Most recent post in Film

Chinese horror films: It was all just a dream

Curse of the Deserted

Satisfying horror movies are difficult to come by in China. Film censors on the mainland frown on the supernatural, nor do they look kindly on serial murders.

In a recent essay inspired by the complicated narrative slight-of-hand that allowed the recent horror film Curse of the Deserted to dodge these sensitive issues altogether, film critic Yang Jian (杨戬) explains how film regulations have handicapped Chinese horror films, not just in the context of world cinema, but when compared to domestic literature and online gaming as well.

Curse of the Deserted (荒村公寓) is an adaptation of a best-selling novel by thriller writer Cai Jun, who has had previous experience with having his work neutered on the big screen. For the mainland release of Naraka 19, the 2007 adaptation of Cai’s The 19th Level of Hell (地狱第19层), the title was changed to The 19th Space (第十九层空间) and an alternate ending was tacked on to resurrect the dead characters and erase the mystery.

The horror of the unknown is unavailable to Chinese-language horror films, writes Yang. Movies are forced to come up with devices to explain away the supernatural. In some films, everything was just a dream or drug-induced hallucination. In others, scientific technobabble is awkwardly inserted into the conclusion. Still others wrap the entire plot in a framing story. Regardless of the technique used, these explanations sap the unknown of its power to frighten and prevents Chinese horror cinema from reaching its full potential.

Curse of the Deserted and the Future of Chinese Horror Cinema

by Yang Jian / Sohu

If a horror film desires to succeed at the box office, it naturally requires “artistic truth” rather than undermining its own credibility. Curse of the Deserted, adapted from Cai Jun’s novel of the same name and helmed by Hong Kong director Chi-Leung Law who directs Shawn Yue, Kitty Zhang, and Yue Xiaojun in a predominantly mainland cast, wraps layers within layers like that old chestnut: “Once there was a mountain, and on the mountain was a temple. In the temple was an old monk, who told a young monk a story.”* After several rounds of this, the horror evaporates completely, and it’s obvious that the Film Bureau’s demand for “no ghosts” has cemented the structure of the film. China has countless classic stories and legends, as well as new novels, all of which could be tapped as material for horror films, but the “Regulations on Film Management” and the “Management Provisions on Project Initiation of Film Scripts (Treatments) and on the Examination of Films” have unfortunately restricted the genre’s narrative space.

