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Why scary Chinese movies are so scarce

By Li Anlan (Shanghai Daily)

10:06, October 31, 2012


AS Halloween looms, thrills, chills, spirits and horror are in order. Why not catch a scary flick at the theater with friends, eat popcorn and enjoy a good old-fashioned, blood-curdling night at the movies?

Scary movies are a Halloween tradition and fun year-round. The global horror-ghost-thriller industry is booming, except on the Chinese mainland, which has a huge film industry, vast audience and few scary flicks.

Though its audience has a great appetite for horror (both physical and psychological), China's own horror industry seems seems drained of blood and vitality. Thus, viewers get their fix from abundant Asian and Western fare. DVD stores are packed and virtually every creepy film can be downloaded from the Internet.

Over the years a few mainland directors have made horror films in China, but with low budgets and strict censorship, it's fair to say that making these films is a nightmare that doesn't make money.

You might call it a dying industry, suffering death by a thousand cuts.

The bottom line: The State Administration for Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) has very detailed guidelines about what's not permitted in terms of the supernatural and violence (see box for gory details).

China has no rating system and films are approved one by one, scene by scene.

For example, no "real" ghosts are permitted because they represent superstition - thus, the only allowable ghosts must be in dreams or the imagination. And they can't be too graphic.

But today, a rare Chinese mainland horror film "Haunting Love" by Liang Ting, will be released, telling not only a horror story, but also a love story, and a murder mystery.

In brief, a female radio host attempts suicide before her wedding when she learns her fiance has been unfaithful. He dies mysteriously as do other people as the tale unravels.

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