Asian Horror Films
The birth of Asian horror movies started began with the popularity of Japanese horror films. Initially these films were made by independent filmmakers and had low budget. But the gaining popularity of Japanese horror films spurred the culture of horror films to be made in other Asian nations like South Korea, Thailand and Hong Kong.
The visceral and moral extremes displayed in recent Asian cinemas may leave the viewers appalled. The movie Oldboy displays the main protagonist cutting off his tongue to prevent his daughter to know about their incestuous relationship as well as to atone for the indiscrete comments he made while in school. Audition, on the other hand portrays the story of a women who tortures the male lead by cutting off his feet and further torturing the individual with acupressure needles. The paper aims to analyze some Asian horror movies.
The Oldboy displays a horror story which has traces of post modernism hinting at the faltering values of socialism, democracy, humanism and the like (Hawkins, 2009). Oldboy, directed by Park Chan-wook has created a powerful impact and has made the South Korean film industry to seek ‘manga’ for finding authentic film scripts. The second film in the vengeance trilogy is Oldboy and has won rave reviews in the international as well as the domestic market. This film restricts vengeance to a personal world and does not cross into the general public. In Oldboy, the revenge was aimed at another individual and a defunct role is played by state institutions like police. The film establishes that the villain and the hero is outside the law. They engage in merciless acts like abduction, blackmail, kill, violence, threat and severely retaliate. This film does not consider the pivotal role of the judiciary thereby implying a meaning of individual freedom and liberty. The next aspect of the film is the portrayal of a trans-historical and mythical world which goes farther than the ordinary realities of a judicial system. Park’s films also depict the presence of a mise-en-scene which heavily depends on the wide angel camera lenses whose main function is to lessen the gap between the subjects and the camera. The absence of landscape is also a dominating factor in this film which displays decrepit concrete small rooms, meaningless images shown in the television, penthouses, chic restaurants and unidentified internet chats. The role and function of the police has been deemed useless in the film Oldboy. The film begins with the drunken protagonist in the police station. Despite the fact that he hurls abuses and even urinates in the police station he remains unscathed. Also the film does not necessarily depict police officers; instead their voices can be heard. The film has worked on the protagonist by changing him into a man who speaks in present tense only one and a half decades after he is released from his unexplained confinement. This displays that Dae-su, the main protagonist lives in the present and has an erasure of past history. The viewer may analyze that this man does not have the basic human emotions or temporality. Oldboy as a movie intrigues the viewer as it displays the context of linguistic communication is highly irrational. The creation of an unknowable world has been perfectly displayed by means of infelicitous comments, verbal miscues and considerable loose ends between the signifieds and the signifiers thereby developing misunderstandings between two individuals.
The film Oldboy has displayed extreme violence. The film has been criticized as it showed the main protagonist devouring a raw octopus. This film is also characterized by violent outbursts. However the outbursts are not related with good and bad as is akin to Hollywood cinema, but is shown to convey crisis moments. The spectacular finale of the film actually makes the audience realize that the film takes into account the perils of two victims – the hero and the villain. Another shocking aspect is the display of the Oedipus formula which is displayed in the sexual acts of the father and the daughter. This is in perfect sync with the end which subversively reunites the father and the daughter (Choi & Wada-Marciano, 2009).
Another film of the Asian horror genre is The Dumplings. The film begins when a doctors returns to her home in Hong Kong from China. It depicts the position of the surroundings of the doctors and the exterior attitudes of the doctors in Hong Kong. It displays that the Chinese doctors has to practice illegitimate medical treatment akin to the world of ancient Chinese medicines in Hong Kong. The Dumplings portrays the character of Mei to be devoid of any human emotions and depicts cannibalism. She uses the bodies of females for a demonic venture. She is the representation of a modern devil in an internationalized culture idolizing excess voracious consumption. The characterization of the lead protagonist from a dubious cook to an irresistible nymph to a calm midwife has been well portrayed in the film. But, is the film trying to tell the audience that this Chinese lady is not a human being? The narrative of the film has many subtle nuances. The lead protagonist, Mei has two black and white photographs which have been taken in the 1960s thereby revealing her to be a woman aged around 60. This shows that the photos taken in electronic or print depict past images. This subtly hints that the immigrants from China are considered to be ghosts in Hong Kong. The film provides a landscape that has a tone of wealth, confidence and comfort (Choi & Wada-Marciano, 2009).
The location of the film is Hong Kong and the nearby area of Shenzhen, which is the first Special Economic Zone. The town went from ruins to riches within a year and is currently one of the busiest ports in China. Employment opportunities attract rural people from underdeveloped regions thereby changing the original patterns of the society. In this context, single women are separated from the traditional customs and structures. This has both favorable and unfavorable impacts.
The Dumplings is an allegory aimed at global capitalism hinting at the economic associations of China/Hong Kong. The raw materials produced in China are taken to Hong Kong. These are further manufactured and are used to serve the service sector. The dumplings made of human fetuses forms the main storyline thereby delving into the boundaries of moral and immoral acts. While delving through Chinese cultures, one understands that ancient Chinese made cures from ingredients of animals and insects. The film has dealt with cannibalism in a slightly comical manner by identifying the proscribed and at the same time enjoying the exaggeration and grotesque pictures shown in the movie. One main attribute to this is the technological breakthrough which has spurred images of a developing fetus. The other is the ongoing debate between prolife and abortion. The film depicts unsettled issues relating to certain queries of whether the fetus is human, the evolution of the fetus into a human life and the time to identify the fetus in legal, moral and religious terms thereby asking for state intervention for protecting the fetus.
