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Haunted by History: Asian Horror Cinema

October 27, 2023

Join Professor Ungsan Kim this winter for a brand new course, ASIAN207/CMS272A – Haunted by History: Asian Horror Cinema!

Haunted by History: Asian Horror Cinema

ASIAN 207A / CMS 272A

Instructor: Prof. Ungsan Kim

What makes Asian horror so unique? Why is Asian horror so popular among the global audience? Along with the uncanny thrills and entertainment value these films offer, Asian horror cinema has stood out in its symbolic, allegorical, and figurative representation of social issues. From the global success and stunning popularity of Ring (リング, Dir. Nakata Hideo, 1998) to the recent emergence of art-house horror or post-horror films such as The Wailing (곡성, Dir. Na Hong-jin, 2016) and Mekong Hotel (แม่โขงโฮเต็ล, Dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2012), Asian horror cinema has engaged global audiences with a diverse array of themes and aesthetic styles as well as political and cultural realities.
Horror genre has long been associated with ahistorical, apolitical, trashy, B-sentimental, and “low” taste. Yet, at the same time, as the most affectively and sensorially experienced film genre, horror films also “move” us through vicarious revenge, psychological reparation, and, of course, pure entertainment. This affective dimension of horror foregrounds the cultural politics of Asian horror cinema.
Genre cinema commonly exists upon the repetition of motifs and expected codes. At the same time, cultural, geopolitical, and historical specificities also affect the formation of a cinematic genre. This course in particular explores the ways in which Asian horror cinema narrativizes, visualizes, and politicizes socio-historical issues in the region. The course also examines how the genre itself creates cultural space for articulating such issues. Throughout the course, students will read the “political unconscious” of Asian horror cinema and theorize the genre’s specificity and intra-Asian relationship.