WEEK 4

WEEK 4

Torture Porn:

  1. 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 role of torture porn films according to Carroll (2003) is aimed to emphasize gore, torture, and violence in the form of mutilation. The torture porn franchise Saw and Hostel normalized torture where they attempt in describing torture porn as a sub-genre horror that contains imprisonment, mental and physical torture as well as abduction (Reyes, 2014). The main characters in the films are experiencing a great amount of suffrage and torture. The cause of torture and the effects of it is intentional in generating an impact on the audience as well as sending the underlying message. Reyes (2014) states the role of torture in Saw and Hostel is to directly attract viewers by pain and disgust to generate empathy.

The socio-political environment of the early 2000s would have also contributed towards the torture porn genre. This was an era where historically negative socio-political issues such as 9/11 and the Abu Gharib torture scandals made headlines all over the world. One can say the 9/11 incident was an act of terror to install “fear” for whatever cause they believed America was responsible for and in return the Abu-Gharib torture scandal was the actions of “revenge” in retaliation to the fear on the Pentagon and the World trade center massacres. Either way, the actions of both incidents are observed by Hilal 2017 as a violation of a series of universal human rights. Saw and Hostel depict torture as a method of inflicting fear and exacting retribution or fear.

  1. 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.

Rose (2017) suggests post horror as a new sub-genre of horror that breaks norms of convention and clichés of horror and reveals the beliefs and feelings of the movie directors. Here the director is free to redefine the extent to horror which appears in the movie instead of following the conventional super-natural and exorcism storylines where filmmakers create their own versions of horror using themes. Rose’s interpretation of post horror films is connected to J. A. Bridges who contends that some horror films that include auteurism.

I personally, do not watch a lot of post horror films, however, Brown (2019) suggests that post horror is a largely pointless term that derives from a lack of historical perspective on the genre. Viewers fail to become socially aware of post horror films that have existed since the early days and the past films contain more experimental content that has expanded the language of cinema. On the other hand, Rose only gives a token of the transgressive nature as a genre. Brown (2019) also states that the history of horror as a peak of the cultural boundaries society has been hiding behind the scenes that society does not want to address.

Reference:

Brown, M (2019) The problem with post horror. Retrieved from https://overland.org.au/2019/05/the-problem-with-post-horror/

Carrol, N. (2003). The nature of horror: In The Philosophy of Horror or Paradoxes of the Heart. Retrieved from https://blacboard.aut.ac.nz

Reyes, X. A. (2014). Body Gothic: Corporeal Transgression in Contemporary Literature and Horror Film. Wales: University of Wales Press.

Rose, G. (2017). How post-horror movies are taking over cinemas. The Guardian. Retrieved August 10, 2019 from https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/jul/06/post-horror-films-scary-movies-ghost-story-it-comes-at-night

3. Carroll (2003) and King (2010) discuss how the “monster” is really a defining feature of a horror story. Using references, explain in your own words how a monster in horror differentiates from monsters in other popular genres.

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcR39U67TZ81zG9VYaNtyBKdmn35nHbEJDvImrQYwVmxCJ-6jAp4
Jekyll and Hyde

Carrol (2003) believes that the ‘monster’ in horror films are meant to create a relationship between the characters on screen and the audience viewing the film; causing the audience to essentially become connected to the emotional responses of the characters, feeling what they are feeling n response to the ‘monster’ causing similar reactions to the ‘monster’ but not the same reaction. for example the audience could feel nausia, become repulsed, frightened; but not be displaying the same behaivour of the character who may be screaming hysterically and running away. the audience is aware of the fact that the situation in the film is fiction and it is real for the characters on screen. we feel reactions to the characters situation that they are not themselves able to feel in their present state for example when we feel suspensful and on the edge of our seats while the hero of the film is in a fight for their life; the hero is not feeling the emotions of the audience, they would be in a suspenseful situation having feelings of fear, courage, etc. therefore Carrol states that we have a reaction to the situation but not the exact same as the characters.

” If Aristotle is right about catharsis, for example, the emotional state of the audience does not double that of King Oedipus at the end of the play of the same name. Nor are we jealous, when Othello is. Also, when a comic character takes a pratfall, he hardly feels joyous, though we do. And though we feel suspense when the hero rushes to save the heroine tied to the railroad tracks he cannot afford to indulge such an emotion.” (Carrol, 2003).

