Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hall Of Horror

"Hell hath no fury like a (female ghost) scorned"

Fans of horror movies unite! Here’s a special article featuring our favourite horror queens...

Just what is it about these horror movies that attracts us to watch it whenever it is released in cinemas, despite half the time we have our eyes and ears covered in the movie theatre? Perhaps it’s the lure of the long-haired female ghost clad in a long white shapeless dress; the central key figure that appears in all Asian movies that classifies itself under the horror genre, whether it be Japanese, Korean, Thai, or even Hollywood remakes. She’s hardly a femme fatale (attractive she is not...), but still highly seductive in a paranormal sense, and she’s very, very dangerous.

This iconic character has undergone little modifications in appearance since its first appearance in The Ring in the mid-1990s, with her familiar, long, black and unkempt hair covering her face, her long white hospital surgery robe, her pale or grey skin and bony fingers wth gross fingernails reaching out to grab people. And her huge bloodshot eyes...URGH! Not to forget the trademark creaky sound from Kayako in Ju-on. Now, this lady is long as it’s a horror movie, you’re very likely to see her. She has even made it to Hollywood! This amazing scary lady certainly commands our respect and awe.

Japanese director Hideo Nakata brought the eerie ghost story to the screen in his gothic horror mystery "Ringu," which was released in January 1998. It quickly became a phenomenon, spawning the most successful horror film franchise in the history of the Japanese cinema, as well as a television series and Manga.

Soon after the release of "Ringu," a whole new genre of Japanese films emerged -psycho-horror, or J-horror as it's often called-which exploded into Japan's multiplexes. Whether or not it had its origins in an urban legend, "Ringu" resulted in one that transfixed readers and moviegoers alike in Japan and much of Southeast Asia, and would soon capture the attention of people on the other side of the world.

Here comes
the ultimate Horror Queen candidates!


Movie : The Ring

Name : Sadako

Age of death : 20 + (?)

Murdered by : her mother

Why she was murdered : everyone feared her extraordinary powers to kill just by using her mind power, then her mum decided to kill her with her own hands

How she died : stuck in a well for years

Why she wants to kill : hatred

Method of killing : passing on the curse via an unlabeled video-tape, then ringing up the person to tell him/her that he/she has only 7 days more to live. Then once the time is up, the TV will turn on by itself and she’ll climb out of the TV screen to scare the victim to death.

Known as Sadako or ‘zhen zi’, this notorious iconic female ghost first appeared on the big screen in ‘Ringu’ in 1998 and it became a major hit in many countries. It resulted in frequent sleepless nights for many, paranoia among toilet-goers and cassette tape-owners.

The famous hair-raising scene—Sadako climbing out of the well, walking slowly towards the TV screen in a creepy way, and then clambering out of the TV screen from the virtual to the real world, and creeping somemore towards the poor guy (ex-husband of the lead character), and finally issuing the death blow by scaring the life out of the guy with her mispositioned eyeballs through her curtain of straggly hair.

By the way, imagine spending years in a murky well...I bet her hair stank.

Watching TV static in the middle of the night has taken on a whole new eerie sensation. You’ll probably never view an old well in the same way again. You’ll probably feel cautioned against strange video tapes. If so, you’re under the influences of the after-effects of watching The Ring. One difference between The Ring and Ju-on is that the former has a somewhat happy ending. One can become liberated from the curse. But in Ju-on, nothing can remove the curse. It just goes on and on, neverending, possibly ending up wiping out the whole world population just because of the hatred of one housewife murdered by her irate husband due to her infidelity.

Perhaps it would be accurate to call her the ancestor of all forthcoming iconic female ghosts typical of Asian horror movies. Call it an ingenious inspiration on the part of the producer, or perhaps he actually encountered a ghost dressed in that way, what he had created has become a legend in the horror film industry; a universal trademark of asian female ghost for all posterity.

Because of its novelty, Sadako was indeed a terrifying figure when she first appeared on the theatre screen. The idea of incorporating an everyday life object of people (TV) into a horror movie, where it plays a major part in causing terror is perhaps one of the elements which creeps people out for days or weeks after watching it.


Movie : Ju-on series, The Grudge series

Name : Kayako

Age of death : 30 +

Murdered by : her husband

Why she was murdered : her husband read her diary about how she was obsessively infatuated with her son's school teacher and overcome with jealousy, proceeded to murder his wife, his son, and their pet black cat

How she died : her neck broken by her outraged husband

Why she wants to kill : hatred

Method of killing : anyone who visits the haunted house becomes infected with the curse and the inflicted victim passes on the curse like a virus to whoever he/she comes into contact with. Once infected with the curse, the entourage (kayako, her son, and the black cat) will haunt the victim from time to time at all places (bathroom, toilet, window, mirror, bed, classroom, restaurant, hospital etc). If the victim isn’t frightened to death first by these bloodcurdling encounters, kayako will deal the final deathblow by grabbing the victim and transporting her to god-knows-where, leaving no trace. Be warned—she can appear and grab the victim anywhere, anytime.

