Sunday, 25 October 2009

THE PHILOSOPHY OF HORROR by NOEL CARROLL: A REVIEW FROM MALAYSIAN CINEMA PERSPECTIVE


A Review

Malaysian Cinema Perspective
 Year 2000 was mentioned as the year which horror genre films made its comeback to Malaysian cinema after ten years of silent. Starting off with Mistik on January 2000 which then received an overwhelming response from audiences, horror genre crafted a new dimension in Malaysian cinema since then.

Of course, is not my attention to discuss Malaysian horror films in general but an attempt to manifest Carroll framework into two of our  recent horror films titled Jangan Pandang Belakang ( 2007) ( Don’t Look Back- [my translation]) and Waris Jari Hantu (2007) (The Heir of  Spiritual Tiger Custodian- [my translation]). My objective is to further the evidence that made by Carroll in the context of Malaysian horror cinema perspective.

In outlining the background of these two films, both of these films is base on our folklore and belief. Both of them is base upon the heir of a spiritual custodian.

Carroll has described the characterisations of a monster as horrific being: impure and disgust, which functions as key element that capable of luring pleasure from audiences. Carroll also states that two most basic structures that represent horrific figure are fusion and fission. In my case, both horrific figures represent by fission structure. In Jangan Pandang Belakang, the horrific figure which represented by demonic figure that cast as an evil spiritual custodian of the family. In this film, the monster is given no name but acknowledged as an evil spirit who disturbed protagonist’s life – Dharma.

As the film starts, we acknowledge and observe the existence of the monster which is being captured, at the permission of the family members then later is kept in a bottle. The bottle then is thrown into a sea. The introduction moment is preceded to us by establishing scenes through a mysterious form.  This bottle then is found by Rose [Dharma fianc√©] and accidently set it free. In this regards the disturbance of the horrific being therefore is all about searching for its new custodian.

The evil spirit that is believed to have been protecting Dharma family for generations is characterised as fearsome in a way of being able to possessed and disturbed character mental state and life. The horrific figure impurity or disgust are illustrated as dark and faceless, long hair, long sharp black nail, powerful and wearing a long white costume. This identification of `disgusting’ and `fearsome’ are base on folklore which in fact make sense on derivation the pleasure of fear factor from audiences.

However, the Tiger in Waris Jari Hantu embodies between two characters, Tok Wan Rimau and the spiritual tiger in human body ( Tok Wan Rimau’s body). This shape changing concept is similar to the western horror such as werewolf. But in this case of the shape shifting process, the shape shifting does not occur during full moon. Instead, it occurs, if only the family member or members or the village being harm. Unlike werewolf, spiritual tiger is believed to be a harmless to its custodian or to the village people. The horrific being in Waris Jari Hantu, then can be described as a tiger with a very powerful and mystical strength.

For Carroll the main features of horrific being are fearsome and disgust. Thus, in the case of Waris Jari Hantu, I do however argue that the spiritual tiger do not seem to be disgusting or unclean compared to the characterisation that embraces by the unnamed spirit in Jangan Pandang Belakang which is also a keeper. Thus, the horrific figure that embraces by Jangan Pandang Belakang’s monster fit perfectly into the characterisation of which Carroll terms as fear and disgust. As he puts it’s the element of fear is harmful, lethal, powerful, evil and demonic. Meanwhile, the element disgust is impure such as revulsion, repulsive, nausea and unclean.

Emphasising on this matter, I came across what Carroll says as entity base.
Noting Carroll’s point, the spiritual tiger in Waris Jari Hantu falls under the category a good `guys’ monster. Thus, is significant with the story’s narrative structure. 

Carroll’s book The Philosophy of Horror, clearly states that the key features of the horrific being in horror fiction are fear and disgust but for me, this argumentation still flexible depending on the theme and the narrative formation.

For instance, the capability of the spiritual tiger to spark slightly the same pleasure as the evil spirit in Jangan Pandang Belakang, is based on our Malay[sian] folklore. At such, it is important to note that there are still families in contemporary Malaysia who inherit this custodian tradition and passes them to their heir from generations to another.

Indeed, the belief of the spiritual tiger custodian’s does play an important element to lure audiences’ curiosity and interest as to construct a questions and answers that will trigger the curiosity and desire to know thus lead to pleasure fascination.

