Looking East: From Folk Horror to Horror of the Folk in Thai Cinema
Folk horror is often said to be about the fear of regression, the fear of going back to ‘the old ways’ and the anxiety that ‘the old ways’ may be right. But what if the old ways and the new ways were very much the same? How does folk horror adapt to animist cultures, where old-age rituals and modern beliefs go hand in hand? Where does it find its ‘monstrous tribe’? Thai horror films reflect the animist orientation of Thai culture but do not situate animism in opposition to official religion and modernity, since animistic beliefs and practices are commonplace in today’s Thailand. Prevalent across the country and practised across all social strata, Thai animism and related with it folklore cannot be used as a designator of difference in the Thai context. If Thai folk horror produces its monstrous tribe, their monstrosity is not the result of regression, evidenced in arcane rituals, but rather a commentary on the existing inequality within Thai society. Thai folk horror is thus primarily invested in representing the rural-urban divide and its profound implication in tensions related to ethnicity and class.
Katarzyna Ancuta is a lecturer at the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. Her research interests oscillate around the interdisciplinary contexts of contemporary Gothic/Horror, currently with a strong Asian focus. Her recent publications include contributions to The Edinburgh Companion to Globalgothic (2023), Folk Horror: New Global Pathways (2023) and The Transmedia Vampire (2021). She also co-edited two collections – Thai Cinema: The Complete Guide (2016) and South Asian Gothic: Haunted Cultures, Histories and Media (2022).
Photo 1: Hoon Payon (dir. Phontharis Chotkijsadarsopon), 2023
Ruth Heholt is Professor of Literature and Culture at Falmouth University in lovely Cornwall.
Dr. Amy Hale is an Atlanta based writer, curator and critic, ethnographer and folklorist speaking and writing about esoteric history, art, culture, women and Cornwall. She is the author of Ithell Colquhoun: Genius of the Fern Loved Gully (Strange Attractor 2020) and is currently working on several Colquhoun related manuscripts. She is also the editor of Essays on Women in Western Esotericism: Beyond Seeresses and Sea Priestesses (Palgrave 2022). She has contributed gallery texts and essays for a number of institutions including Tate, Camden Arts Centre, Art UK, Arusha Galleries, Heavenly Records and she is a curator and host for the Last Tuesday Society lecture series.
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