Nothing can appease her. Nothing can quell her hatred. Nothing can exorcise her.

Trademark : her creaky sound, long black hair with bangs, white sleeveless dress, appears in 2 forms—bloody and non-bloody, walks in a strange contortionist way, has 2 assistants—her son (Toshio) and the cat

The moral of the Ju-on story—never enter a house reputed to be haunted. You may end up infected with a fatal curse, not before frightened out of your wits wherever you go. But this is still not a fool-proof plan...the curse passes on like a virulent virus from victim to victim, even to those innocent ones who never entered the haunted house, as can be seen in the Grudge 2, which demonstrated that the curse can cross international borders from Japan to America.

She needs no reason to kill. Her immense hatred is palpable, but irrational. Did she need to torment and kill those perfectly innocent people who merely stumbled into curse through pure acquaintances? She even involved her otherwise adorable son in her evil deeds. That’s violating a constitutional right. All children should be receiving proper education, not engaging in scaring people. Furthermore, her son is clad only in his underwear in a cold country like Japan. Is that child abuse or what, ghost child or not.

Like Sadako, Kayako has long, black hair which covers her face. But she has better hair style and hair condition than Sadako. Kayako has bangs, and her hair is more smooth (when she’s in her non-bloody version, that is.) She wears a sleeveless white dress and goes barefooted. It seems that wearing shoes lowers the fear factor of ghosts? Perhaps the producer didn’t want us to be distracted by the shoe design or brand. And like Sadako, she walks in a twisted, contorted way that is 100% eerie.

One memorable scene is where Kayakoko creeps under the blanket and made a sinister face at the victim and then grabbing her into her Kayako-world and which left me disturbed for days. The ultimate hair-raising and spine-chilling scene has to be the part where Kayako slowly opens the door and descends the stairs, her face and dress all bloody, slowly approaching the appalled and petrified victim. Totally haunting, I tell you.

In the Japanese version Ju-on, we last saw Kayako reincarnated as the daughter of the actress (Acclaimed as the Horror Queen). Will there be Ju-on 3? I await most eagerly. Yes, I have still not learnt my lesson. Despite suffering sprained fingers after watching every horror movie (coz have to use my index fingers to cover my eyes and thumbs to cover my ears), I am still willing to endure my fore-limb discomfort to enjoy the thrill and chill of horror films.


Movie : Shutter

Name : Natre

Age of death : early 20s

Murdered/killed by : Suicide

Why she was killed : heartbroken and depressed after being gang raped by her boyfriend’s friends and the photos taken by her boyfriend

How she died : see above

Why she wants to kill : nope she didn’t kill the guy. She tormented him. She is more rational than the Japanese ghosts—she only wants to take revenge on the guy and didn’t really harm his current girlfriend

Method of torment : haunts the guy by appearing in polaroids, sitting on the guy’s shoulders, driving him to insanity, killing the guys who raped her

Trademark : long, black hair, wears white shapeless dress, pale grey skin (familiar?)

Another tool for arousing fear—photographs. This movie was inspired by the phenomenon of paranormal appearances of ghost images in photographs. An ingenious stroke of inspiration, no doubt. In my humble opinion, this Thai horror film is more sophisticated than Japanese horror in that it has a tighter storyline and a more rational ghost (with a reason for revenge, and only on the specific victims)

Like all fearsome ghosts, Natre doesn’t speak. She appears in photographs, instilling in the protagonist fear which goes beyond the superficial level to reveal a deeper story within...something shameful he did...which caused Natre’s death and hatred...A good plot aids in raising the fear factor of horror films, because it makes the story more realistic. The movie uses everyday objects as the tool of fear to evoke a greater sense of trepidation as photographs are common in real life, while haunted houses are not, and who uses cassette tapes nowadays?

Natre, like the former 2 Japanese ghosts, sports long black hair, wears a white shapeless dress and has pale ghostly skin. She also has a demented mother who thinks that her daughter’s decayed corpse is in a coma. You will feel sorry for Natre, because she has suffered grave injustice. Her boyfriend could have stopped the jerks from committing the sinful act but instead, he partook in it. He may be hot but this is simply unforgivable.

