A Look into Asian Horror Part One: Chinese Horror
As we continue to branch out into different areas of entertainment, I have the honour of hitting on a film genre that I am absolutely in love with. If the title didn’t give it away, that genre is Horror. Personally, I feel that the art of Horror has died in the United States, dumbing the movies down to PG-13 (for freaking teenagers) or overly relying on Gore, it is very rare anymore to find a good psychological horror flick or one that seeks out to scare the ever living hell out of you.
In my thirty-six years on this earth, I’ve probably seen over a thousand different horror movies from all over the world in my quest to find something genuinely scary. It is tough for me to get scared during a movie, I am really desensitized to the typical scares, but I can enjoy a horror movie for what it is usually.
So to start with I’m going to look at twenty different Asian horror movies, from four countries, and rank them into the top five’s for each country. Look out for part two next week.
I won’t give away the entirety of the movies, but I will add the synopsis for each and then give my personal take on the movies. I will avoid as many spoilers as I can, but obviously, there is a spoiler warning just in case it can’t be helped. I’ll also not go into too much detail about each movie, I am going to be talking about twenty of them after all.
We’re going to start the journey with a trip to China, and its territories, first. China isn’t really a country most people will think to look to when it comes to horror movies, but believe it or not, the Chinese can make some pretty good horror films. From my experience with their films, the Chinese tend to keep to the kinds of movies that make you think and keep you guessing. There are exceptions to the rule of course. I’ve seen some pretty good ghost stories out of China.
Let’s deep dive, shall we?
#5. Gau Ji aka Dumplings (2004) Not Rated drama/horror
Synopsis: Aunt Mei’s famous homemade dumplings provide amazing age-defying qualities popular with middle-aged women. But her latest customer – a fading actress – is determined to find out what the secret ingredient is.
We’re starting off with a doozy here. If you’ve ever seen the movie 3 Extremes, then this story will be familiar to you and you will know what happens. Gau Ji expounds and extends the story from 3 Extremes into a one hour and thirty-one minute ride into depths that the faint-hearted dare not tread. If you’re squeamish or easily offended, do not watch this movie.
The big reveal of what Aunt Mei’s ‘famous’ dumplings are made of will make you never look at dumplings the same way ever again. Give this one a watch if you’re curious but be prepared, that’s all I’ll say.
#4. Geung see aka Rigor Mortis (2013) Not Rated action/horror
Synopsis: A public housing tenement is plunged into a dark storm of supernatural chaos.
So we’re diving into Rigor Mortis next. IMDB says
“In this eerie and chilling, contemporary, action/special effects laden homage to the classic Chinese vampire movies of the 1980’s”
and that is exactly what you are getting, but with some extra elements added in like ghosts and zombies. It is a pretty fun ride with a good amount of action built into the ‘horror’ story that is being told here. While not as shocking or depraved as Dumplings, this one does give you one fun ride from start to finish. Definitely worth a watch for those who are fans of the genre.
#3. Gui si aka Silk (2006) Not Rated horror/mystery/sci-fi
Synopsis: Aiming to harness the energy found in some supernatural spirits, scientist Hashimoto and colleagues catch the ghost of a young boy. Hashimoto plans to use the energy to fuel an anti-gravity device he’s invented. But, in order to tap into the ghost’s essence, he must understand the silent words coming from its mouth.
Silk is one of those movies that will make you think. It’s a true mystery film but it has a very good horror element to it. Without going too deep into the plot, we get the sci-fi element from this experimental device called the “Menger Sponge” in the film. What follows is a twisting and turning adventure as the scientists and a police officer try to figure out just why the boys’ spirit is still on this plane of existence.
This Taiwanese ( and I looked, Taiwan is a Chinese Territory) film is one of the better movies I’ve seen to come from China or one of its territories. Definitely worth a watch if you’re into movies that will keep you guessing and make you think.
#2. Zong Xie aka The Rope Curse (2018) Not Rated horror
Synopsis: Hoping to make a viral video by streaming a mysterious rope ritual, a couple falls into a deadly curse instead that turns their lives upside down.
So here we go. This one has a bit of a loose plot and a very stupid boyfriend, but it is a really creepy movie with a good atmosphere. The premise is pretty solid and rather unique, I hadn’t ever really seen a movie where ropes are cursed. Basically, this is what you’re getting into here.
“It is believed that when someone commits suicide by hanging, the rope used in the act will be cursed. In China’s Fujian Province, ancient rituals are carried out to lift the curse from the rope by setting it on fire and placing it in the sea. Intrigued by it, Jia-Wei, a daytime television network employee who spends his nights streaming videos of bizarre things, and his fiancee decided to make a viral video by streaming the ritual.”
If you’ve ever seen a horror movie, especially one involving curses, you know this is a stupid thing to do. However, this is another solid Taiwanese horror flick that deserves a chance to be viewed by all horror aficionados.
#1. Gin Gwai aka The Eye (2002) R drama/fantasy/horror
Synopsis: A blind girl gets a cornea transplant so that she will be able to see again. She gets more than she bargained for upon realizing she can also see ghosts.
If you’ve ever seen the abomination of an American remake featuring Jessica Alba, then you’ll know the premise of this movie. What the US version lacks, the original delivers in spades. Not to mention it has two sequels that are every bit as good as the original and are not quite the same story-wise. Would you accept being able to see ghosts in exchange for being able to see? I don’t know if I could, but this movie explores what could happen and the consequences of such a gift. This horror flick from Hong Kong is the pinnacle of Chinese horror and should be on every horror fan’s watch list.
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