Week 4 Blog Post

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?


Torture Porn is a term coined by David Edelstein when critisizing the 2005 film Hostel, for “going too far” (Herbergs, 2013). Carroll (1990) suggests that characters in Horror films usually respond to the monster in two ways: in fear, and/or in disgust, and the films are designed so that audiences mirror these feelings from the positive characters. Torture porn films are films which ‘broadly belong to the horror genre’ and ‘centralise abduction, binding, imprisonment, and torture (mental or physical)’. It has been said that both Hostel and Saw can be see to glamorise torture (Aldana, 2014) and that they were then generating a new kind of effect due to the audience’s newfound exposure to violence in the reality.


This may have something to do with the idea that pain is an emotion that cannot be shared in a similar way to other emotions. People cannot partake in someone else’s pain and so torture porn, with its ability to bring to focus something that is usually private and incommmunicable, can open the lid on that chest in a way that couldn’t be done before. This comes hand and hand with how audiences may have been feeling post world terror attacks in 2001. Torture porn gave the illusion that pain could in fact, be shared and after experiencing something like 9/11, the communities may want to connect that way. It is mentioned that  “There was a lot of doom and gloom,” Whannell reminds us. “People were being accused of torturing . . . prisoners of war,” and he adds, “maybe the public— not ­ just in North America but around the world— was ­ . . . reacting to this stuff they were seeing on the news every night by somehow venting in the theater,” (Kerner, 2015 p. 76). Torture porn offers its audiences the opportunity to empathise and interact with pain from a ‘safe’ distance.


Aldana, R. X. (2014). Body gothic : Corporeal transgression in contemporary literature and horror film. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com


Carroll, N. (1990). The philosophy of horror : Or, paradoxes of the heart. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com


Herbergs, S. (2013). Horror Gore and Horror Tales: an Investigation of Noël Carroll’s Narrative Logic of Horror and the Role of Spectacle in the Narrative. Netherlands: Utrecht University


Kerner, A. (2015). Torture Porn in the Wake of 9/11: Horror, Exploitation, and the Cinema of Sensation. New Jersey, USA: Rutgers University Press


Rose (2017) defines this modern boom of prestige horror as “Post-Horror.” What does he mean by this term? Find and read some critiques on his definition online and respond to both. Do you think Post-Horror is a valid term or not? Using examples and references explain your position.


In 2017, Steve Rose dubbed some of the latest releasing Horror films, “Post-Horror”. He coined this term to describe a group of new films that he believes deserve to be categorised by a new subgenre of Horror. This is because these new films are breaking usual Horror genre norms and codes and exploring the “darkness” beyond. Edwards-Behi (2017) counter argues that there is no need to label these new films something new and believes what Rose is really saying in their article is “I don’t like horror, so these particular films must be something else,”(para 4) . She believes that the term post-horror is nothing more at this stage, than a cycle. Michael Brown (2019), goes on to agree that “the problem is the implications of such labels simply revive tired old assumptions that uncritically trivialise the genre’s legitimacy and fail to engage with horror’s rich and varied heritage,” (para 2). It seems other critics and avid fans of the horror genre do not appreciate the effect this term has had on horror as a genre. By disassociating the recent horror films that have found commercial and critical success, from horror’s very large and branching history, just reinforces the idea that many have, that horror is an inferior film genre. Personally I have no issue with ‘Post-Horror’ being a term for a “new” subgenre of horror; as a way to categorise these new types of films that break many horror stereotypes and conventions, but I think trying to establish the term as its own genre may be a mistake. I don’t watch horror or enjoy it, so I do not feel as passionately about Rose’s thoughts on modern horror as some critics. However there is already a reluctance among Hollywood executives to label their projects as horror’s (Brown, 2019), so I think making post-horror its own genre would only encourage this behaviour.


Edwards-Behi, N. (2017, July 9). Cinema | A Response To Post-Horror. Retrieved from https://www.walesartsreview.org/cinema-a-response-to-post-horror/


Rose, S. (2017, July 6). How post-horror films are taking over cinema. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/international
Brown, M. (2019, May 15). The problem with ‘post-horror’. Overland. Retrieved from https://overland.org.au/


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