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  • Writer's pictureRiver Valley Student Editorial Club

Exploring Asian myths through movies

By Lim Jing Xiang Jovan (23J20)


It's the end of Halloween, but want to relive the joy of getting jumpscared before we celebrate Christmas? Read on to find out more about the horror films you can watch to learn more about our Asian culture and get ready to get scared.


Western Halloween Traditions

In many Western continents like America and Europe, Halloween plays a huge part in their culture as it is deeply connected with their heritage. Over the ages, the holiday has evolved, taking on Christian influences, European myths and American consumerism.


Today, Halloween is celebrated with trick-or-treating, costumes, jack-o-lanterns, and scary movies—all things which would likely be unrecognizable to those who took part in the holiday’s earliest forms. Many are caught up in celebrating this event.


Yet, most of us who do are unaware of the true purpose of Halloween and the history behind it.


Origins

The history points back to Samhain, a Celtic festival which commemorated the end of the harvest season and the blurring of the physical and spirit worlds. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future.


For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort during the long, dark winter. To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.


During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.


From witches to werewolves to even creepy possessed dolls that have the urge to kill you, the list of ‘supernatural’ is endless. With the media industry producing new horror films yearly and having better production equipment, it undoubtedly sends shivers down one’s spine as they descend deeper into the plot of evil since the movies have become so realistic.


With the advancement of social media, we have been more exposed to Western horror than our Asian ones. Asians do also have their own horror films, some even scarier than those from the West! Let us hear some horror recommendations from teachers and students!



Train to Busan

A summary

Interested in watching an entertaining yet scary Korean film? Train to Busan is a South Korean zombie apocalypse thriller film. It follows the story of passengers on a high-speed train bound for Busan as they must fight to survive when a zombie outbreak engulfs the country. The film explores their struggle for survival, the sacrifices they make, and the human connections that form during this harrowing journey.



Recommendation

Teoh Chen Jun from 23J12 recommended Train to Busan as he had been particularly fascinated and awed by the various survivors who came from different backgrounds. During an interview with him, he said that it was interesting to see them coming together to find a way out of the zombie invasion. At its core, Train to Busan teaches the audience the importance and impact of sacrificing things for loved ones.


Furthermore, it was heartwarming to learn the importance of family and how our parents would put their lives in danger just to save ours. Train To Busan keeps people at the edge of their seats as suspense permeates the film’s every scene. Chen Jun feels that the zombies coming in at the worst possible moments also makes it scarier and more hopeless for the survivors. From the moment the on-screen chaos breaks out, to the very last frame of the movie, your heart is kept beating quickly, your adrenaline left rushing as you are immersed in intense situations the characters are put in.


If you are afraid of horror films, fret not! This film is not as scary as the following films which will be featured later.


Ringu

A summary

Ringu is a Japanese horror film that revolves around a mysterious and eerie videotape that seems to curse anyone who watches it. The story follows investigative journalist Reiko Asakawa and her ex-husband Ryuji Takayama as they become entangled in the dark secrets surrounding this deadly videotape.


The premise of the movie is that on the seventh day of watching the videotape, you will die at the hands of Sadako, a vengeful spirit who will crawl out of your television. As they dig deeper into the origins of the cursed tape, they uncover a series of disturbing events, unexplained deaths, and a vengeful spirit. They must race against time to solve the mystery and break the curse before it claims their lives.



Recommendation

In an interview with Mr Nazri, he revealed that Japan's Ringu left the deepest impression on him, particularly since he watched it as a primary school kid. Many may recognise the Japanese spirit in Ringu. Due to the many representations on the internet, such is the cultural impacts that Ringu has today.


Mr Nazri even remarked that the impression left on him is so deep that even after many years, he would still refuse to be alone on Thursdays at 4 p.m. — the time that the contents of the videotape were shown when he watched the film. Interested to give this movie a go? Try watching it out yourself during the holidays!


23:59: The Haunting Hour

A summary

Singapore has her own productions of horror films as well! 23:59: The Haunting Hour is a movie that compiles past supernatural tales in the Singapore Army. The movie consists of multiple horror plots like how, in 1967, two recruits awaken a dark force from World War II, with horrific consequences. Another story tells a tale from the 1980s, in which a commando leader comes back from overseas jungle training with a vengeful animal spirit in tow.


In summary, this plot follows a group of characters who must confront their fears as they experience a series of inexplicable, chilling events over the course of the show. The story is filled with suspense, tension, comedy, and a sense of impending doom as the characters try to unravel the mysteries and survive the horrors that unfold. Furthermore, these stories range from different eras, making it a suitable film for family night.



Recommendations

This movie was highly recommended by Ji Rui from 23J02. This movie covered numerous spirits such as the infamous vengeful snake spirit which is known to cause trouble. She continued explaining how this film had a mix of comedy, action and horror.


In conclusion, let us celebrate Halloween a bit longer as we not only learn about the Asian superstitions, but also experience the paradoxical joys of getting scared. Exams have ended for most of us, so why not take this time to watch horror films with your friends and families? Asian culture can be fascinating as well as mysterious to many, as there are many myths and legends that we have not explored yet. The supernatural is truly fascinating, with numerous unexplored parts of history that are yet to be debunked. Let's learn more about our history through movies!





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