involves what people will accept–the verisimilitude–trying to make it real and believable, if you like.

JS: This is set to be the first of a trilogy, with Suicide Forest Village having come out this year in Japan. What can we expect from the next two installments?

TS: You’re very well informed (laughs). The only real thing they have in common is that “Village” is in the title, as well as one of the actors being in all three films–or at least the first two. The second one is set in a real forest northwest of Mt. Fuji (Aokigahara Jukai), which is famous in reality for people to go and kill themselves. Roughly 100 people a year do that. The police and military actually patrol the forest quite regularly to find people about to commit suicide to talk them out of it. The story itself has nothing to do with the first film — all three are different stories about different people.

JS: A signature element in your horror films is how they play with time and space — and without spoiling Howling Village, there’s a continued fascination between how the lines of the past and present blur. I was wondering if you could discuss what fascinates you about playing with time when it comes to making a horror film.

TS: While I’m doing this interview, I’m going through memories of things that happened and re-creating them. People do this all the time. Then, I’m thinking how can I film this? How can I combine this present that I’m in with this past that I’m remembering? And of course, in a horror film, I’m doing the same thing. I like to capture that magic of time and space within the films I make.

Howling Village debuts in limited release on August 13th courtesy of Dread, followed by an On Demand release August 17th and Blu-ray on September 14th.

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