CONGRATULATIONS! YOU HAVE STUMBLED INTO "THE SHALLOW ZONE." WATCH OUT FOR THE ROCKS. SOME OF THEM ARE SHARP.
If you're looking for a blog with meaningful content on the important issues of the day, you've come to the wrong place. This is the shallows, my friend. Nothing but shallowness as far as the eye can see. Let someone else make sense of things. I like it here.

About Me

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I love my grown children, miss all the dogs I ever had, and I cry at the drop of a hat, I believe in true love, destiny, fairness, and compassion. If I could be anywhere right now, it would be the ocean. My favorite city is New York, but I am always longing for London and craving more time in Copenhagen. I'm drawn to desolate places, deserted buildings, and unknown byways. I don't care how society perceives me as long as my gut tells me that what I'm doing is right. I am interested in paranormal things, spiritual things, historical things, and things that glow at night. I like to drink, I smoke when I write, I can't stand small talk, and despite my quick temper, I would rather kiss than fight. I'm selfish with my writing time, a spendthrift with my love. My heart has been broken so many times that it's held together with super glue and duct tape. The upside is that, next time, I won't be tempted to give away what I no longer have to give. But I will let you buy me a Pink Squirrel.
MY SHALLOW MISSION STATEMENT

MY SHALLOW MISSION STATEMENT

MY SHALLOW MISSION STATEMENT
Not that there's any weight to it...
IN A WORLD FILLED WITH COMPLEX POLITICAL ISSUES, SOCIAL INEQUALITY, AND FINANCIAL UNCERTAINTY, I CONSIDER IT MY GIFT TO YOU, MY READER, TO OFFER THIS SHALLOW LITTLE HAVEN, WHERE NOTHING IS TOO SHALLOW, TOO INSIGNIFICANT, OR TOO RIDICULOUS TO JUSTIFY OUR ATTENTION. IN OTHER WORDS, IF IT'S NOT IMPORTANT....SO WHAT? NEITHER WAS MARILYN MONROE'S BRA SIZE. AND THAT STILL SELLS MAGAZINES, DOESN'T IT?
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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

NOODLES OF DOOM




My obsession with Asian horror flicks began about six years ago when my younger son started dating a girl who was (exactly, according to her) half Greek, a quarter Black, and a quarter Japanese. More precisely, her father was Greek, and her mother was half-Black and half-Japanese, the latter having actually been raised in Japan by her adoptive parents before relocating to the States as an adult where she met her Greek husband, who had relocated to the States from the island of Cyprus as a child. Confused? I hope not. And it's not all that important anyway. The real point is, during my son's year-long relationship with said girl, the three of us watched dozens of Asian horror flicks together, sometimes two or three a weekend, immersed in what I now like to call my "Noodles of Doom" phase. It wasn't just movies, either. The three of us also spent a great deal of time learning to cook Japanese food, visiting Japanese restaurants, and watching "Magibon" videos on YouTube (if you don't know who Magibon is, you can find out here, not that you'll necessarily be any better for it). My son and his girlfriend even invested in Japanese language flashcards and made an impressive foray into learning how to speak rudimentary Japanese, which, along with the Danish speakers who were also living in our house at the time, made for quite the little in-house Tower of Babel. But that's another post. This one is all about the horror flicks.


Now, I don't know how you feel about horror flicks, but chances are, you've seen your share of them. They were making them even before the advent of the "talkies", mostly with vampires and various incarnations of Frankenstein's monster as the central horror-inducing character. Obviously, the horror genre has come a long way since the days of pasty-faced ghouls stumbling around in shadowy mansions with their arms outstretched in classic "monster pose." And as a rule, I've never really been a fan. I prefer to be frightened in a more subtle way, with the spookiness implied (as in Hitchcock's "Rebecca" or the original "The Haunting of Hill House) as opposed to it being thrown in a big gory heap into my face ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" or "Saw"). But I do like scary movies, so when my son and his girlfriend first started ordering Asian horror movies on Netflix and taking over the "good" TV set every weekend in order to watch them, I was game for a viewing or two. I can't even remember the name of the first one I watched (although I'm pretty sure it was Japanese), but I know it included what I have since come to consider the four staples of a good Asian horror flick: young girls in school uniforms, a female spirit with long black hair, bizarre images on cell phone accompanied by eerie messages, and an excessive degree of cheesiness.


Yes, that's right---cheesiness. The more cheesiness the better. For some reason, the same cheesiness factor that I would never accept if I saw it in an American or European horror movie only serves to make Asian horror flicks even more appealing. It's sort of like pink flamingo lawm ornaments. Everyone knows they're kitsch (or at least they should). But if you put them on your lawn, knowing that, and to celebrate the fact, drape them in a string of white lights or put party hats on them, they transcend the kitchiness and become...well...art. Same thing with cheesy Asian horror flicks. Still not making myself clear? Okay, well, let's start with the first of the four staples: the young girls in school uniforms. While the Japanese horror flicks do it best, some version of the aforementioned characters seems to be present in nearly all Asian films of the genre. I suppose there's just something inately innocent about a schoolgirl in uniform that, when coupled with the threat of a paranormal entity out for revenge or whatever happens to be driving it in a particular movie, just makes the situation all the more compelling...even if it has become cliche. And, in this, I have to give the Japanese horror flick makers extra kudos simply because Japanese school girls have the best uniforms. I mean, come on, you don't have to have some weird fetish to appreciate those little pleated mini-skirts, white blouses with Peter Pan collars and girly neckties, and white knee-socks and loafers. All of which only make the dichotemy between the horrified school girls and their paranormal nemisis (es) even more jarring.


