Semiosphere and Taiwan’s Horror Movies of the 1970s

Conference: The Asian Conference on Media, Communication & Film (MediAsia2021)
Title: Semiosphere and Taiwan’s Horror Movies of the 1970s
Stream: Film Criticism and Theory
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation
Fang-Jeng Liu, National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan


This article follows the line of thought from Lotmanian semiosphere to analyze the communication act in the works of the 1970s Taiwan’s horrors to argue this once neglected genre not only had influenced the development of Taiwan’s cinema but represents the critical social and political transformation in Taiwan. I argue that the growing popularity of the 1970s horrors reflects the remarkable resilience of cinematic culture in dealing with social injustice, suspended civil rights, and repressed collective memory at the end of martial law era. To support my ideas, I would like to introduce the horrors by two representative directors, Yao Fang-Pen and Wang Chu-Chin. Their earlier works were adapted from Chinese classics and filled with signs of ancient etiquette, feudal hierarchy, and family morality. However, as oppose to the 1960s “healthy” mainstream, their horrors took these moral codes simply as a disguise to evade the extensive media censorship. Their cinematic signs may also be reconstructed by the native culture and industrialized lifestyles. If, as Lotman writes, "the semiosphere is the result and the condition for the development of culture; we justify our term by analogy with the biosphere [. . .] namely the totality and the organic whole of living matter and also to condition for the continuation of life", the emergence of the horror movies as a semiosphere must have greatly influenced Taiwan’s cinema. But why do these horrors soon disappear in a decade and have been neglected by critics, not to mention never be categorized as a genre?

Virtual Presentation

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