My thanks to Sarah Bemand, Clare Brownlee and Paul Smith at Tartan for providing images and being such good sports. Images courtesy of Tartan Films.
1. Metro-Tartan Distribution was a joint venture with the exhibitor Metro Pictures. [return to page 1 of essay]
2. See Erika Franklin, "Asia Extreme: It’s All in the Name," Firecracker. Available at:
5. For discussion of cult and art house film consumption, see Mark Jancovich, Antonio Lazaro Reboll, Julian Stringer and Andrew Wills (eds.), Defining Cult Movies: The Cultural Politics of Oppositional Taste (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003). See also Joan Hawkins, Cutting Edge: Art-Horror and the Horrific Avant-garde (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).
6. Hamish McAlpine, "A Personal Foreword," in Mark Pilkington, The Tartan Guide to Asia Extreme (London: Startlux, 2004), iv.
7. Gary Needham, "Japanese Cinema and Orientalism," in Dimitris Eleftheriotis and Gary Needham (eds.), Asian Cinemas: A Reader and Guide (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2006), 11.
8. Mark Jancovich, "Introduction" to "Part Four: Consuming Fears" in Mark Jancovich (ed.), Horror, The Film Reader (London & New York: Routledge, 2002),135.
9. Mark Pilkington, "Introduction," The Tartan Guide to Asia Extreme (London: Startlux, 2004), v.
10. Confident of my analogy, I posed the question to Hamish McAlpine. Disappointingly, McAlpine told me that he actually "pinched" the extreme title from the Channel Four (British TV channel) series as a kind of payback, as Channel Four apparently "stole" the pattern of his Tartan logo! Hamish McAlpine, private conversation with the author on 12 November 2007.
11. Pilkington, "Introduction," The Tartan Guide to Asia Extreme, vi.
12. Variety (6 September 2005).
13. Tartan’s Press and PR Manager, Paul Smith told me that Battle Royale was not picked up by any U.S. distributors, possibly because the film is about school kids killing each other, and there have been real shooting incidents at schools in the United States. Nonetheless, Miramax purchased a remake right to the film. Interview with the author, conducted on 17 January 2007.
14. Paul Smith, interview with the author, conducted on 17 January 2007.
16. Tony Rayns, "Sexual Terrorism: The Strange Case of Kim Ki-duk," Film Comment (November-December, 2004), 51.
17. Rayns, "Sexual Terrorism," 51 and 50. According to Rayns, Kim is
18. Richard Falcon, "The Isle (Review)," Sight and Sound (August 2001), 49.
19. Paracinema refers to a wide range of film genres out of the mainstream, and by Sconce's own description this is “an extremely elastic textual category.” In addition to art film, horror, and science fiction films, “paracinema” catalogues “include entries from such seemingly disparate genres” as badfilms, splatterpunk, mondo films, sword-and-sandal epics, Elvis flicks, government hygiene films, Japanese monster movies, beach party musicals, and “just about every other historical manifestation of exploitation cinema from juvenile delinquency documentaries to ... pornography.” See Jeffrey Sconce, "“Trashing” the Academy: Taste, Excess, and an Emerging Politics of Cinematic Style," Screen vol. 36 no. 4 (Winter 1995): 372.
Joan Hawkins elaborates upon the term "paracinema" and notes its main characteristics as follows. The operative criterion is "affect": the ability of a film to thrill, frighten, gross out, arouse, or otherwise directly engage the spectator’s body. And it is this emphasis on affect that characterises paracinema as a low cinematic culture. Paracinema catalogues are dominated by what Clover terms "body genre" films, films that, Linda Williams notes, "privilege the sensational." See Joan Hawkins, Cutting Edge: Art-Horror and the Horrific Avant-garde (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press), 4.
21. Roger Ebert, "The Isle (Review)," Chicago Sun-Times (31 January 2003). Available at:
23. Mark Schilling, "Audition: Mid-Life Crisis Meets Lethal Psychosis," The Japan Times (14 March 2000).
24. Gary Morris, "Gore Galore: Takashi Miike’s Audition," Bright Light Film Journal. Available at:
25. Peter Bradshaw, "Oldboy (Review)," Guardian Unlimited (15 October 2004). Available at:
26. Harry Knowles, Ain't It Cool News (9 December 2003). Available at:
27. Michael Atkinson, "Die Hard With a Vengeance: Best Served Cold, Park Chanwook's Brutal Revenge Feast Comes With a Side of Live Octopus," Village Voice (22 March, 2005). Available at:
28. Carina Chocano, "Oldboy: From Korea Comes a Dream of Deadly Drama," The Los Angeles Times (25 March 2005). Available at:
29. Grady Hendrix, "Vengeance Is Theirs," Sight and Sound (February 2006), 18.
30. Manohla Dargis, "The Violence (and the Seafood) Is More Than Raw,” The New York Times (25 March, 2005). Available at:
31. The AAJA Media Watch group complained that the review “reduces an entire people to a backward, "different’ lot that’s meant to be mocked.” See the Internet sit:
32. On 16 April 2007, Cho Seung-Hui, who had history of mental and behavioural problems, killed 32 people before turning the gun on himself on the Virginia Tech campus. Cho was a South Korean but his family had moved to the US when he was eight. He was a senior English major at Virginia Tech.