The film depicts certain perverse sentiments. The lead characters of the film are devoid of any elderly person. Moreover the rape of the school girl by her father and the abortion of fetus further depict the betrayal or the refusal to be a guardian. Domesticity depicted in the film portrays a complete breakdown of the family. The servants are responsible for all the house work and the husband writes checks to the wife to replace the lack of emotional contact. On the other hand, Mei offers a domestic situation by small talk, preparing food and having sex with Mr. Li. The food in particular is perverse and displays cannibalism. They are both received and made for material and not emotional satisfaction. The film is devoid of old age or childhood. The characters are either childless or made to be childless. Throughout the movie strongly stresses that the manner in which natural aging can be arrested is by destroying prenatal life. The film further displays a breakdown in social harmony with the divorce of Mei and a formal marriage of the Li’s. The movie also depicts the mother of the schoolgirl to stab her husband thereby showing the absence of marriage or rather the breakdown of a social institution. The dumplings challenge nature, loss and transience. Even the house displays nature by means of animal statues and the entire film is pictured under the urban space. The absence of biological reproduction is displayed by Mrs. Li and Mei. Mei personifies destruction and the victimization of the schoolgirl by her father and Mei has been portrayed in the film (Kleinhans, 2007).
The theory behind dumplings
The movie is a display of the dark dreams and wicked wits of the culture in capitalist societies and the saddened position of the victims are also displayed at the same time. The film still provides a subtle explanation of the structural limits which pushed Mrs. Li to become a demon. On the other hand, the character sketch of Mei is intriguing yet morally and ethically doubtful. The film shows that the passage of history may change people but not their aspirations and she does her bit to fulfill them by serving the dumplings.
Miike Takashi, the director of Audition has his beginnings from video cinema and this provided him to innovate. Audition has not gained its controversy simple because of the graphical aesthetics of displaying violence but also the polemic employment of the violence conducted by a female. Critics have maintained that the film is a feminist allegory and has been made as a feminine response to the patriarchal system. However, the argument did not consider that the woman is maligned for the violent actions as displayed in the film. Audition has displayed the monstrous side of women not considering the final outcome of the film. But still, the film has been excellently structured around the aversion of a patriarchal society towards a demonic female personality and may be meant as a complicated review of the possession of patriarchy around the body of the female lead, Asami. Miike Takashi wanted to project that the monstrosity displayed in the female is an outcome of the fears of the patriarchal society which is further compounded by the anxiety of the male lead, Aoyama.
The first date between the female and the male leads have displayed a conservative over the shot shoulder thereby displaying the viewpoint of Aoyama and not Asami. According to Mes, this mechanism is disorienting and tries to tell the audience that this date is not a perfect one. Accordingly, Mes maintains that the audience should be worried by the conduct displayed by Asami, right from the first time they meet. The film has subtly used a strategy to hide the deceit and guilt of Aoyama by using subjective shots from the camera. The film deliberately brings to the fore the nervousness displayed by Aoyama as he has to directly face the audience, Asami’s and the attention of the camera at the same time (Mes, 2004).
The film moves to the realm of an allegory during their second date. This is skillfully provided by giving two barely perceptible but subtle jump cuts by the camera when Asami is speaking. Mes tries to ascertain that the audience should view the film as an allegory in order to prepare the excesses displayed in the movie. The exaggerated violence displayed in the narrative has been complimented to the excessive style shown in the movie. Audition has been made on the same line which in actuality compliments the authentic subject provided the matter of the subject continues to be genuine. The film modifies itself to an allegory from the point of time Aoyama starts to lie.
During the course of the film, Takashi Miike has made a relationship between long shots, long takes, lesser use of diegetic sound and more use of location sound. These are some plans which have been employed throughout the movie in order to show lived and present experienced of the main lead. Miike has successfully distorted the boundaries between authenticity and dream. This is the manner in which Miike reveals the final outcome by coming back to the dream sequence in order to redo the plans. The outcome displays the fantasies of the damaged sub consciousness of the character. The movie’s subversion of its own dictionary conveys that the violence depicted is real and not a fantasy despite displaying the viewer that Aoyama sleeps and then returns to his fantasy world. The belief of the audience is exploited by the illustrated iconography in the traditional portrayal of reality and fantasy in the movie. This has been done in order to weaken the content of the narrative.
The film also displays that an individual displays a mask to the outer world or the society and the mask may be altered depending on the situations presented. This mask performs two functions at the same time. It helps an individual to conceal the inner self from society and at the same time permits the individual to obey the expectation posited by the society. Anima is the inner self which displays a masculine society but the same inner self relies on masculine fear. One must remember that anima has been constructed to fit in a masculine world.
According to Jung, an individual who has a complex can get rid of the same by identifying the work of the unconscious mind in the conscious life. Complex may be dismissed by patient review in which the individual identifies the psychological devise of the anima. The ending of the movie, Audition displays metaphorical paralysis because truth is devoid in the relationship of Asami and Aoyama (Choi & Wada-Marciano, 2009).
The final shot of the movie displays one of ambivalence. This shows a terrifying yet liberating visual of Asami. The child’s visual is that of pre-torture and is pure and at the same time conveys the coming of violence and torture in the last part of the movie.
Hawkins, J. (2009). Culture wars: some news trends in art horror. Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 51. Retrieved November 16, 2013 from http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/jc51.2009/artHorror/text.html
Kleinhans, C. (2007). Serving the people – Dumplings. Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Cinema, 49. Retrieved November 17, 2013 from http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/jc49.2007/Dumplings/
Mes, T. (2003). Agitator: The Cinema of Takashi Miike. FAB Press. U.K.
Choi, J. & Wada-Marciano, M. (2009). Horror to the Extreme: Changing Boundaries in Asian Cinema. Hong Kong University Press, Hong Kong.