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Horror movies: Fear is universal

By Wei Xi (Global Times)

10:50, July 16, 2013

A poster of Chinese horror movie Mysterious Face (2013) (Xinhua)

As one of the many movie genres, horror flicks, though often enjoyed by a comparatively smaller group, have long been a special and indispensable dish in any movie feast.

With a number of new horror movies coming, from the highly expected World War Z, regarded as the first big budget horror movie, to some mid-budget domestic productions, this hot summer might still be able to provide a chill.

East adept at psycho terror

While ghosts exist in both Western and Eastern culture, zombies are no doubt one of the unique images in Western horror movies. But a very similar creature to zombies exists in Chinese culture known as jiangshi.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, jiangshi were often seen in Hong Kong horror movies, making such names as Lam Ching-ying, Wu Ma and Kent Cheng widely known for this genre.

According to popular fiction, the Western zombies are often transformed by a virus. But the Chinese jiangshi comes from ancient corpses (mostly from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and are transformed by some yin (negative) power. Also, they cannot come out in the daytime, but only at night or in dark shadows.

Often only jiangshi masters are able to subdue such creatures with spells and yang (positive) power. In many stories, the best way is not to kill them but to resolve the resentful emotion that has locked them in the human world.

This idea of coming into being due to some negative emotion and leaving when such emotion is gone has been applied in many other horror movies, not only in China but in other Asian countries like Japan, South Korea and Thailand.

The most famous Japanese horror series, The Ring franchise, is just one typical example.

Despite some mysterious beings that exist in both cultures or are unique for one culture, the ways to frighten audiences are also different between the East and West.

In many Hollywood horror flicks, there must be a number of scenes of blood and mangled bodies. Movies produced in Japan, South Korea, China and Thailand, however, depend more on sound effects and mysterious environments to create psychological horror.

"European and US people are more bold and direct in expressing ideas while Asian people are more reserved," explained Zhao Xiaoxi, Chinese mainland director of two recent horror movies (Mysterious Face and The Deadly Strands).

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