Image result for dracula
Dracula

whenever we hear the word monster, many archetypes come to mind. the most famous of which being the Romanian Vampire king, Count Dracula. My research has shown that Bram Stoker based his Dracula on a real life Count in history; a man who had a real taste for human blood. Vlad the impaler who was born in the region of Romania now known as Transylvania in 1431 A.D. there was a legend about Vlad III that was spread around years after his death that he invited a group of people to a feast at his home and then had them impaled and then dined on his dinner with their bodies scattered around him. Stephen King writes about how he used parts of his favorite scenes in Bram Skoker’s Dracula to write parts of his books.

Week 3: A history of Modern Horror

Question 1: King (2010) describes Horror as being defined through three basic elements. Explain, using references, what these three elements are. Think of a horror story you’ve read/watched/heard that makes use of all three of these elements and show how King’s definition is at play in that narrative

Horror movies and stories are regarded as always being a popular genre, although the subject and extent of the storyline shifts every so often as 10 to 20 years allowing for a new cycle of horror to arise (King, 2010). The first element of the horror genre identified by King is that which deals with the political and economic strains of a specific time. Books and movies are in turn written and directed to reflect the common anxieties experienced by society. An example of this is the horror movies that were popular in the 1970’s such as the haunted house horror that depicted the anxieties around class mortgage and equity that were affecting the average American household. Hendrix (2017) states the ’70s was an era of growing inflation and high-interest rates, which meant new homeowners during this time feared unimaginably was an icy house with a satanic voice that demanded them to “Get out”.

The second element of horror is the element of allegory. King (2010) states “an allegory is there only because it is built-in, a given, impossible to escape. The horror movie is portrayed in a way that is symbolic of the matters society feels under pressure to admit or address. It displays what society fear of happening, expressing to challenge or question the status quo both in a positive and negative manner. The horror films are created to allow for the viewer to conform to deviant behavior, suggesting the idea that becoming bad is not actually bad. If anything, the horror means it is ok to allow one to give in to fear or even join a mob (King, 2010). The allegory in a horror movie gives the viewer more than one interpretation of the storyline, for instance, the monster in “The Void” was a doctor, which may act as a warning sign that allows for the viewer to rethink the credentials of their current doctors.

The last of the three is the very fact of a monster is present. And each monster is created differently and specifically to suit each genre (Carroll, 2003). So, one can say monsters can also be allegorical as a symbol of horror (King, 2010). However, not all monsters are created to be evil like the Ogre Shrek in the “Shrek” movie who proves to humans he is not actually as bad as they perceive him to be and actually lives a similar lifestyle by marrying Princess Fiona and having a family.

Reference

Carrol, N. (2003). The nature of horror: In The Philosophy of Horror or Paradoxes of the Heart. Retrieved from https://blacboard.aut.ac.nz

King, S. (2010). Danse macabre. United States, NY: Gallery Publishing Group.

The Void. (2016). The Void. Study Material

Week 4 – Post Horror & Torture Porn

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.

With films such as It Comes at Night straying from many of the tropes and conventions audiences are accustomed to seeing from the horror genre. Film critic Steve Rose coined the term “post-horror” in an attempt at defining this shift. According to Rose (2017), post-horror avoids relying on tropes that have become almost synonymous with the genre. Instead of jump scares or the kind of graphic violence which saw a resurgence thanks in part due to horror films released in the early 2000s (Reyes, 2014). Post-horror plays with these expectations (sometimes unintentionally through marketing) and instead explores the horrors humans are capable of. Rather than some titular creature a title such as It Comes at Night would suggest. In this case, the film can be described as an exploration of the anxieties being in a post-apocalyptic world would bring. Whilst the contagion the film’s setting is framed around is undoubtedly an important aspect. The film uses it to develop believable scenarios for the characters to react to (at least by horror film standards) instead of using it as a means of producing endless undead/zombie fodder.

Whilst it isn’t necessarily the most accurate method of gauging public opinion on the subject. Discussion on the popular website Reddit would suggest that many see the term as an attempt at defending these films from criticism and the divisive opinions these films have received from general audiences. With some referring to Rose’s piece as a meaningless and nonsensical take from a “hipster’. While others have cited that some of what is described in Rose’s piece has always been present or important in horror fiction. With the only difference being these recent films managing to find widespread success (at least commercially) when compared with their predecessors (Brown, 2019).

