Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Torture Porn vs. Horror Films

Kim du Toit-one of the best bloggers out there-has been commenting about Torture Porn films such as the Saw or Hostel series. And, I fully agree with him-and the sad thing is that short of another serious act of censorship or blacklisting, torture porn is here to stay.

Okay, let's see...my last convention was SilCon 2007, where the theme was horror films. And, I do mean "horror". Some of the films shown in the hallways were films that were hideously not PG-13 trailer material. And, there was a deep love of "let's see how much blood and guts we can generate, just to see what we can generate."

Why do people make torture porn films? First of all, it's cheap-Hostel was made for about $5 million dollars and made $81 million in return-about a sixteen times return on the investment. Saw is an even better example-$1.5 million to make, $100 million in return, about ninety times as much. I'm willing to bet that at the convention, I could go onto the floor and offer to about eight or ten people there a contract for a small amount of money now and a portion of the profits for the next iteration of the series-and get them, easy.

Second, it's like watching a car wreck-some people actually like watching this. Does anybody remember that lovely comment "if it bleeds, it leads"? There are people out there that like watching crush porn-and torture porn can make most people think they're the guy doing the cutting or the building of the horrible gadgets of torture. They are the ones that will be the ones that watch as somebody is slowly, slowly killed-and they get to kill the next one.

Please, everybody's had at least one fantasy of taking apart somebody we really didn't like.

Third, and finally, it's empowering all your little monsters. There's no plot to worry about (mostly), there's no morality message involved (classic '70s and '80s horror film-premarital sex, yuppies, and being an idiot, bad!), there's no need to make the guy that's doing all the torture into a bad guy. There are no good or bad guys after all, just points of view (lovely post-modernist concept...). Oh, and you get to have such fun torturing people...

You can argue that there is a market, and if they don't fill the void, somebody else will. But...should it be filled? Should films like this be made, with people going home with those little monsters of their psyche fed? That films like this are just mainstream enough that people don't look too askew when they take their kids to the film (any parent that takes a kid under 12 to one of these films should be shot). The ones engaging in the torture have enough moral ambiguity that you can see being the one with the chainsaw.

This is not like horror films. Say what you will of it, Grindhouse was a perfect send-up of the Z-grade, cheap-ass budget film that go hideously towards the late-late-late-shouldn't you be asleep TV movies or on Showtime during the 3 am hours. I can't see a sendup of torture films like Army of Darkness did to horror films. Some horror films actually make a lot of sense and are sometimes so overdone that they're just hokey. And, the guys that torture in horror films tend to be the bad guys. The ones cutting up people with the chiansaws? You shoot them, please. The shooters aren't the guys that cut up girls for fun.

Horror films are intended to scare you and shock you. Torture porn are best watched with one hand on the popcorn...and one on your joystick. If you can't get any play with your joystick...well, enjoy watching a beautiful girl (that, in real life, somebody like her shot you down) get eaten alive by mutant cannibals. Get some good revenge in, for the boss that drove you mad, the girl that teased you in bed, the doctor that treated you like an idiot and a fool...all of them have to suffer.

This is a bad way to go. Add to that the fact that most kids would be better parented by wolves and there's some...social validation to being a successful torturing asshole pervert (Hostel has a club of very rich people that get to torture and torment people for fun, there are people that consider Jigsaw in Saw to be a folk hero) is expressed here. Add to that music media that most kids listen to tends to view women as objects at best, tissue paper at worse...I'm scared to see what the next school killing spree will be.

My advice? Don't watch it, don't spend money on people that sponsor it, make it known that you don't tolerate this kind of mess...I don't.

2 comments:

madoc62 said...

Zakueins,

"Torture porn" that's a good description of it. Can't say as I've ever bothered watching any of it though. I just can't get my disbelief suspended and thus it lays there blocking my view of the film. No loss, really.

I'm not the right sorta guy to take to "thrillers" either. I'll either get bored or start laughing at how utterly stupid the whole film is.

Sunday night I was in the theater to see "Charlie Wilson's War) and the trailer for the latest bit of torture porn - "Untraceable" - actually got on my nerves as I was stuck watching it before the film started.

I put such "porn" in about the same category as the stoner movies and the teen / sexploitation films. A waste of screen time but a good way for up and coming stars to learn their moves. Beyond that? No thanks.

Madoc

Kitty said...

If you wanna watch torture porn, go with the classics- Ilsa, of course!