Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Horror, from 'the ridge along the abyss of chaos'

The Chicago Tribune considers The Ring, a cultural phenomenon that's spawned three films, two additional novels, eight manga, a television miniseries, a radio drama, video games, merchandise and an entire wave of Japanese horror ("J-horror").
The roots of the Ring phenomenon twist back through the history of Japanese culture and traditions. Despite being rooted in contemporary media technology, the Ring re-scans an ancient archetype -- the vengeful female spirit or demon ("hannya") that has haunted Japanese culture for thousands of years.

"In Japanese folklore, Kabuki theater and Noh drama, female ghosts are motivated by anger and resentment," says Susan J. Napier of the Asian Studies Department at the University of Texas. "There's lots of ghost-women who have been raped and murdered and who return to wreak horrible vengeance." Like these wronged women, Sadako/Samara elicits our sympathy and our fear because her murderous motive springs from human brutality.

While this social dimension suggests how an intrinsically Japanese figure captured the world's imagination, the surprisingly un-horrific catalyst for the Ring craze looks at his creation logically, biologically and philosophically.

"I'm not really interested in the occult," says author [Koji] Suzuki, who has also published child-rearing books. Looking at the Ring's global popularity, Suzuki suggests that his horror books are frighteningly compelling because they evoke humanity's precarious nature. "Humans march along between order and chance, the ridge along the abyss of chaos," he says.