Week 4: Post Horror

Sophie Tse

Torture porn is characterized vulnerability of a group of body and sense by depicting a collective abduction, imprisonment, and torture. The space especially each torture rooms and prisons in a sealed environment built up the claustrophobia for victims.  Approach to understanding the character of a body. Healthy body represents the well-governed society. After the 911 attack, American lost faith on their security and the US government. Grievance, anxiety and anger regard to social injustice and moral corruption caused uprising sentiment of revenge and violence. That proved the physical, psychological and moral loss amongst American people. The later event of Abu Ghraib torture scandal emphasised a cultural paranoia around torture in foreign countries. The film Hostelquestioned the power, status and identity of civilian of arrogant Americans. Korstanje (2014) suggested that “innocent tourists are classified by their importance to the ethnical hierarchy…If United States is presented as the axis of civilization and security, the rest of the world is the opposite. It opens the geography of diversity into only one-sided gaze, the concerns of security” Demonstrating the concept of us and others (non-American people and place) then having American suffered from foreign settings in order to invoked 911 tragedies. “The main function of torture is thus to make the experience tangible.” Bodily exploitation has been a cinematic attraction through using prosthetics, simulated blood and body. Director often used close up on the moment of torture and body part to increase the sense of horror and disgust.

Body torture also represents the collapse of personal identity, social order and reveals sinful flesh. Both movies achieved to physically and psychologically deprived victims’ privileged identity, power, prestige, values, social status and order in order to be true to themselves, which means reveal the sins and crimes the victims committed and had been carried since the past. Aston and Walliss (2013) called it “Reconnecting to the “true” self.” Let individuals turned into merely a human and eventually, a material reality, meat.  Aldana (2014) supported by stating that “The idea that the body can be reduced to meat is tantamount to an enforced disavowal of human rights or civilian entitlement.” This “ritual” purposely helped victims/ sinners to approach their self-reflection and betterment. For example, Jigsaw often announced their crime and sin before his dreadful game began. But more importantly corporeal mortification could never be escaped since sacrifice, pain and trauma must be undergone in order to serve their long deserved punishment (even redemption wasn’t guaranteed). Kellner (2010) stated that “Jigsaw’s approach to his test subjects may be read as metaphor for American war on terror and foreign policy post– 9/ 11 in terms of its “Vengeance-Outside-the-Law morality” of pre-emptive war, racial and ethnic profiling.” Thus, torture became a barbaric and direct sentence and education motivated by the distrust of constitutional law and systems. The transferability of pain and empathy created the echo of the 911 event.

Personally I agree that story narration is no longer a significant role since torture porn values high expectation of the corporeal outcome. The explaining narration is mostly removed for the visceral fluent and maximum effort. Consequentially, it indeed changed the landscape of horror genre but its poor quality proves it’s just an abnormal graphical description to pleasure the younger audience.  

Aston, J., & Walliss, J. (Eds.). (2013). To see the saw movies : Essays on torture porn and post-9/11 horror. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

Korstanje, M. E. (2014). Influence of Terrorism in Horror Movies After the Attack to World Trade Centre. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism12(1), 95–101. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.aut.ac.nz/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hjh&AN=97303039&site=eds-live

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

  1. In this lecture, I have briefly outlined how Hereditary contains elements of folk horror, cosmic horror and family drama. Using examples from your own readings and the film, describe how you feel these elements make up the film Hereditary and how it might fit into the larger canon of “prestige horror” from Rosemary’s Baby to today. 

Prestige horror celebrates more than just freak out audience in a sudden. It requires social and cultural engagement of current issues. Hereditary represents the conflict and struggle not just between traditional obedient and the modern independent values, most importantly is the psychosis and the management of stress.  Rosemary’s Baby represents the submissive state of women under the patriarchy in 60’s.  

Both movies used point of view to represent the psychological state, dramatize fear and exaggerate pain of being tortured physically and spiritually. Paranoia is shown along with the decline of morality and the losing of control. Devil worship is seldom or not often shown, in fact both movies captured the gradual change of people in daily life from moral individuals to monstrous human. We witnessed their transformation, family drama, invasion of cult and breakdown of conspiracy through mother’s POV. These procedures paranoise audience as we understand their pain and situation. Director of Hereditary, Ari Aster (2018) answered Riley that “What do you do with the suspicion that you don’t really know the people you’re closest to? What do you do with fear of abandonment? The fear of somebody close to you changing? The film is really feeding on those fears.”  In Hereditary, the different concept shown in advertisement and actual story caused criticism amongst audience. Indeed the death of Charlie was frightening and director had done well on its set up. For example, the devil mark on the telephone pole indicated the terrible manipulation of the cult towards the family. It’s fascinated to witness the gradually collapse of their mental boundaries. Annie had become more stressful and suspicious about Charlie’s spirit. Peter couldn’t escape from his sin and haunted fate since Annie had confessed her attempted miscarriage and hatred to him. Later, her summon of revengeful spirit of Charlie (Paimon), the devil smirk on mirror, a mystery blue light and the death of his father had all been increased his trauma and exposure of his vulnerability.

Hereditary is a horror movie trends to a drama genre. Family drama and horror are simultaneously and intensively developing thorough the narration. In the beginning the background and motivation of Annie were demonstrated in support group: she tried to protect her family from her psychotic mother however she wasn’t deserved compliment due to her increasing mental stress and sub-consciousness of murdering her son Peter, during sleepwalking. Psychological thrill was celebrated and slightly more expected than the supernatural power.

The concepts of demons were occupied in second place in both narrations which represent the outcome of events. In the fragile family of Annie and profoundly rooted inside her mother by joining a secret cult worshiping a devil based on Christian tale (Ars Goetia). Yet, Paimon was only revealed in the climate and immediately dominated the ending. Rosemary met demon in the beginning and the final scene after she gave birth to the son of devil. Annie’s narration or life was resulted in her competence of final mission (brought out Paimon’s identity). Peter took over her perspective and led to the reborn of Paimon. Rosemary was eventually compromised with the devil baby along side with the antagonists. Cosmic horror also related to this folk horror as we saw the mystery blue light in Hereditary and the nightmares that Rosemary had.


Riley. J (2018). ‘Hereditary’ Filmmaker Ari Aster Answers Burning Questions (Spoilers). Retrieved from: https://variety.com/2018/film/awards/hereditary-ari-aster-answers-burning-questions-1202841448/

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