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Extreme Asia

The Rise of Cult Cinema from the Far East

Daniel Martin

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How shrewd marketing engineered the East Asian cult film boom in the UK

From Japanese horror to South Korean revenge thrillers, and from the new Hong Kong crime film to Thailand’s boundary-breaking ghost stories, Western audiences have been stunned by a boom in challenging cult cinema from East Asia over the last decade. But how did this cycle of ‘Extreme’ Asian films gain such notoriety? How did distribution companies, journalists, critics and censors contribute to the rise of a new genre of forbidden foreign cinema?

Extreme Asia: The Rise of Cult Cinema from the Far East charts the history of the recent cult Asian film invasion, covering a five-year period and focusing on the activities of the distribution company Tartan Films and their incredibly influential ‘Asia Extreme’ brand. Through a series of case studies of individual releases and other exhibition events, this book examines strategies of film promotion and consumption in the context of differing theories about horror cinema, movie marketing, reception studies, and Orientalism. Covering the rise and fall of the Asia Extreme label, and the enduring legacy of an unforgettable wave of cult cinema, this is a comprehensive study of a film movement that has provoked passion and outrage in equal measure.

Key features

  • Clear timeline of the key points and film releases in the UK, demonstrating the movement’s growing popularity and cultural impact on a film-by-film basis
  • Based on extensive research and exclusive access to marketing materials and interviews
  • Explains the cultural and economic factors behind the rise of the most notorious East Asian horror and action films of the current generation
  • Detailed case studies of such seminal cult hits as Battle Royale, Oldboy, Audition, Infernal Affairs, Ring, and The Isle


Chapter One: Chilling Beginnings: Japanese Horror and the British Critical Reception of Nakata Hideo’s Ring
Chapter Two: Cinema of Cruelty: The Birth of Asia Extreme and Miike Takashi’s Audition
Chapter Three: Courting Controversy: Hype, Scandal and Fukasaku Kinji’s Battle Royale
Chapter Four: Brand Wagon: The Courtship of Multiplex Audiences and the 2003 Asia Extreme Roadshow
Chapter Five: Savagery and Serenity: Extreme Cinema and the Films of Kim Ki-duk
Chapter Six: From the Margins to the Mainstream: Asia Extreme in 2004
Conclusion: The Legacy of Asia Extreme
Appendix: Asia Extreme UK Theatrical Release Timeline

About the Author

Daniel Martin is Associate Professor of Film Studies in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). His recent research concerns the international circulation of films from East Asia. He is the author of Extreme Asia: The Rise of Cult Cinema from the Far East (Edinburgh University Press, 2015), co-editor of Korean Horror Cinema (Edinburgh University Press, 2013).


'Whilst previous literature has focused on Tartan’s impact in the Western framing of East Asian cinema, Martin’s consideration of ‘extreme’ branding strategies beyond Tartan offers a nuanced analysis of this body of film. This ties the book together well and offers a good platform for further research in this area.'

- James Rendell, Cardiff University, New Review of Film and Television Studies 

This book is terrific. It doesn’t just do something rare; it does a number of things that are rare! It provides incisive account of the films; it gives an exemplary analysis of the processes through which they have become consecrated as objects of cult adoration; and particularly of the crucial role of reviewers and distributors in this process. Consequently, it goes well beyond the areas often covered by studies of Asian cinema, cult fandom and film reception and should prove central to a range of debates in film, media and cultural studies.

Professor Mark Jancovich, the University of East Anglia