The series of strange occurrences led his girlfriend to feel doubt about the whole story, and roused her to inestigate for the truth. And Natre led her to the evidences through a stack of mysterious polaroids which she flipped through to reveal a motion sequence of the ghostly image of Natre crawling towards a shelve and reaching onto a box of stuffs (which contains pictures of the rape, if I remember correctly) and that, in my opinion, is truly a brilliant and memorable scene.

Another unforgettable scene is where the guy was in a room when the lights suddenly went out. He took out his lighter and he heard strange noises. With every press of the lighter, the ghost of Natre appeared nearer towards him. And at the final moment of the scene, he pressed the lighter and her face was just inches from him. That would make a terrific idea if you wanna frighten someone during a blackout.

The final twist in the movie is remarkable as well. Who would have thought that Natre was actually sitting on him all the while? The Polaroid in the last part revealing that twist was indeed shocking and an impressive final kick to the whole frightful melodrama. Till the end, Natre did not kill her ex-boyfriend. She continues to sit on him, and be with him forever, as revealed in the door windowpane reflection. Yes, reflections are useful tools in horror films. Just about every horror movie makes use of mirror or window reflections.

I am typing this all alone in my room and it’s getting scary. Paranoia is creeping up on me...


Movie : Dark Water

Name : Mitsuko (?)

Age of death : 5

Murdered by/killed by : nobody. It was an accident.

Why she was killed : she was all alone, neglected by her parents. Carrying her favourite red mimiko bag, she went to the rooftop (of all places!) to play. She saw a huge water vat and climbed up the ladder and looked into the open vat (why wasn’t it closed? To collect rainwater?). Her mimiko bag fell in. She reached out for it but lost her balance and plunged in and drowned.

How she died : Fell into a huge vat of water at the rooftop and drowned, turning into a water ghost.

Why she wants to kill : She craves for a mother’s love, something she never had. Seeing the close relationship between the lead character and her daughter, she probably felt jealous and wanted the mother for herself.

Method of torment : haunting the mother and daughter with her mimiko bag which just keeps appearing nobody how many times the mother threw it away. Trying to drown the little girl. Scaring the little girl at her school during a game of hide-and-seek.

Trademark : red mimiko bag, pale grey skin, long black hair, little white dress, a lot of water wherever she goes

The original Japanese version of Dark Water is a thousand times scarier than the Hollywood version. One reason is that the Mitsuko in the Hollywood one speaks, and secondly, she does not have black hair. The eerie factor of the Hollywood one just wasn’t as good as the Japanese one. There’s something about the dark, rundown and grubby apartment building that contributes a top-notch eerie effect to the story.

Of all places, the mother and daughter (can’t remember their names) had to end up finding accommodation in a unit directly below Mitsuko’s. That is purely bad feng shui. Just move out and perhaps nothing bad would have happened. But circumstances forced the mother to bravely persevere and carry on living in their wretched home. Mitsuko the water ghost was thirsty (pun intended) for mother’s love, and so she compelled the mother to give up her life in exchange for her daughter’s so that the mother could join her in the other realm and be her mother. The mother, who loved her daughter very much, decided to sacrifice herself to save her daughter. I can still remember the finale vividly. The lift closes and goes down. The little girl ran downstairs and saw the lift opening and an avalanche of water poured out of the lift, sweeping her off her feet...and her mother and Mitsuko were gone.

Throughout the movie, we never saw Mitsuko’s face clearly. Her face was always blurry and masked by her long, black hair. Even her picture on the poster announcing her disappearance looked blurred and creepy. But at the last scene, we were given the shock and horror of our lives when her face, grey and rotting and utterly disturbing suddenly appeared on the huge cinema screen and her spine-chilling voice crying out something (mama?) as she grabbed the horrified mother, her grey fingers digging into her neck. Urgh. That’s a cool twist alright. That happened right after the mother saw the door of the haunted unit open, a small girl shuffled out, and the mother hugged the little girl in her arms tightly, thinking that she’s her daughter and that the girl at the door was the water ghost. But it turned out that it’s the other way round! Smart move, I must say. I never expected that then.

Another cool gimmick used in the movie—the red mimiko bag. In Chinese we say that it’s ‘yin hun bu san’. It keeps appearing, luring the unwitting little girl. Her mother even thought that she’s suffering a relapse of her mental condition when she saw the mimiko bag reappearing despite her discarding it several times. I suppose the movie wouldn’t be that scary if the ghost were a boy. Instead of a mimiko bag, it would probably be a pokemon bag containing power ranger toys. Now that would be amusing.

Reported by Urban Geek

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