Personally, I can sort of understand where both parties are coming from. If one looks at the user reviews of the above film on review aggregators such as Metacritic. A large number of them express disappointment due to expectations set by the positive critical reception the film garnered prior to release, as well as advertising that would give the impression that the film would be more in line with popular (horror) films of the past (Metacritic, 2017). On one hand you have a significant portion of the audience who feel deceived, and film critics on the other trying to justify why they liked such films.

With that said, I view post-horror as a valid way to describe this era of horror. However, for a genre that is sometimes cited as the most profitable in film. It’s likely that another term will replace it. As the term “post-horror” would arguably have elitist or gatekeeping connotations if reception on reddit is an indicator of things.

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?

At a glance, one could assume that the graphic violence and themes (often referred to as torture porn) prominent in the Hostel and Saw franchises are simply a means of evoking reactions from viewers. Xavier Aldana Reyes, an academic in both film and literature studies, views torture porn’s purpose in these films differently.

In the case of the original Hostel, Reyes (2014) describes torture porn as a way for the European inhabitants of Hostel’s world to flip the power dynamic on the unsuspecting American tourists. A power dynamic established early in the film as the lead characters (Paxton and Josh) are experiencing Amsterdam’s nightlife for the first time. Where it is made apparent that their trip is in part motivated by the allure of romantic partners and casual sex. This inherently objectifies the women of these countries and gives additional purpose to the activities of the film’s antagonists, the Elite Hunting Club (EHC).

While the EHC’s main purpose is to provide subjects for its members to fulfil their sadistic desires and needs on. Intentionally or unintentionally, this also results in the film’s leads becoming objectified themselves. Taking away the control and rights they have over their bodies. A role reversal of sorts from when Paxton refers to a sex worker as a “fuckin hog”.

In the case of Saw though, its antagonist Jigsaw acts as a sort of moral vigilante or judge throughout the franchise, choosing to put his victims in situations where they must inflict self-harm to live or proceed further in his games. With each body part maimed, amputated or harmed having an association or link with the victim’s perceived wrongdoing. Torture porn is essentially used by Jigsaw as a means of ridding his victims of their supposed sins (Reyes, 2014).

With regards to how these purposes could be related to current events of the time such as the terrorist attacks of September 11. The argument could be made that Hostel exploits the post 9/11 psyche of the western world and uses this inherit fear of foreign others in a similar manner expressed by Reyes (2014, p. 128) when discussing Zac Berman’s Borderland and its reinvention of the hillbilly tradition in horror.

References

Brown, M. (2019, May 15). The problem with ‘post-horror?. Retrieved from https://overland.org.au/2019/05/the-problem-with-post-horror/

Metacritic. (2017). It comes at night – User reviews. Retrieved September 2, 2019, from https://www.metacritic.com/movie/it-comes-at-night/user-reviews

Reyes, X. A. (2014). Torture porn. In Body gothic: Corporeal transgression in contemporary literature and horror film (pp. 122-143). Cardiff: University of Wales Press.

Rose, S. (2017, July 6). How post-horror movies are taking over cinema. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/jul/06/post-horror-films-scary-movies-ghost-story-it-comes-at-night

Week Four: Post Horror & The New Weird

Question 1:

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?

Answer:

