Friday, January 06, 2006

The Genre Trap and J-Horror

You know by now that genre conventions is one of my favorite topics. I bring it up a lot because while my own writing tries to mix genres and ignore conventions, it's still too easy to fall into the trap of writing the same cliché story that everyone's read a zillion times already. In my pirate novel, I want to include certain settings that evoke "pirate" for me: uninhabited islands, lively and music-filled taverns down by the wharf, huge galleons, Spanish forts, etc. What I don't want to do is write another story about recovering buried treasure or taking revenge. There's a map, but hopefully I'm using it a little differently than most pirate stories.

In searching for a new path to take this story (or any story really), it's important to constantly remind myself where the traps are so that I learn to avoid them. I'm hoping it becomes second-nature eventually, but I'm still new at this, so whenever I see an article that brings it up, I'm likely to reference it here.

Like this article on J-Horror for example. Nicholas Rucka of Midnight Eye (a website about Japanese Cinema) does an excellent job of explaining how J-Horror has become a cannibal eating its own flesh:

"Ah, yes, 'J-Horror;' everyone knows its tropes by now: vengeful ghosts, long stringy black hair, impossible physical gymnastics, meowing little ghost boys, cursed videos (or cell phones or computers), old rotted buildings and corpses, moldy books and newspapers, elliptical storylines (or a total abandonment of logic), creepy sound design, and creepy cinematography. Then there're the bizarrely happy endings and, lest we forget, the saccharine pop songs.

"...this piece is me drawing a line in the sand and demanding that the producers allow - or FORCE - their filmmakers to work in a creative manner and put an end to the obsessive sequel-making and regurgitation of the shinrei-mono eiga ('ghost film') that is dragging down Japanese film (and Hollywood horror for that matter)."

In presenting his points, Rucka also goes into a detailed history of horror in Japanese media (literature, art, and manga as well as film). Even though he inexplicably ignores Godzilla and the other giant-monster movies, it's well worth a read if you're interested in such things.

Other than being completely freaked out by the American version of The Ring and frustrated by the American version of The Grudge, I'm unacquainted with Japanese horror. No, wait-- I saw The Eye. It was a good mystery, but unsatisfying horror (not sure if I'll check out the Renée Zellweger remake). I saw The Ring first, so maybe my lack of enthusiasm for the other two are indicative of what Rucka is talking about.

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