David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies
Horror, or ghost film, has had a long tradition in Hong Kong film. Zombie pictures (jiangzhi pian) once took the center stage during the boom days of Hong Kong cinema in the 1980s. In early 2000, with Applause Pictures taking the lead to capitalize on the phenomenal success of J-horror, ghost films re-emerged as a highly marketable genre. But this horror resurrection has less to do with recycling previous narrative or stylistic formula than an urge to remake horror relevant to contemporary Hong Kong psyche. Inspired by the critical work on Hong Kong's identity politics produced in the late 1990s, this paper examines two signature films from Applause Pictures—Three: Going Home (2002) and Three Extremes: Dumplings (2004), with respect to their new treatment of ghosts and ghostly body as latent representations of Hong Kong's desire for and fear of China. The mythical and ghostly presence of Chinese migrants is central to the narrative of the two horror films but China is not at all negative when it comes to problems of survival, competition and ambition. Here China re-surfaces as a desirable alternative to overcome aging, illness and mortality. But this gift from China (traditional Chinese medical practices) is quickly dissolved and transformed into a monstrous invasion and occupation. Horror, in this regard, displaces the backlash against overindulgence with youth, beauty and fitness, often regarded as excessive trivia in capitalist culture. In addition the paper investigates stylistic particulars of Hong Kong horror. It is hoped that through thematic and stylistic analyses this paper will cover a wide range of cinematic and cultural aspects of contemporary Hong Kong horror.
Yeh, Emilie Yueh-yu and Ng, Neda Hei-tung. Magic, Medicine, Cannibalism: the China Demon in Hong Kong Horror. Hong Kong: David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies, 2008. LEWI Working Paper Series no 74.