Week 4 – Torture Porn

According to Carroll (????), what is the role of torture in the torture porn franchises Saw and Hostel? Using references, explain this in your own words. How do you think these purposes might relate to the socio-political environment of that time period and such events like 9/11 and the Abu Ghraib torture scandal?

Reyes explores the idea of corporeal torture in his book Body Gothic: corporeal transgression in contemporary literature and horror film, explaining how “- torture porn negotiates corporeal anxieties at both superficial and metaphorical levels. Torture porn deals openly with the mutilation and annihilation of the human body, and it filters these modern preoccupations through a lens that is inherently gothic.[1]” Reyes goes on to make a point that the camera does not cut away from the torture, but often zooms in on the moment of mutilation[2].

There are evident links between the Saw franchise’s beliefs to the abuse and treatment of those in Abu Ghraib prison and how those behind the abuse and mistreatment believed that they deserved it for the wrongs that were done upon Americans during 9/11. Similarly, Hostel deals with the idea that the people behind all the chaos and bloodshed are Americans who are trying to kill their own people. This links back to the rumours and ideas that George Bush was responsible for 9/11, or that he at least had some part in it. With torture porn arising out of such a tumultuous time for not only America but most of the world, the opportunity to use public suspicions and fears to carry the atmosphere of the films was hard to pass up.

Aaron Kerner, author of Torture Porn in the Wake of 9/11: Horror, Exploitation, and the Cinema of Sensation, explains how Saw’s victims ‘deserve’ their fates – at least how they deserve their fates in Jigsaw’s eyes. “All of them have transgressed social/cultural or legal bounds of one kind or another – adulterers, sexual predators, embezzlers, liars, drug dealers or addicts, racists, or individuals who simply do not value life.[3]” As viewers, these kinds of people are difficult to sympathise with and therefore the audience doesn’t feel as appalled when faced with the punishments these characters must go through. In fact, there’s a sadistic enjoyment. People who do wrong should be punished, and this sub-genre takes that to the extreme.

I personally do not like this sub-genre of horror for the straightforward reason that it is depicting inhumane, violent, degrading acts as entertainment. It also sprouted from a terrifying disaster that took thousands of people’s lives and marked the beginning of the War or Terror – an equally terrifying and life-threatening time in near history.


[1] Reyes, X. A. (2014) Body Gothic: corporeal transgression in contemporary literature and horror film – Torture Porn. p. 123. https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz/bbcswebdav/pid-4911321-dt-content-rid-10106317_4/institution/Papers/ENGL602/Publish/Body_Gothic_Corporeal_Transgression_in_Contemporar…_—-_%285_Torture_Porn%29.pdf

[2] Reyes, X. A. (2014) Body Gothic: corporeal transgression in contemporary literature and horror film – Torture Porn. p. 124. Retrieved from https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz/bbcswebdav/pid-4911321-dt-content-rid-10106317_4/institution/Papers/ENGL602/Publish/Body_Gothic_Corporeal_Transgression_in_Contemporar…_—-_%285_Torture_Porn%29.pdf

[3] Kerner, A. Torture Porn in the Wake of 9/11: Horror, Exploitation, and the Cinema of Sensation. p. 97 Retrieved from https://books.google.co.nz/books?id=WK0pCgAAQBAJ&pg=PA185&lpg=PA185&dq=carroll+torture+porn&source=bl&ots=YgF0znfI4I&sig=ACfU3U3mI6UOYuOST5vfEeiNEPXLuU7P5Q&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiascbsvvnjAhXMfysKHSGYC9gQ6AEwAHoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=carroll%20torture%20porn&f=false

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