The New York Times has an article in it's Movies section today about the inanity and futility of Hollywood's J-Horror remakes. This article is nothing new really-- hell, I wrote about it nearly three years ago in my 'Death of J-Horror?' feature for Midnighteye. But I wanted to share a clipping from the piece as the article's writer, Terrence Rafferty,[obtusely] makes a valid point at the end that I feel is wrong in its conclusion:
"Rhythm is often the most significant difference between Asian horror movies and their American versions: the good Far Eastern directors know that the most interesting part of any ghost story is the buildup, the dawning dread that gradually makes the world feel alien, uncanny." (link)Mr. Rafferty includes this discussion of Pace in terms of the difference in horror sensibility vis a vis the East and the West, but it is something that is not unique to horror in and of itself.
First off, Pacing is an essential intangible element in a film -- together with Tone -- that is as important as the time signature in a piece of music. But whereas sheet music begins with this, in a movie, the director needs to find it in the script and then hold it inside herself for the entire duration of the filmmaking process. Sure, you can try to 'fix' the Pace (and Tone) in the edit, but as all editors know a film with a well-defined Pace is easier to cut and breathe life into.
What Mr. Rafferty misses (and I'm at the risk of sounding elitist or overly judgemental here, and that is something I don't want to comes across as) is that the Asian horror works better at times because the burden of proof is off of the filmmakers to make you believe that there is a ghost haunting. The notion of the existence of ghosts is built in culturally-- at least in Japan. So the film is all about building the mood: creating the fright and the dread in the audience-- in short, the Pace (and Tone).
As a bit of comparison, you'll notice that the Japanese zombie movie feels much different than the Japanese ghost movie. Structurally it's very similar to what we get in the west, meaning that it all is indebted to George Romero and the 70s Italian stuff. This is because it is an import. The case for zombies existing in the first place has to be made-- same as in the West. In short, it's not a cultural approach to filming horror, it's how to make their audience feel what the director's desire. Once again, that's done through the Pace (and Tone).