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Monday, 16 August 2010


I blame my degree in Postmodernity for my delay in reading Kwaidan. Lafcadio Hearn's translation and retelling of Japanese ghost tales for a Western audience, was to me at the time, an example of 19th century Orientalism- another woodcut landscape of cherry blossoms, bamboo, monks and wandering lovely kimonoed ladies, seen through the spooky mist of a supernatural story.

But what have recent Japanese horror movies shown a global audience? A unique way of generating fear by taking on the mundane. I dare you to watch Dark Water (1999) and not get a chill every time the plughole is clogged. Or rent the DVD of The Ring and not jump if the house phone rings during the movie.

Hearn demonstrates in this engaging book that transforming everyday objects into unlikely conduits for supernatural activity appears to reach far back into Japanese literature and folklore. In Kwaidan, mirrors, bells, wells and even insects are supernaturally suspect; cherry blossoms can be inhabited by spirits of dead mid-wives, a monk encounters a corpse-eating demon that is later revealed to be the troubled spirit of another *monk* and those beautiful kimonoed ladies are really snow demons wandering around in human guise.

1 comment:

SH said...

I heard that the Ring trilogy, which the movie was based on, is also very good. I'm going to look up this Kwaidan, it sounds awesome.

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