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?
The torture porn franchises Saw and Hostel normalise torture. They are in line with a working definition that attempts to describe torture porn to mean horror sub-genre films in which physical or mental torture, imprisonment, binding, and abduction are centralised (Reyes, 2014). The bodies of the victims are subjected to immerse torture and suffering with the intent of generating certain anticipated consequences. The consequences are expected to have an impact on the audience and send given messages to the world. Specifically, according to Reyes (2014), the role of torture in Saw and Hostel is to directly appeal to the bodies of viewers by using disgust and pain to make them feel somatically empathetic.
The two franchises apparently recognise that moments of violence can be used to generate maximum affect in the bodies of spectators. This is known as fictional threat, a situation whereby viewers are compelled to identify with the body of a tortured victim so that their (the viewers’) bodies may develop fear (Reyes, 2014). The concept is based on the conception that the human flesh is vulnerable to terrorisation. After watching the films, it is expected that a viewer would become wary of torture such that they would not want to be associated with it whatsoever. They would develop special fear for anybody or anything they think might want to torture them.
The two series of films also use torture as a tool for socio-political retribution, especially as depicted in Hostel. For instance, residents of countries that are not in good terms with the United States may want to torture Americans as retribution for globalised American aggression (Reyes, 2014). They may sadistically exploit the capacity of the human body to suffer by exposing American citizens to gothic horror if they may get the opportunity. In such instances, the aggressors would see themselves as moralistic or vigilante torturers or killers (Reyes, 2014). In their minds, they would be doing it in honour of their countries.
These purposes of torture might be relatable to the socio-political environment of the early 2000s in America. This was the period when the country was grappling with such socio-political issues as the 9/11 attacks and the Abu-Ghraib torture scandal. Those responsible for 9/11 must have wanted to “revenge” or execute retribution for what they might have thought as being America’s aggression against their country, or religion, or even race. This might have been why they targeted such important facilities as the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon (History.com. Editors, 2019). In the Abu-Ghraib scandal, the torturers might have had the intention of instilling fear in the detainees and sending a strong message against getting into conflict with America. The actions of the torturers, as observed by Hilal (2017), violated a series of universal human rights.
In general thus, Saw and Hostel depict torture as a tool for instilling fear and exacting revenge or retribution. According to them, the human body is susceptible to torture. This is why a person or people may be tortured into submission, as might have happened in Abu Ghraib. It is also why people might use terror or torture to hit back against their perceived aggressors, as might have been the case in the 9/11 attacks.
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.
The term “post-horror”, according to Rose (2017), refers to the latest generation of films in which the concept of horror is refashioned with an auteuristic sensibility. The journalist’s explanation suggests that these are films that essentially reveal the beliefs and feelings of their directors. It is a new sub-genre of horror that breaks typical conventions and or clichés of horror movies (Rose, 2017). The director is free to redefine the extent to which horror appears in the movie, including making the movie have very few instances of horror. Instead of relying on conventional exorcism and supernatural witch stories, filmmakers create their own versions of horror using themes.
Rose’s conception of “post-horror” has been supported by J. A. Bridges who contends that some horror films are now adopting auteurism. According to Bridges (2018), Rose is right in the sense that a set of horror films produced after the Great Recession are seemingly intentionally characterised with auteurism. Such movies are often written such that they depict families that are in the upper-middle class or are elite. Instead of the elements of surprise and suspense, they frequently emphasise how the future is slowly dreadful (Bridges, 2018). Examples include Get Out, Goodnight Mommy, The Haunting of Hill House, and The Eyes of My Mother.
The introduction of “post-horror” by Rose has also been heavily criticised. Edwards-Behi (2017) contends that Rose does not clearly understand the function and purpose of genre and is relying on authorship to justify this misunderstanding. In the view of this particular critic, the article by Rose on “post-horror” reveals that the journalist does not like horror hence his suggestion that there needs to be a new sub-genre of horror. Edwards-Behi (2017) further argues that Rose is wrong to “ignorantly” think that there are codes and rules governing horror films. His point is that genres cannot be fixed and that in as much as artists may play by some rules, they can break them to fit what they want their films to be like.
Having watched horror films and also based on the above critiques, I think “post-horror” is a valid term. Just as Rose (2017) points out, there has to be outright scariness in a film for it to be considered a proper horror movie. A film that fails to live up to this expectation can be something else but horror. This explains why there was an outburst on Twitter after It Comes at Night premiered. People had apparently expected there to be such things as vampires or supernatural beings tearing into human flesh or unleashing terror on humankind. It turned out the movie did not have any of these or anything related. I have watched such movies as A Ghost Story and Goodnight Mommy and in my view, they are less than what should be considered horror. As observed by Bridges (2018), these movies and their likes are largely about familial conflict and often depict tragic deaths and hauntings within families. So like Rose, I would not criticise the films as being non-horror; I would rather consider them a new sub-genre and find no problem in referring to them as “post-horror.”
Bridges, J. A. (2018). “Post-Horror kinships: From Goodnight Mommyto Get Out”. Bright Lights Film Journal. Retrieved August 18, 2019 from https://brightlightsfilm.com/post-horror-kinships-from-goodnight-mommy-to-get-out/#identifier_1_28847
Edwards-Behi, N. (2017). “Cinema |A response to post-horror”. Wales Arts Review. Retrieved August 18, 2019 from https://www.walesartsreview.org/cinema-a-response-to-post-horror/
Hilal, M. (2017). “Abu Ghraib: The legacy of torture in the war on terror”. Aljazeera. Retrieved August 18, 2019 from https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/abu-ghraib-legacy-torture-war-terror-170928154012053.html
History.com Editors. (2019). “9/11 attacks”. History. Retrieved August 18, 2019 from https://www.history.com/topics/21st-century/9-11-attacks
Rose, S. (2017). “How post-horror movies are taking over cinema”. The Guardian. Retrieved August 18, 2019 from https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/jul/06/post-horror-films-scary-movies-ghost-story-it-comes-at-night
Reyes, A. X. (2014). Body gothic: Corporeal transgression in contemporary literature and horror film. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com