Earlier I did mention that both the horrific beings in my discussion are spiritual custodian. But each has a different category of horrific being which I described as good and evil horrific beings. Obviously, in Jangan Pandang Belakang and Waris Jari Hantu, the framework of `narrative suggest’ that mentioned by Carroll, has a different set of `[…] the whole narrative structure in which the presentation of the monster is staged.’(Carroll,1990:181). Obviously, both narratives involve a different set of emotions of the desire to know. Of course, it engages its audience with a different set of curiosity, interest and fascination. Further, each monster in my discussion projected a different questions and answers driven by each of their narrative structure.

As we observed, Waris Jari Hantu’s narrative structure is driven by question of; first, will the spiritual tiger managed to find its new custodian before Tok Wan Rimau dies? Second, if it does, who will be the new custodian? These questions and answers structure projects the monster as entity base which refer as good guys. The pleasure of fear which been driven in this film, is the fearsome of the mystical tiger hypnotised as its strength and the mystical identities. But as for the disgusting elements, the spiritual tiger, as discussed earlier, could not fit Carroll’s notion of disgust; impure and unclean. Instead, the spiritual tiger is shown as pure and  as a `hero’. However, as a whole narrative structure of Waris Jari Hantu, impurity concept of the tiger might be slightly arouse during a short process of shape changing between human to the spiritual tiger.

Meanwhile, in Jangan Pandang Belakang, the narrative structure projects the creature as an evil spirit. Due to this fact, the narrative structure is driven by questions of whether if the evil spirit could be destroyed?  If yes, how and by whom? In the case of Jangan Pandang Belakang, it offers the elements of fear and disgust that perfectly fit to the Carroll’s concept.

According to Carroll’s view `objects of art-horror are both disgusting and fascinating, both disturbing and interesting’. (Carroll,1990:191). For Carroll the fascination of the creature or horrific being comes together with disturbance. Its does counterbalance the disturbance that created by the monster; the greater disturbance created by the fearsome and loathsome monster, the higher fascination feeling will be arouse by the audiences. The relation between fascination and disgusting serves as  a tool to generate pleasure and later attracts the audiences as to response to the paradox of horror.

Given these characterisations as the elements of pleasure –generating, in Jangan Pandang Belakang and Waris Jari Hantu, I do think that the element of fascination in each of this film is different. For example, in Waris Jari Hantu, the disturbance created is less threatening compared to Jangan Pandang Belakang.

Further, the mystical tiger falls under the entity-base (good guy) category, which has only the elements of fearsome features. As we observed, there is no confrontation with the monster as the narrative disclosure. Instead, the confrontation is all about the willingness of becoming the new custodian of mystical tiger. Nonetheless, this type of disclosure will fail to generated pleasure since there is no link between disgusting and fascination. Since the disgusting elements of the horrific monsters is therefore absence.

Meanwhile, Jangan Pandang Belakang, definitely fits clearly to Carroll’s notion of narrative structure. The creature is both fearsome and loathsome, and horrified. Therefore, according to Carroll these horrific elements are capable of luring the audiences fascination. The disturbance of this horrific being is shown as dangerous and lethal to human – character, such as Dharma. At such, evil spirit possesses and haunts Dharma and leads to the disturbance of Dharma mental state. Clearly, in Jangan Pandang Belakang, the ability to destroy the creature, capable of luring the desire of pleasure to the audiences.

Conclusion

The Philosophy of Horror by Carroll is significantly investigating the paradox of horror in horror fiction. Throughout the discussion through Malaysian horror films, I discover that the notion of impurity and fearsome of horrific being and narrative structure that crafted by Carroll is a key device to derived pleasure. Therefore the level of impurity and fearsome that was created to the creature set a certain degree of fascination towards the audience.
 
At this point, for me the certain degree of fearsome and impurity is related to the certain degree of fear that hypothesised as threatening to audience. This certain degree of fear which signals by the mind or thought will derived a sort of fascination and projects certain degree of curiosity, interest and pleasure.  The thought theory that proposed by Carroll is firmly
support by the general theory which emphasises
on horrific being characterization and narrative structure.

References

  Carroll, N. (1990). The Philosophy of Horror: Routledge


Nota: versi Melayu artikel telah disiarkan di dalam Majalah Dewan Budaya : Ada Apa Dalam Filem Seram?   keluaran April 2008. Artikel yang disiarkan di dalam Dewan Budaya adalah lebih `ringan' dari aspek akademiknya. Namun punyai objektif penyampaian yang sama.

Hak Cipta Terpelihara: Haswida Abu Bakar


2 comments:

  1. errrkkkkk kak ayu... dah mula tak paham dah nak masuk teknikal nie.... teruskan ok memberi ilmu pada yang tak tahu....

    ReplyDelete
  2. Tak apa ati. boleh akak terangkan nanti..:)

    ReplyDelete

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