Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Best fictional Asian ghosts in the movies

European ghosts and Asian ghosts differ in modern types and in ancient types, just as the concepts of what demons are and their forms have differed between these two major cultural systems over history.There are, of course, a great many similarities due to general agreement that ghosts are disembodied souls or spirits but from there the differences compound. Ghosts, spirits and demons are far more closely related in Asian mythologies than they are in European ones which tend to set demons aside as separate entirely entities from humanity.

I could go on, but suffice it to say that Asian ghosts deserve a post all their own for best fictional Asian ghosts as these ghosts have different qualities, mythological backgrounds and causes of creation. Different stylistic trends apply when writing them so they should be viewed differently. Sadako stacking up against the old ball and chain toting convict doesn't really work, one being an echo and the other being of full character and vengeful motivation, not to mention very close to a demon in nature.

As to the movies condition, I find ghosts to be at their most effective when seen and heard rather than read. So for fun I decided to look into movie ghosts.

Sadako from Ringu or The Ring
The best of all the long hair and vengeful female ghosts, although there are a few very spooky rivals.

The cat/kid hybrid from Ju-on or The Grudge
He is two spirits combined to make one ghost. He's quite unique in this respect.

The woman of the snow from The Woman Of The Snow in Kwaidan/Kaidan

The first wife from Black Hair in Kwaidan/Kaidan
Note: The stories that make up Kwaidan are very traditional in nature but in them you can see the roots or movies like Premonition, Ringu, The Wig etc. Kwaidan is sometimes acclaimed a classic and sometimes denounced as a right bore but either way you feel Kwaidan is highly influential. Kwaidan is made up of films that bridge the traditional and the modern, the stories old and the soundtracks and filming new.

Main female ghost from A Chinese Ghost Story, known by several names. (Above is Nip Siu-sin from Ching Siu Tung's A Chinese Ghost Story, 2011.)
She is a ghost who makes a sucker out of the one who loves her for quite some time and in the end she gets what she wants. His love for her is real but I'm not too sure about the other way round as she wants too much else and gets him to seek it for her. Either way, she and her struggles are the basis of this classic story (based on a story written in the17th century).

Fleur from Stanley Kwan's Rouge
Cheated of the ending she desired with her love she goes searching to find out why he left her to die alone. She is a mix of love, hate, revenge and loneliness and as such has more personality than most ghosts.

Mitsuko Kawai from Dark Water
Based on a short story so some see this movie as quite spare and lacking but that is sometimes what happens when you expand a short story to make a long movie. Still, Mitsuko is an impressively scary ghost who just wants her mother. Or a mother.

The wig from The Wig or Scary Hair
The wig is made from the hair of several dead women so it can be seen as cursed more than a haunted object but either way, the wig is often ghostly in its actions. 

Tomie from the Tomie series
Although never really seen as a ghost as she's constantly possessing people in an attempt to be regenerated or reborn. Tomie is almost a demon in nature and definitely so in personality. Tomie the movie series springs from Tomie the manga.

The ghost boy from Silk
He's a simple and elegant kind of ghost who's very angry at his mother. He's interesting less for his motives and more for his portrayal, which is closer to modern western ghosts than anything else. He's a remnant spirit who often repeats his actions and has a single motive. But there is still the base emotional drive that dominates the ghost to the point where all but the original history of the person he was is lost, marking him with some classic Asian ghost characteristics. He's a hybrid and his status is reflected in the movie style, which resembles to some extent movies like Paranormal Activity.

Natre from Shutter
The psychological weight of killing someone becomes all too real as Natre sits on the neck of her killer. The moral to the story isn't overdone as it is never directly pointed to but at the same time the moral is quite understandable across all cultures as it isn't related to minor or localised social issues but rather major ones.

The ghost daughter from Re-Cycle (named at the end)
Re-Cycle as a movie has some issues, though none that would ultimately spoil the movie completely, but the ghost daughter (main character doesn't know of the relation until near the end) is an excellent addition. The daughter is helpful even though she has much to be angry about and in being helpful she becomes a person more than a ghost.

The slit mouthed woman from Carved or A Slit Mouthed Woman
Based on traditional legends of a Samurai slitting the mouth of his wife because he suspects her of cheating. She is more shock value than anything else but by discarding creepy suspense for slasher type horror, she is rather original amongst the long hair female ghosts.

Ling from The Eye
This haunting is one brought on by misery and a need for forgiveness rather than revenge. The ghost of Ling is more concerned with getting the one now using her eye to do her will than anything else. She appears by revealing places significant to her as often as she does in 'person', giving the impression that she is as much a residual memory passed to the eye's new owner as she is a ghost.

Su-yeon from A Tale Of Two Sisters
It is hard to tell if she's a ghost or a figment of Su-mi's imagination, which is a mark of a very well written ghost story. Su-yeon as a ghost, if she is one, does little but Su-yeon as a figment of the imagination does much. The problem you're left with at the end is: are all ghosts just a figment of our imagination despite what we see and hear?

Pim from Alone
Pim is a ghost less bent on revenge and more on curtailing her sister. It is rather hard to tell who is who between these sisters through most of the movie (even though you do guess as to what's happening) but it all becomes clear in the end.

Kim Tae-yeon from Cello
Vengeance is they name. Kim Tae-yeon is pure hatred and vengeance which isn't what sets her up as a well written ghost. What does is just how successfully she gets her revenge.

Faceless/Orphaned Girl from Cinderella
See her face above. On the wrong girl. She just wants her face back, damnit.

No comments:

Post a Comment