‘Scream’ stifled in Japan

NEW YORK — “Scream” has been silenced indefinitely in Japan because of the national trauma caused by a serial killer. The June 21 release of the film, which has grossed more than $100 million domestically, and the accompanying media blitz were abruptly canceled by Miramax Intl., working with the Japanese distribution company Asmik.The delay was prompted by shock over a killer who decapitated an 11-year-old boy and left a note in his mouth daring authorities to catch him. The killing has been linked by police to the recent murders of two schoolgirls in the same area. The killer, whose note included the taunt “Can you catch me?,” has vowed to kill again. Though serial killers are prevalent enough in the U.S. to be portrayed in TV series like “Millennium” and films like “The Silence of the Lambs,” they are rare in Japan. Police investigators are scouring the rental records of video stores for horror films with storylines matching the crime.

“Scream” was named best pic at the 1997 MTV Movie Awards. It’s essentially an homage to slasher films such as “Halloween.”

A Miramax Intl. spokesman confirmed the decision: “Considering these unfortunate and extremely unusual circumstances, Miramax fully respects Asmik’s decision to postpone the release of ‘Scream’ in Japan, even though our film in no way, coincidentally or otherwise, bears any relation to recent events and has not yet been seen by the public. We look forward to ‘Scream’ being released in Japan at a time when nothing will distract from the audience’s enjoyment.”

Sources say Asmik wanted to go ahead, noting that the film’s major aud is in Tokyo, 270 miles from the murder site in Kobe, but Miramax Intl. urged that it be pulled anyway.

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