Since the mid 1990s, Asian Horror films have been enormously popular. Films like 'The Ring' (Japan) and 'A Tale of Two Sisters' (South Korea) were not only extremely successful in their countries of origin, but have gained worldwide cult followings since their original releases. Their worldwide fans and distributors sometimes distinguish these films by their country of origin (J-Horror vs. K-Horror vs. C-Horror), but sometimes opt for collective designations (Asian Horror). We will be considering the usefulness of each designation by considering both tendencies that are unique to each national cinema (such as the “Haunted Girls High School” trope found in K-Horror films like Whispering Corridors and Memento Mori, or the “Haunted New Media” trope common in J-Horror films like The Ring and Pulse), as well as the marketing of a pan-Asian extreme horror in films like 'Audition' and 'A Tale of Two Sisters', not to mention international co-productions like 'Three… Extremes'. In so doing, we will be considering the relationship of these films to other aspects of contemporaneous East Asian filmmaking, from other genre films that are grouped under the extreme designation, to the arthouse tendencies of slow cinema that can be found in horror films like 'Visible Secret' and 'Pulse'.
This course will be an introduction to the major films and filmmakers of horror from Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong from the mid 1990s to the mid 2000s (roughly the peak of its international following). We will be considering the following questions: What aspects of the pre-existing horror genre do these films re-work, and how? How do they draw on (or depart from) local folklore or ghost stories? To what extent is their designation as specifically “Asian” (or Japanese, Korean, or Chinese) rooted in cultural tradition, local industrial practices, or a conscious act of branding?