Which brings us to the second of the four staples: the female spirit with long black hair. I cannot emphasize enough the role that long black hair plays in Asian horror flicks. At one point during my "Noodles of Doom" period, my son, his girlfriend, and I estimated that of all the films we had sat through up until then, at least 80 percent of them had utilized long black hair as a major part of the horrifying process. Where do you think the little girl in "The Ring" got her hairstyle? From the Japanese horror flick on which the American version of "The Ring" was based, of course. But, once again, the Asian flicks do it best. It usually starts when we catch our first glimpse of the scary spirit lady who has been haunting the school/apartment building/train station or whatever, and experience that initial delicious frisson at the sight of the endless black mane hanging down over her shoulders as she moves slowly toward the....yes, you guessed it...horrified school girls in uniform. But it doesn't necessarily stop there. Sometimes, as the film progresses, the hair takes on a malicious life of its own, elongating even more until it takes on the form of black tenticles reaching out to grab the stunned victim, or, even more chillingly, snaking up out of the drain in the bathroom sink and wrapping itself around the victim's wrist, resulting in a terrifying game of supernatural tug-of-war that could go either way. That's another interesting thing about the genre. You never really know who's going to die in an Asian horror flick. The girl who, at the beginning of the film, seems to be the main protagonist doesn't always make it to the end. And even if she does, there's a good chance that she's still going to meet a gruesome demise at the hands of her supposed best friend who has somehow become possessed by the revengeful spirit, except, of course, we don't realize that until the very last frame at which point the best friend suddenly pulls out a knife just as the other girl starts to embrace her in an "Oh, Koko, we survived!" kind of way. I've seen it happen countless times, and it never fails to jump me, even though I know it's probably going to happen. But that's the beauty of it.


But on to the third and fourth staples: the cell phones and the excessive cheesiness. Cell phones get a lot of face time in Asian horror flicks, not just because, as in other countries, people are always using them, but because, for some reason, the paranormal entities who inhabit Asian horror flicks seem to prefer communicating that way. Whether it's an inexplicable text from a dead friend, or the terrifying image of a still-living person meeting their end in some horrifying way (which invaribly happens for real within minutes of the image's appearance on the phone), cell phones are an integral part of the genre. If I had a dime for every time I've watched a school girl in uniform gaping disbelievingly at the screen of her pink cell phone as she witnesses the imminent death of the person standing next to her, I could buy a hell of a lot of udon noodles. (And I would, too...I love them.) But this of course brings us back full circle to the excessive cheesiness that provides the backdrop for the possessed cells phones, the horrified girls in school uniforms, and the scary ladies with long black hair. And in a genre in which cheesiness has been elevated to an art form, I have to say, that, hands down, the absolute best example I can give you of an Asian horror flick in which it all comes together is a little gem called "Attack Girls' Swim Team Vs The Undead."


Released in 2008, directed by Koji Kawano (I don't know who Koji Kawano is, but he or she is clearly a genuis) and starring Sasa Handa as the doomed heroine, "Aki", "Attack" has everything I've already mentioned as well as a hell of a lot more. In a word, it's pretty much the Holy Grail of Asian horror flicks. I'd give you a complete rundown of the plot, but I'm not sure it would make any more sense to you than it did to me when I first watched it the night before my son and I were leaving on a trip to London four years ago. Suffice to say, it involves a school girl in uniform who is actually an assassin on the run from the people who kidnapped her and turned her into an assassin, and along with the usual plethora of scary images and cell phone use, there are "undead" teachers and students, nudity, and even a pool-side lesbian lovemaking scene. Oh...and in the end, everyone dies, of course. But the very best thing about the film is that, toward the end, as Aki is in the midst of a life and death battle with her former "mentor", she lies down on the ground, spreads her legs, and kills him with a lazer that comes out of a specially-equpped tampon she has been wearing for just that purpose. I'd like to see someone do that in an American horror film. But I won't. Neither will you. It's the kind of thing that only happens in a Japanese horror flick with an unwieldy name like "Attack Girls Swim Team Vs The Undead."


Well, there you have it. My little treatise on one of my guilty (perhaps guiltiest) pleasures. Not that calling it a "guilty pleasure" means that I'm embarrassed or ashamed of my passion for the genre. If anything, I look forward to seeing more Asian horror flicks, although it will never be quite as much fun as it was back in the crazy, hazy days of my "Noodles of Doom" phase. And once you've seen a school girl called Aki shoot a lazer out of her tampon, well, let's face it...you've pretty much reached the pinnacle of viewing pleasure.

Skol!

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