Sunday, January 6, 2008

Tartan Asia Extreme...

Those of you who know me, will be well aware of my obsession with Asian Cinema...
The best director's of my generation are from Korea or Japan...
Hideo Nakata, Takashi Miike, Kim Ji-Woon, Takashi Shimizu, Pang Brothers, Park Chan-wook et cetera et cetera...

I don't like to compare Asian Cinema with that of the Americans or Europeans...
Mainly because American Cinema is shit so there is no comparison there...
And I don't know enough about European Films to make any sort of valid point...
But I urge all of you to buy or rent as many of the titles (which I will list below) as soon as possible and have a Tartan Asia Extreme night...
You probably know some of them already. Mainly because America can't come up with any clever ideas for treatments anymore so they have to constantly re-make legendary Asian flicks...

Yeah, fuck you Dreamworks!

I'm sure most of you saw the pitiful remake of The Ring?
Or how about the detritus remake of Ju-On (The Grudge)?
Originals are obviously more terrifying.
I don't mean to sound elitist here but if the Westeners can't relate to the original then there is no point re-making it for an American market.

Before I give you a list of the scariest and most entertaining movies of all time...
A little History lesson:

The success of the 1998 film Ring brought the image of the yūrei to Western popular culture for the first time, although the image has existed in Japan for centuries.
Yūrei are Japanese ghosts, ones who have been bound to the physical world through strong emotions which do not allow them to pass on. Depending on the emotion that binds them, they manifest as a particular type of ghost. Most common to J-Horror (Horror movies from Japan) is the onryō, a yūrei bound by a desire for vengeance.
Like many creatures of western-folklore, like vampires or werewolves, yūrei have a traditional appearance and follow a certain set of rules.
They are generally female, although male yūrei do exist. They wear white clothing, which is the color of funeral garb in Japan. They have long, often unkempt black hair, which comes from Kabuki theater where each character has a particular type of wig that identifies them to the audience.

So that is why most Asian Ghosts look similar in each movie.
It's not just lazy film-making, it's deeply rooted into their upbringing and folklore.
We're told that the Boogeyman is going to get us...
They're told that the Yūrei will come and take them away...

One last rant:
When you go to the cinema to see an American Horror Film, let's say Texas Chain-Saw Massacre or The Exorcist...
You buy your pop-corn, get your drink and sit there & be delighted for one-two hours...
Everything is shown on the screen right in front of you.
You get your thrills & your spills and you leave the cinema entertained...

But when you see an Asian-Horror movie in the cinema, there's no point buying food or drink because you wont be able to consume either.
Barely anything is shown in front of you. No blood or gore. You rarely even see the ghost.
It's what you didn't see that makes it worse. The audio is more unbearable than what is actually on the screen, so there is no point closing your eyes because it will just make it worse...
When you leave the cinema, you don't just walk away entertained. Asian Horror doesn't let you get off that easily. It gets into your head. Filters around in there during the entire movie and then leaves it all behind. Beautiful.

Okay, some titles to get you on your way:

A Tale of Two Sisters:
This is my favourite movie of all time. Based on an old Korean Folklore parents tell their children. Definitely the most intelligent horror film I have ever seen. It keeps you guessing right up to the last frame.
A brief summary:
2 sisters return to their father's home after being away in a psychiatric hospital. The father now lives with their step-mother.
A lot of weird noises and eerie things happen in the house on their first night back.
The film gradually moves along in this vein. Lots of creepy stuff happens throughout. You don't know (until the final scene that is) if all the weird goings-on are the cause of A) The 2 sisters unstable mentality. B) Their evil stepmother whose behaviour is erratic as hell. Or C) If there is a sinister presence within the house.
Cinematography and the film's score play a big part in this film. The house itself is as much a main character as the actors.
Genius film.

I can't write a brief synopsis for every single movie as it would take too long...
I'll just list titles & 1 short sentence now. And take my word for it - you'll love them all

Audition - The last 20 minutes will blow your fucking mind!
Ringu - An all time classic by now.
Dark Water - A little tedious but still quite creepy.
The Eye - Scaryscaryscaryscary! The "chair-ghost" scene is etched into my mind forever.
One Missed Call - Takashi Miike knows how to do fucked up terrifying.
Phone - I watched this late at night on my own. Pretty dumb thing to do.

Special Mention for the Three Extremes franchise.
Three short movies from three different countries from three different directors.
Only 2 volumes available at the minute but more will surely come because they are great.

If you don't like scary films then I will recommend:

Oldboy - Could very well be the greatest movie of my generation. If you haven't seen this yet then you're a dick.
Visitor Q - It's a little intrusive and quite sick. But it makes for incredible viewing.
Ichi The Killer - Not for the faint hearted. Repeat NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED.
A Bittersweet Life - The best revenge movie of recent years with the best revenge scene of recent years.
Internal Affairs - A fantastic flick which Scorsese's The Departed is based upon.
Battle Royale - Pleasepleaseplease buy this movie. What an idea for a film! Kids. An island. Weapons. Death.

And if you don't have any interest in Asian cinema then just get these three for now:

The Devil's Backbone - Mexican ghost/horror movie about Orphans in a haunted school. Very Very creepy.
Amores Perros - Another genius Mexican flick. Shame on you if you haven't seen it yet.
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu - Romanian Black-Comedy which is funny as hell.

P.S. If you want to get a laugh. Go onto IMDB's message boards for movies the American's are remaking. You'll see fanatics like myself argue that they should never be remade.

A Tale of Two Sisters Trailer:


Remaker said...

I don't want to sound rude but you're the exact type of person I cokmpletely disagree with when it comes to reamaking asain movies. Why shouldn't they be remade for a Western audience? It will help them understand the stories more.
Good post by the way.

Pedro said...

If they don't understand the original then they certainly aren't going to understand a shoddy remake from a studio looking to make a quick buck.
Why does the Western world need to be spoon fed everything that is happening in a film. Why do all of the questions have to be answered at the end of a movie? Why can't there be unanswered questions left?
It's lazy film-making to Americanise an Asian film. The Eye & A Tale of Two Sisters will both be butchered come the next few months when the remakes are released.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree w/ you on being anti-remake! These films just get watered waaay down in order to be palatable for a larger audience.

BTW, have you seen "Suicide Cult (Suicide Circle)" and if so, whaddya think about it? Just rented it and...I'm...I'm still boggled.


MontiLee Stormer said...

Excellent post.

Remaking Asian Horror is pointless because the culture doesn't translate well. Just look at what they did to The Ring - they had to completely change it to make it understandable to American audiences it was stripped of the subtlety. Americans need everything explained to them. The Japanese just get it.

Anonymous said...

I am into horror movies- I've seen some good ones, and some TERRIBLE ones. If you want to suggest a European good one, 'High Tension'

Another one made with the Tartan Asia Extreme name strung across it is 'Red Shoes'. I had not seen a good horror in a while- and that was exactly what I needed. The ending was...MESSED UP.

A good American one actually I can say is Unrest. They used real cadavers (which just adds on to the eerie factor) and another asian one I can suggest is Infected.