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Thursday October 31, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday October 31, 2013 MYT 10:47:45 AM
by davin 'head caved in' arul
Sadako (Yuki Nakama) took immersive 3D television to a whole new level.
Asian directors are more willing to experiment and innovate in the horror genre.
DO Asians make scarier horror flicks than westerners? That claim has been going round a lot, especially in the past decade-and-a-half, a period that gave us Asian horror hits like Ringu, Ju-On, Dark Water, Shutter, A Tale Of Two Sisters, The Eye and their ilk; and there’s also Malaysia-born James Wan, whose fright fests The Conjuring and Insidious have been hailed as among the scariest efforts to have come out of Hollywood.
I figure, regardless of origin or geographical location, any filmmaker aware of the cultural conditions, taboos, superstitions and simply what gets under someone’s skin in a particular climate (as in sociopolitical, unless you’re referring to Roland Emmerich, in which case, it’s just the weather) will do a good job of freaking out the viewer.
Yet, there is one area in which I feel Asian filmmakers have the edge for now, and that is in their willingness to innovate and push the envelope so far that it rips open, spewing forth a tide of long black hair, guts and gore.
What scares you or shocks you? If it’s something unexpected, then surely something never seen before would fall into that category.
For example, every culture or locale has a “woman in white” legend, But the people behind Ringu took it a step further by having the woman in white crawl out of a well. On your TV. And then, having her crawl out of your TV into your living room. And ... well, you’ve seen the end result.
If a ghastly woman in white is scary, and a creepy little kid is ... creepy, then a team-up should yield double the fright. Would the Ju-On films have been half as chilling without that scene of the little ghost boy perched on the end of a poor haunted girl’s bed? Or, crouching under the steering wheel of some hapless dude’s car?
Then, there was Shutter which totally disarmed us with its hilarious toilet scene and followed up with shocks, scares and that final moment when we found out why the protagonist weighed so much on the hospital scale. Brrr.
What about The Eye, with Lee Sinje being terrorised by a ghost girl for the simple act of sitting in a chair, or that nerve-wracking elevator scene where the freaky-looking ghost with the caved-in face was literally floating just behind her?
Oldies (like me), go back a little further and think about how the pontianak flicks of our childhood totally creeped us out with their scenes of the ordinary turned extraordinary (for example, the satay peddler cycling through the dark night, unaware of the pontianak in the trees above him).
After The Exorcist came out, a Hong Kong knockoff called The Devil In Her made the rounds. I was grounded from watching horror flicks after dragging my parents to watch The Legend Of Hell House a few months before either movie, so I missed both of those. But the trailer for the HK flick really spooked me.
There was a scene of a girl sitting down on a toilet seat, only to jump up in fright and when she looked down, there was a ghastly-hued hand reaching out of it! It also featured a disembodied talking head in a laundry basket and the top half of a head (up to the bulging eyes) sticking out of a soup bowl, I think.
The point is, Asian filmmakers have shown a greater willingness to break taboos and test the boundaries of good taste (the hand in the toilet bowl was just the beginning) and this has yielded a great deal of scares and shocks over the years.
It has also given us some pretty revolting stuff in the “shock schlock” sub-genre of horror. Just ask anyone who’s watched some of the (cough cough) sam kap (Category III) horror movies like Eternal Evil Of Asia (OK, so that was more hilarious than scary, but still bloody disgusting in its way) or Ebola Syndrome. And who can forget “classics” like The Untold Story (or by its literal translation from the Cantonese, “human flesh BBQ meat bun”?) with Anthony Wong (we are not worthy, we are not worthy) or Dr Lamb with Simon Yam?
Of course, the Asian success in horror was kind of a momentary death-knell for genre creativity over in the West when all it seemed Hollywood could do was remake one movie after another (with rare exceptions from visionaries like Guillermo del Toro).
Ironically, it took another Asian (-born) to help pull Hollywood back from the brink when James Wan gave us Saw and the field has been pretty lively since then.
Bottom line is, it’s all quite cyclical – one corner of the global film industry inspires another, which in turn thrives and provides the same to the source of its inspiration, and so on.
What matters is that filmmakers continue to experiment, be daring and innovative ... and then, it doesn’t matter which direction the scares come from, East or West, so long as we don’t see ’em coming.
Homegrown horror hits
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Lifestyle, Halloween, horror, Asia
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