My first introduction to foreign television was when I was a young child when I first started to watch the anime series Pokemon and Sailor moon in the mornings before I went to school. Little did I know that it was these TV shows that sparked my love of foreign film and TV. Now I am a scary movie fan, and I have often spent many days trolling through YouTube clips for the scariest documentary or movie I can find. Also I find it is, and always has been, that the scariest films I have ever watched have always been those made in Asia. Whether it was the Japanese films ‘Ring‘ or ‘Dark water‘ or the Korean films ‘Oldboy’ or ‘Host’.
It is also my personal belief that the reason I tend to find these films so scary is because of how they choose to focus on the creation of strong plot lines and stories rather than aiming for the best special effects, gore or graphics. They do not follow the cliched, standard formulas of their western competitors. In fact for many of these films the budgets have been clearly quite limited and yet the filmography and atmosphere that has been created sends chills down my spine every time.
In Oldboy, a mind bending, completely warped film about incest, revenge and one person’s torment. A film directed by Park Chan-wook, a well known Korean film maker, in 2003 the film received quite a good reception around the globe by movie goers. The focus is on one man’s struggle to find out the reason behind his sudden kidnap and imprisonment. The entire movie leads the viewers down so many different paths and even at the end you are still left a tad confused about what you have just seen. It was truly odd, but at the same time amazing.
Similarly the 2006 movie ‘Host‘ by Bong Joon-Ho focuses around a creature of the deep that reeks havoc on a community along the Hans River, subsequently infecting those directly in contact with the creature with a deadly virus and a man determination to find his daughter who has been taken. It “reached 10 million tickets in just 21 days. In addition, it was ranked one of the top films of 2007 on Metacritic with a score of 85” (Wickapedia). Despite the creatures bad CGI rendering I still found I was left on the edge of my seat wondering about what was going to happen next.
These two films are two of many Korean films that have made box office records within their own countries and broken through into the global market. Both films were also re-made in America due to their level of popularity. South Korea has become the seventh-largest film market in the world, with national film attendance totals by 2000 exceeding 70 million (Ryoo 2009 p 139). The popularity of the Asian film market has allowed viewers from multiple countries to immerse themselves in the vastly different cultural beliefs and traditions of Asian through their music, TV shows and movies transcending the barriers normally found between many countries due to language or difference in belief systems. Also with the introduction of online streaming programs such as Netflix people are able to access a variety of Fortean films from all around the world. South Korea is one of the few countries where Hollywood productions do not enjoy a dominant share of the domestic market (2009 p 141).I am so incredibly happy that the film industry is no longer monopolised by American films and we are starting to see an increase in popularity towards more foreign films and look forward to seeing many more films from the Korean film industry.
Ryoo, W. (2009). Globalization, or the logic of cultural hybridization: the case of the Korean wave. Asian Journal of Communication, 19(2), 137-151.