The rarely analyzed Asian horror film, which has had great impact on international film audiences recently as a result of Hollywood remakes, is increasingly mired in the milieu of home and hearth, leading to a new Asian variation of the domestic gothic. With specific reference to Japan's Dark Water (2002) and South Korea's A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), this essay proposes that the current orientation evinces the anxieties of a patriarchal culture denied its sovereignty as the result of a widening gulf between the mythology of the bourgeois family and its actual social manifestations. The female protagonists in these films are, accordingly, associated with Julia Kristeva's notion of abjection (in particular, the construction of the maternal figure as abject through the imagery of parturition and the primal scene) and depicted in various guises as the monstrous-feminine, a potent source of disruption that threatens the symbolic realm. By charting the mother-daughter nexus and suggesting that daughters continue to seek the semiotic chora even after the thetic break, these films also address a discernable lack in Kristeva's theory of abjection by paying due attention to the implications of gender in the psychological constitution of the subject. As a further extension into the cinematic representation of women, the female usurpation of the gaze will also be dissected in terms of its adverse consequences in these films. The essay therefore argues that the current Asian horror film is ultimately conservative and functions as a form of narrative containment, the modern purification ritual that emphasizes the need to be recuperated into the male order of things.
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K K Seet; Mothers and Daughters: Abjection and the Monstrous-Feminine in Japan's Dark Water and South Korea's A Tale of Two Sisters. Camera Obscura 1 September 2009; 24 (2 (71)): 139–159. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-2009-005
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