Horror has played an important role in the history of Hong Kong cinema. Unfortunately, the genre has never been seriously analyzed by scholars and industry professionals, making horror a significant, but forgotten part of cinematic history. To coincide with Lingnan University and The Chinese University of Hong Kong's upcoming symposium and festival on paranormal culture, we have chosen seven classic "ghost films" made between the late 1950s and the late 1980s. In addition to encouraging further academic research on the genre, we hope to use these classic horror films as reflections of Hong Kong’s history and the evolution of its culture. Through this exercise, we might be able to return some missing pieces to their rightful place on the broad canvas of film history.
A consistent motif in Hong Kong horror films is the presence of monstrous creatures. The most popular monster of all is the vampire, who has been haunting the silver screen in various forms since the 1930s. Over the years, Hong Kong filmmakers have put their own spin on the undead in films like The Living Corpse (1958) and Mid-Nightmare (1962). In the process of creating a unique identity of its own, Hong Kong cinema also blended in elements from other art forms like Cantonese Opera. Just as the spirit in Love in the Red Chamber (1968) literally borrows a human body for reincarnation, the film itself also “borrows” from the original Cantonese Opera to
give itself an identity.
Despite the influence of popular vampire films from the West, Hong Kong vampire films were able to sustain a unique character, ironically, by being a melting pot of everything. In addition to folk tales from around the world, filmmakers also integrated comedy and even martial arts into the vampire genre, igniting a new trend of vampire movies all over Asia (especially in Taiwan and Southeast Asia) in the 1980s. Some
of the more influential works include The Shadow Boxing (1979), The Dead and the Deadly (1982) and Mr. Vampire (1985). Trapped in nostalgia for its own former glory, Hong Kong cinema’s identity and legacy have been diminishing ever since the Sino-British talks commenced in 1984. Like the ghost in Rouge (1984), Hong Kong cinema has been haunted by a cloud of nostalgia that kept us searching for our past and our identity.
This programme is guest-curated by film scholar Wei Ping.
The contents of the programme do not represent the views of the presenter.
The presenter reserves the right to change the programme should unavoidable circumstances make it necessary.