Global spectrologies: Contemporary Thai horror films and the globalization of the supernatural

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Abstract:

If we agree that globalization translates into a quick and massive flow of capital, people, products, services and ideas across borders then cinema has been a global enterprise since its very beginnings. While local film industries may not share the global distributing potential of Hollywood, this does not mean that their production and post-production methods lag behind. The case of Thai film is not so different here, negotiating the dynamics of the global (e.g. filming equipment, skilled crew, or distribution formats) and the local (e.g. conceptualization, scriptwriting, or narrative formation). Contemporary Thai horror film has long been Thailand's calling card on international film markets. Known in Thai as nung phii (ghost films), the films remain faithful to their narrow supernatural formula focusing most commonly on the figure of a vindictive phii tai hong (a spirit of the violently dead). Recently, however, the familiar anthropomorphic renditions of ghosts known from older Thai horror films seem to undergo the steady process of de-materialization and de-literalization, challenged through the intervention of technology and reappearing as critically constructed metaphors. This article argues that this change in the way these ghosts are portrayed on film can be seen as a result of the increasing globalization of Thai film industry per se, as well as a reflection on the broader economic, political and social transformations brought about by the powers of globalization in Thailand.

Keywords: ANIMISM; THAI HORROR FILM; VENGEFUL SPIRITS

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/host.2.1.131_1

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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  • Horror Studies intends to serve the international academic community in the humanities and specifically those scholars interested in horror. Exclusively examining horror, this journal will provide interested professionals with an opportunity to read outstanding scholarship from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including work conceived as interdisciplinary. By expanding the conversation to include specialists concerned with diverse historical periods, varied geography, and a wide variety of expressive media, this journal will inform and stimulate anyone interested in a wider and deeper understanding of horror
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