More posts in Film
Southern Weekly in conversation with Chen Daoming
Aftershock, filmed like The Banquet or The Day After Tomorrow? Decide!
Jay Chou as Kato in Green Hornet trailer
A Beijing sex shop makes a revolution
404 million Internet users, 18 million 3G users
Driving domestic film production past Hollywood
Zhao Dayong and Zhao Liang win at Hong Kong film festival
The new sexy Xu Jinglei
Taxi vs Taxi
Fan Lixin's Last Train Home: why film unhappy things?
SARFT responds to Avatar rumors
Avatar ousted to make way for Confucius?
The Storm Warriors is awesome. You just don't realize it yet!
Tian Zhuangzhuang: The film world as mafia and commerical models of film
Beijing Queer Film Festival
"What makes the most profit? Risk does." China Film Group CEO interview with Southern Weekly
Human flesh search engine film, part two
What do stars having a meeting look like? On Founding of a Republic and Ye Daying's Tian'anmen
John Rabe in Nanjing's city of life and death
Jia Zhangke in The New Yorker
Exploiting Confucius for fun and profit
Sex and violence in mainland Chinese cinemas
Film ratings system "news" is a five-year-old interview
China Clipper 1936
Pirate queen of the China seas
Film: Mongolian scuba diving in Beijing, green China in New York
Faster than instant noodles
Documentary screening: Children of the Stars
A petition to stop the ban on Tang Wei
China Film Journal
Boom times for Chinese film, but what comes next?
Watch 'The Case' in Beijing
Yunnan Big Screen Film Festival
Unsatisfied with the Lust, Caution edits? Sue!
'Lust, Caution' box office numbers in Beijing
Danwei FM: Interview with director of Soul Carriage
The horrors of SMS messaging
Where are China's disaster movies?
Tony Leung on Hong Kong's last decade of film
Serious, patriotic history, or giant robot battles?
Zhang Ziyi nude body double wants to marry a foreigner
Sanmao goes overseas
Director Jia Zhangke tells all
Net scandal: student hits teacher video
Foreigners surveyed about Chinese cinema
Memories vs. historical fact: Guo Wei on Dong Cunrui
Fast-paced lives of film subtitlers
'Shanghai Bride' screening in Beijing
Pirates are not insulting, say netizens and academics
The first death of the CR
The case against a film rating system
Postal modernism in the cinema
What's wrong with Thirteen Princess Trees?
Who killed the movie rating system?
Parsing the Babel cuts
Self-esteem for domestic cinema
Exploitation and The Blood of Yingzhou District
Picking apart the 2007 Gala
Oscar season means good pirate DVDs
Discovering Anna May Wong - Sexy Beijing
Sex and manufactured scandal: The Blood Sex Tape
An end to costume epics?
Sexy New Pants Chinese version 性感新裤子中文版
Sexy New Pants
Chinese-language film wiki launches
Ways of looking at Curse of the Golden Flower
Ice and politics in Curse of the Golden Flower
007 vs Man in Black
The love story of two idiots — online video
Curse of the Golden Flower not violating copyright!
Inside the ladies' bathroom
Chinese movie fans' choice
Learning about America from prison flicks
These films are not yet rated
Zhang Yu: Open and hidden shamelessness
Low price Fox DVDs
Beijing screening for Nostalgia documentary film
China 1972 on Youtube
Announcement: Chinese film producers wanted for cooperation
Why Feng Xiaogang shot such a lame Banquet
Rui'an protests documented online
Three Gorges movie wins Golden Lion
Who's doing the censoring, exactly?
Special forces cops
Production troubles on a community DV shoot
The General Administration of Anxiety about Radio, Film and TV
The benefits of piracy
by Kaiser Kuo
Disappearing Shanghai
Let the Spiel Begin
by Geremie R. Barmé
Crazy Stone and piracy
Danwei TV: Swedish sailing ships and porcelain in China
HD camera thieves on the loose in Hong Kong
Drunk punks on film in Beijing
European filmmakers in Shanghai get confused
A Chinese Da Vinci Code
Mission Impossible III delayed until pirates can release high quality DVDs
Print and Internet media woes
Tom Cruise tarnishes Shanghai's image?
The Chinese media market is "absolutely open"
Chen Guanzhong online
Wacky Nuns Come to Beijing
Where have you gone, Little Swallow?
Kung-Fu Pedagogy
A Century of Chinese Cinema
WETA to do SFX for 'Wolf Totem'
AP reporters get ripped off by pirate DVD vendors
First Reactions to "Sith"
Mission Impossible III to be filmed in China?
Cutting down on international film festivals
Self-censorship: the 2,000 pound rhinoceros on the dining table
The Year of the Yao
Beijing International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
World premier of African Boots of Beijing
One country, two versions
Tom buys 35% of Huayi Brothers
Tom Group to buy 20% of Huayi Brothers
Fucking gangster newspapers, Jimmy Lai and other China media follies
Mao and the Three Stooges by David Moser
Guardian article plagiarized by Shenzhen Daily plagiarized by Xinhua
Quentin Tarantino to return to Beijing
Merchant Ivory wants to exploit you in Shanghai
Screening in Beijing tonight: Railroad of Hope
Product placement in Chinese films: raising the bar for marketing in China?
The Three Stooges in China
Zhang Yimou's Hero: No. 1 at US box office
Zhang Yimou's Hero premieres in U.S.
Foreigners living in China wanted for documentary
House of Flying Daggers box office: 110 million yuan
Gay films in Beijing this weekend
China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
From 2008
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Culture and corporate propaganda in Soho Xiaobao (2007.11): Mid-2007 issues of Soho Xiaobao (SOHO小报), illustrating the complicated identity of in-house magazines run by real estate companies.
+ Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship (2010.03): Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship at an officially sanctioned meeting in Shenzhen.
+ Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao (2010.06): A student in Sichuan seeks help with the ancient Chinese section of this year's college entrance exam -- while the test is going on!
Danwei Archives