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Best Junji Ito Horror Stories That Would Make Great Live Action Movies


No one brings horror to life like Junji Ito, one of the greatest minds of the genre, and some of his best stories would make great live-action movies. There have been many attempts to adapt Ito’s work; Uzumaki, his most famous story, for example, was turned into a movie in 2000, but failed to effectively translate the source material’s horrific imagery into the big screen. On the other hand, Netflix animated some of Ito’s terrifying tales in a TV series, but it lacked originality and memorable traits.

What makes Ito’s works so difficult to adapt is how the author uses every element of the manga medium in his favor. His momentum for horror is unparalleled; in each of his stories, Ito meticulously plans the moment the reader will turn the page and stumble upon a disturbing image that covers the whole page; it’s a jump scare in its most literal form. Fans are eager to see Ito’s upcoming Bloodsucking Darkness live-action project, and while the unique experience of reading his work will never be properly adapted to the big screen, some of his more grounded, yet equally terrifying stories definitely have the potential for great live actions.

7 Tombs

“Tombs” is one of Ito’s latest stories, included in the titular collection released in 2023. It follows two siblings who set out to visit an old friend in the town where she has moved. The town proves to be a peculiar place, with tombs scattered across streets, sidewalks, and even inside homes, displaying the locals’ long tradition of burying a corpse in the exact place where the person died. When the siblings accidentally hit a girl with their car and decide to hide the body, a harrowing curse falls upon them.

“Tombs” is the kind of story that shows Ito’s imagination is still fresh even after so many years of publishing horror stories. Although brief, the array of characters is three-dimensional, and their flaws and motivations well-developed. The small-town-big-secrets setting is nothing new in the genre, but there’s something unique about the tombs scattered everywhere that result in eerie-looking landscapes in every page. If a movie were to adapt the story’s distinctive visuals and do justice to the body horror elements that show up in the story’s final pages, the final result would be terrifying.​​

6 Remina

Remina

“Remina” is Ito’s take on cosmic horror, following the discovery of a strange rogue planet named after Remina, the daughter of the scientist who first spotted it. When the planet turns out to be a living organism on its way to prey on humanity and Earth as a whole, Remina becomes the target of mysterious cults that think sacrificing her might save humanity from their doom.

“Remina” would make a perfect live-action movie because, despite its space-horror elements, it’s the story that unfolds on Earth that truly keeps the story in motion. The contrast between Remine-planet and Remina-girl would be phenomenal onscreen, alternating between the consequences of the cosmic threat and the results of mass hysteria towards an innocent girl. The escalating tension of the manga would translate perfectly to the big screen, and the images that Ito created are as breathtaking as they are terrifying, reminding readers how small humanity is when compared to the vastness of space.

5 Enigma of the Amigara Fault

Amigara Fault

A must-read for every horror fan, “Engima of the Amigara Fault” is an Ito story that would make a great adaptation. Despite not having so many characters and going straight to the point, the unique mystery of “Enigma of the Amigara Fault” has the potential for a disturbing thriller with an ending difficult to digest. It’s the kind of story whose setup is just as unsettling as the conclusion, following a group of strangers drawn to a fault on Amigara Mountain after an earthquake. The fault consists of several human-shaped holes that appear inexplicably, and Ito successfully addresses the commotion behind the mysterious incident.

From the TV coverage to the characters who travel to the Amigara Fault to witness the strange holes by themselves, the mystery escalates into something utterly disturbing from multiple perspectives. It’s one of Ito’s rare stories in which he leaves plenty of room for the reader’s imagination, instead of delivering pages of detailed horrific imagery. However, the sight of the final page is difficult to forget, and a movie could effectively deliver a similar gut punch.

4 Used Record

Used Record

Maybe the best Junji Ito adaptations don’t need to be adaptations at all. Instead, it’s possible to take the base story and craft something authentic and original, while keeping Ito’s most distinctive trademarks. In the case of “Used Record”, the story unravels at such a fast pace that a direct adaptation would barely result in a feature film, but the idea of such an original tale of obsession and hysteria opens the door for plenty of possibilities.

The original story is centered around a mysterious song on an unlisted record that hypnotizes the listeners, causing them to go down a path of violence to claim the record as their own. Adapting “Used Record” is a great way to combine three mediums together; manga, film, and music. While Ito’s story hits just the right notes, the fact that a movie would enable the audience to actually listen to the song would make it easier to relate to the characters. Just like All About Lily Chou-Chou created a whole album of original songs to give life to its fictional artist, a “Used Record” movie could do the same, with equally catchy songs.

Related: 8 Video Games That Would Make Great Live-Action Movie Adaptations

3 Tomio: Red Turtleneck

Red Turtleneck

Ito’s talent for dark comedy isn’t talked about enough, and “Tomio: Red Turtleneck” delivers one of the best examples of Ito’s outrageous sense of humor. In the story, a young boy cheats on his girlfriend with a fortuneteller who wants his head, quite literally. As he becomes the recipient of the woman’s curse, the story follows his attempts to prevent his head from falling off, holding it tightly with his hands while the fortuneteller chases after him.

The story is just as gruesome as it is hilarious, and the absurdity of the situation reaches unbelievable extremes. While a 60-minute adaptation was released in 2011, “Tomio: Red Turtleneck” has the potential to be a campy horror masterpiece on the big screen in the hands of talented directors who know how to balance horror and comedy such as Sam Raimi or Jordan Peele.

Related: 10 Animated Movies From Directors Who Usually Do Live Action

2 Slumber

Slumber

“Slumber” introduces a seemingly traditional crime story setting that flirts with supernatural elements, which could result in a chilling crime thriller. Exploring the thin line between dreams and reality, it follows Takuya, an aspiring lawyer who starts to wake up each morning with vivid memories of killing people. When the people in his dreams actually start showing up dead, Takuya finds himself at the center of a disturbing mystery.

A story like “Slumber” in the hands of someone like Kiyoshi Kurosawa would be pure good. Other Kurosawa movies such as Cure and Creepy effectively play with horror and the idea of perpetrator and victim becoming one. On the other hand, “Slumber” even has the potential for a slasher, given its body count and unique killer. The story sets up a compelling mystery that evolves into a look into the depths of the unknown, leading up to one of Ito’s bleakest endings.

1 Sensor

Sensor

Even Ito’s longest works such as Gyo and Uzumaki are divided into vignettes that, though following the same characters and addressing similar themes, work as standalone stories. On the other hand, “Sensor” stands out as the author’s attempt at a more character-driven narrative, connecting a girl’s journey of self-discovery with ancient curses and Japan’s violent past. The heart of “Sensor” is Kyoko Byakuya, the girl whose untamed curiosity leads her to a remote village at the foot of a mysterious volcano.

The story’s mystery is linked to a traditional cosmic horror setting typical of H.P. Lovecraft’s best stories, exploring entities and events beyond human comprehension. “Sensor” is one of Ito’s most visually ambitious stories, with otherworldly images that would perfectly translate into a movie with a dreamlike atmosphere, including the mesmerizing sight of a volcano that erupts strange golden strands of hair.



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