33. The possible link was spotted by the Virginia Tech professor Paul Harris, who then alerted the authorities.
34. For example, Gerald Kaufman urged filmmakers to exercise self-censorship on the Telegraph website, while filmmaker Bob Cesca described the connection as “the most ridiculous hypothesis yet” writing for the Huffington Post. In defending the film, Grady Hendrix at Slate proclaims “Oldboy bears no more responsibility for the Virginia Tech shootings than American Idol.” See the IFC Blog for a roundup of the responses as well as from Tartan Films that issued an official statement that includes the following passages:
35. Julian Stringer, “Putting Korean Cinema in Its Place: Genre Classifications and The Contexts of Reception,” in Chi-Yun Shin and Julian Stringer (eds.), New Korean Cinema (Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2005), 96.
36. Needham, "Japanese Cinema and Orientalism," 9.
37. Hendrix, "Vengeance Is Theirs," 18.
38. Atkinson, "Die Hard With a Vengeance," Village Voice (22 March, 2005).
39. British distributor Third Window has rights for all of Lee Chang-dong films (apart from his latest Secret Sunshine) and they are released on DVD.
40. The impact of Asia Extreme label is also evident in the fate of Kim Jee-woon’s debut feature The Quiet Family (1998), whose later films include popular Tartan Asia Extreme titles such as A Tale of Two Sisters and A Bittersweet Life (2005). The Quiet Family contains many of Kim’s directorial hallmarks, but remains a relatively obscure film in the U.K., mainly because it was picked up by a Hong Kong-based distribution company Tai Seung, whereas its Japanese remake Happiness of the Katakuris (Takashi Miike, 2002) was picked up by Tartan Films and subsequently became much more widely available than the original.
41. See www.Tartanfilmsusa.com
42. Bill Roundtree, "2005 in Review: Korean Cinema" (2 January 2006). Available at:
43. Mark Jancovich, "Genre and the Audience: Genre Classifications and Cultural Distinctions in the Mediation of The Silence of the Lambs," in Mark Jancovich (ed.), Horror: The Film Reader (London & New York: Routledge, 2002), 153.
44. James Naremore, "American Film Noir: The History of an Idea," Film Quarterly, vol. 49, no. 2 (1995-6), 14.
45. Interestingly, Optimum released more arthouse features such as Japanese film All About Lily Chou Chou (Sunji Iwai, 2001) and Chinese title Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Dai Si Jie, 2003) through their "Optimum World" division rather than Optimum Asia.
46. Film distributors are not alone in trying to reap the profit from the success of Extreme label. Book publishers have joined in to produce titles such as Asian Shock: Horror and Dark Cinema from Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand and Outlaw Masters of Japanese Films. Patrick Galloway’s Asian Shock almost mimes the Tartan phrase on its back cover:
Audition (Japan, 1999) Dir: Takashi Miike.
Bangkok Dangerous (Thailand, 2000) Dirs: Danny and Oxide Pang.
Battle Royale (Japan, 2000) Dir: Kinji Fukasaku.
Dark Water (Japan, 2001) Dir: Hideo Nakata.
The Eye (Thailand, 2002) Dirs: Danny and Oxide Pang.
Hard Boiled (Hong Kong, 1992) Dir: John Woo.
Host (South Korea, 2006) Dir: Bong Jun-ho.
Infernal Affairs (Hong Kong, 2002) Dirs: Andrew Lau and Alan Mak.
The Isle (South Korea, 2000) Dir: Kim Ki-duk.
Ju-on: The Grudge (Japan, 2002) Dir: Takashi Shimizu.
Nowhere to Hide (South Korea, 1999) Dir: Lee Myung-se.
Oldboy (South Korea, 2003) Dir: Park Chan-wook.
Ringu (Japan, 1997) Dir: Hideo Nakata.
Shiri (South Korea, 1999) Dir: Kang Je-gyu.
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring (South Korea, 2003) Dir: Kim Ki-duk.
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (South Korea, 2001) Dir: Park Chan-wook.
A Tale of Two Sisters (South Korea, 2003) Dir: Kim Ji-woon.
Three…Extremes (2004) Dirs. Fruit Chan, Park Chan-wook and Takashi Miike.
Three Extremes 2 (2002) Dirs: Kim Ji-woon, Nonzee Nimibutr, and Peter Chan.