Chi-Yun Shin – Sheffield Hallam University
Spectres of Colonial Love & Postcolonial Exorcise in Epitaph
The 2007 South Korean horror film, Epitaph (dir. Jeong Brothers) tells three interwoven yet separate ‘strange tales’ (literal translation of the Korean title) set in a hospital in 1942, during the last stage of Japanese colonial rule in Korea. The framing story – an old medical professor reminisces his trainee days at the hospital as he learns that the hospital building will be demolished – takes place, however, in 1979. Although the film does not directly comment on the interconnections, the two time periods, separated by 37 years, are profoundly connected and superimposed. By overlaying the colonial reality with the year 1979 when the military dictator Park Chung-hee was assassinated (who had served in the Japanese army as an officer during the colonial period, and who forced on the unfinished Japanese project of colonial modernity), the film takes the form of a composite structure. In addition, its seemingly disparate three ‘supernatural’ stories of 1942 are all connected by the common theme of love through and beyond life and death, but love here is an abnormal and deviant kind, fraught with colonial identity crisis and confusion. Considering the film’s layered structure that is not a simple combination of two periods in time but a number of different moments and a chain of events, the paper will examine the ways in which Epitaph evokes the issues of colonial trauma, identity and memory through the horror genre conventions, while suggesting a different way of viewing the past that haunts the present.
Chi-Yun Shin is Principal Lecturer in Film Studies at Sheffield Hallam University. She has published on contemporary East Asian cinema (in areas including gender, genre, remake and reception) and Black British diaspora cinema in a range of journals and edited volumes as well as an encyclopaedia. She is co-editor of New Korean Cinema and East Asian Film Noir. She is also on the editorial boards of the Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema and East Asian Journal of Popular Culture. In 2014, she organised the 3rd Korean Screen Culture conference.
Stacey Abbott – University of Roehampton
Undead Apocalypse: The 21st Century Preoccupation with the Vampire and Zombie
It can have escaped no-one’s attention that twenty-first century cinema has been overwhelmed by a resurgence of the undead, overrunning our cinema screens in greater numbers with every passing year. Neither are new to film but both have achieved unprecedented visibility across a multitude of genres and modes of filmmaking, from children’s films (Hotel Transylvania, Paranorman) to art films (A Girls Walks Home Alone at Night, Ur: The End of Civilisation in 90 Tableau), from world cinema (South Korea’s Thirst, Canada’s Pontypool) to blockbuster (Twilight, Resident Evil), from comedy (What We Do in the Shadows, Shaun of the Dead) to romance (Only Lovers Left Alive, Warm Bodies). Many fans, writers, filmmakers and scholars emphasise the distinction between two monsters that are traditionally seen as having separate histories of folklore, literature, comics, videogames, cinema and television. Yet in recent years they seem to be in dialogue with each other, with vampires becoming increasingly virulent and monstrous while zombies seem more cognitive, and at times even soulful. Beginning with Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (1954) – a notable parent text to both genres – this paper will trace the heritage of the vampire and zombie on film to identify their points of interconnection and overlap, and in so doing challenge the imposed distinction that has traditionally defined their reception. In particular, I will examine how many of these twenty-first century films, including Daybreakers, Pontypool, Stake Land and [REC], explore and evoke a climate of apocalypse; a theme that resonates across contemporary culture and which unifies the genres of the undead. If we live in apocalyptic times, it seems that the undead serves as an ideal expression of cultural anxieties about, and ambivalence toward, humanity’s extinction.
Stacey Abbott is a Reader in Film and Television Studies at the University of Roehampton. She has written extensively on the horror genre and the gothic in film and TV, and has a particular research specialism in vampires and zombies. She is the author of Celluloid Vampires: Life after Death in the Modern World, Angel: TV Milestone and co-author, with Lorna Jowett, of TV Horror: The Dark Side of the Small Screen. Her most recent book, Undead Apocalypse, is due to be published by Edinburgh University Press in Autumn 2016.