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Hong Kong Horror Cinema$
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Gary Bettinson and Daniel Martin

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474424592

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474424592.001.0001

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Animated Pasts and Unseen Futures: on the Comic Element in Hong Kong Horror

Animated Pasts and Unseen Futures: on the Comic Element in Hong Kong Horror

(p.79) Chapter 5 Animated Pasts and Unseen Futures: on the Comic Element in Hong Kong Horror
Hong Kong Horror Cinema

Andrew Grossman

Edinburgh University Press

Analyses of horror cinema seldom focus on the genre’s intersections with comedy, perhaps because the dominant influence of psychoanalysis on horror has emphasized gender, sexuality, trauma, abandonment, and various aspects of the unconscious. Yet Hong Kong might well boast world cinema’s most successful engagement of the horror-comedy as a sustained genre. From the late 1970s through the early 1990s, the ghosts and animated corpses of Taoist folklore became invested with the martial arts comedy advanced by Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung, rendering supernatural bodies as clownish cyphers rather than the romantic entities of Enchanting Shadow or AChinese Ghost Story. If spirits represent an intermediary stage between life and death, so too does the stylized clown, whose death-defying feats and transgression of “normal” human limitations render our mortal fears absurd. Presenting superstition as a comedy of stubborn familiarity and reveling in the foolishness of a premodern past, the Hong Kong horror-comedy resists the ideology of the encroaching Mainland, which has often censored “backwards” depictions of Chinese folklore and fantasy. In addition to examining the phenomenology of Hong Kong’s horror-comedies, this chapter also considers how such films fit into overall theories of physical comedy, from Bergson to Koestler.

Keywords:   Jiangshi, Hopping vampire, Clown, Koestler, Bergson, Superstition, Slapstick, Farce, Horror-comedy, Censorship

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