Sarah Michelle Geller in 'The Grudge 2'



Here’s an interesting question: Why are Hollywood remakes of popular Asian horror films mostly neither scary nor interesting? E! Online suggests an answer here. In summary, the writer, Leslie Gornstein, says the use of CGI makes the American versions less real and involving to audiences.

That may well be a factor, but I think the much more important reason is that Asians and Americans see the world through very different lenses as a result of our greatly differing religious traditions. The Anglo-American tradition of horror sees the cosmos as a basically logical place, and the horror is in the introduction of uncanny and disturbing phenomena, which can emcompass a wide variety of forms. Ultimately, Anglo-American horror fiction confirms the basic logic of the cosmos by the very means of showing how disturbing and wrong the horror-inducing phenomenon is.

My familiarity with Asian horror literature and film is relatively limited, but from my experience it appears that the effect of these narratives is different from what I described above for Anglo-American horror. The Asian narratives tend to base their thinking on Confucianism, Buddhism, and the like, dealing with issues such as physical demonic attacks, the workings of karma, and other notions relatively alien to Americans. Naturally, Western audiences find it difficult to get the point of such narratives, regardless of the film techniques employed to express them.

This is a subject meriting further scrutiny and explanation, and although I appreciate the E! Online author’s attempt to tackle it, I hope that others will pursue the line of inquiry I suggest here.