Koreans more afraid of homegrown horrorA research team led by Lee Jae-ho, a professor of psychology at Chung-Ang University, has unearthed this chilling bit of data: Koreans are more frightened by homegrown horror flicks than those produced in Hollywood.
A long-haired female ghost in a white dress slinking quietly out of a closet or dark attic. The eerie cry of a dead child, buried somewhere inside a wall or a basement. These scenes make frequent cameos in typical Korean horror, as opposed to the puddles of blood, grotesque faces of evil ghosts, monsters or piles of skulls in the standard Western fare.
While directors from both East and West serve up plenty of horrifying moments onscreen, for local audiences the sight of streams of blood or monsters’ faces fail to generate as many goosebumps as domestic standbys like ghosts in white dresses standing in the dark
For his experiment, the professor asked 50 Koreans to watch two Korean horror films, and two horror films from the West, such as “Wrong Turn” and “The Evil Dead.” Group A consisted of 20 people who viewed all four films in their entirety, while Group B watched random still shots from Korean and Western films.
During that time, the team recorded each participant’s galvanic skin response, a measure of the change in the electrical properties of the skin in response to stress or anxiety. The more fear, the greater the response.
Viewers registered a response 279 times when watching Korean horror flicks, and 209 times when watching Western horror movies. Among the total, there were 35 “strong” responses to Korean horrors, but only 22 “strong” responses to Western flicks.
The most bone-chilling scenes in a Korean film for members of Group A turned out to be the instant a dead child’s corpse or the shadow of a hand emerges from a wall. In “Wrong Turn,” the audience felt most scared the moment the murderer tries to pick up a key near where the main characters are hiding.
During these scenes, some people confessed to feeling chills running down their spine. For both groups, the sense of fear lasted longer after watching Korean horrors than Western ones.
“This experiment proved that fear is learned. Cultural differences determine the sense of fear,” Mr. Lee said. He added that people tend to be more affected by horrifying images or stories they have seen during childhood and by horror scenes they’re used to. The Korean film “Yeogogoedam,” set at a girls’ high school, exploited this psychology by playing up the traditional topic of female ghosts.
The local breed of horror flick tends to contain many quiet night scenes, where ghosts clad in white float through the forest or among the tombs. Western films tend to use violent, graphic and bloody scenes ― not to mention monsters and other repulsive beings ― to inspire fear.
Mr. Lee said that while Western horrors usually focus on visual stimulation, Korean films try to create an atmosphere of horror through silence and darkness.
by Park Bang-ju