The role of Torture Porn Films (AKA, Splatter Films) is to reputedly emphasize depictions of violence, torture, gore, mutilation, nudity and sadism (Reyes, 2014). This mode of depiction is to display a sense of helplessness and the vulnerability of the human body plus theatricality of its mutilation. The difference between typical horror film and Splatter films are, horror films deal extensively with the Lovecraftian concept of “Fear of the Unknown” whereas, the fear in Splatter films comes from physical destruction of the body and the pain accompanying it (Reyes, 2014). Couple of movies which exemplify the torture methods are as follows, Hostel (2005), Hostel II (2007), Hostel III (2011), Human Centipede (2009), The Human Centipede II (2011). Movies of this nature depict the fear which the society has perceived, that is, the Human Rights Violation through the scandal in Abu Ghraib Prison, Iraq. To expound on this incident more further, during the war in Iraq that began in March 2003, personnel of the United States Army and the Central Intelligence Agency committed a series of human rights violations against detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (Hilal, 2017) . These violations included physical and sexual abuse, torture, sodomy, rape and murder. The abuses came to widespread public attention with the publication of photographs of the abuse by CBS News in April 2004 (Hilal, 2017). As a result, this incident extremely triggered the brutal fear of torture porn in the society. The sense of un-trust was being developed amongst their own people, as a consequence, Fear was slowly seeping into the hearts of their own fellowmen. For example, the democratic countries were the core players in protecting the fundamentals of Human Rights but as seen in the expedition of the invasion of Iraq, the so called rule makers of human rights were caught as the abuses of human rights. Correspondingly, in the movie franchise, Hostel, the rich elites whom the society Once trusted, now, they were paying huge amount of cash to torture and kill their own national citizens and others . A sense of distrust was creeping in as a cultural anxiety. Nevertheless, laying at the core of all these cultural fears were the Planned attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York. This incident marked a great shift in political, societal, cultural and entertainment spectrum. As a result, it marks an important shift in the genre of horror and the kinds of cultural fears audiences begin to have (Jones, 2019) in the early 20th century. The fear of Invasion, bombing, war, insecurity and uncertainty. The social fear was continuously cultivated through the news broadcasts, media outlets and internet.

To conclude, the horror genre, torture porn contributes significant horrific impacts on human cognizance. This genre was very popular after the incidents of Abu Ghraib torture scandal and the attacks on the world trade center.

References:

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

Jones, N. (2019). Post horror and the new weird [Lecture Material]. Retrieved from https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz

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

Post Horror / Question 2:

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. 

Answer:

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 (Rose, 2017). 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 (Jones, 2019). Furthermore, There are multiple elements of post horror found in the movie Hereditary (2018), to mention some, 1: Tension and high conflict of emotions between characters. The scene when the family of three were sitting at the dining table for dinner and an extensive argument and quarreling erupts between the mother & the son. The atmosphere was too intense (Hereditary, 2018). Similarly, another element of Post horror in this movie was the engagement of “folk horror”, which is the idea of paganism and mythology. In the movie, the mother was introduced to a women who taught her and introduced her to rituals which their grandmother was a member of. Furthermore, interestingly, the movie ends in a very strange position where the viewer is left unanswered as to what just happened. This last scene leaves the audience in a position of inevitability and helplessness which is the core principle of cosmic horror (Riley, 2018) linking it back to Lovecraftian Horror.

Nevertheless, The new “Post Horror” films seemed to stress the conflict within oneself and be reflective on modern social issues. More than a complete re branding of the horror genre. In this sense, the term can stay but the meaning of what post horror constitutes continuously shifts and changes.

References:

Hereditary, (2018). The Movie: Hereditary [Class Material].

Jones, N. (2019). Post horror and the new weird [Lecture Material]. Retrieved from https://blackboard.aut.ac.nz

Rose, S. (2017). How post-horror movies are taking over cinema. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/jul/06/post-horror-films-scary-movies-ghost-story-it-comes-at-night

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/

Week 4 Horror Responses

Question for 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?

According to Keetley (2016), James Wan’s Saw and Eli Roth’s Hostel are certainly remarking on September 11th’s terror as well as both of the films were filmed in the devastated factories and warehouses. Moreover, both of the films were focusing on manifest the men’s tortured bodies and death (Keetley, 2016). Similarly, Reyes (2012) cited Noel Carroll, and suggested that the genre of torture porn could create “fear, shock and disgust” without a monstrous figure (Reyes, 2012, p. 6). Therefore, I personally believe the role of torture in torture porn is to stimulate primitive fear by demonstrating mutilated or disfigured human body.

Moreover, according to Reyes (2014), “Claustrophobia” is underlined by the continuous “close-ups on the bodies of the victims” (Reyes, 2014, p.136). When it comes to the meaning of somebody tortured by something, the victims are usually locked up in a room or tied up somewhere which made them feel like psychologically unstable. Thus, people could get claustrophobia by either directly or indirectly experiencing this kind of torture. In addition, in the torture porn, claustrophobia could play its role by giving a tension before something is actually revealing its intimidate figure.

Since thousands of American people died or injured, lost some of their body parts because of the 9/11 terror, damaged body became the material of horror film because people were could not get away from the fear of terrorism. No one knew that the biggest aircraft terror will be happening in the peaceful morning. In addition, Hilal (2017) explained that the Abu Ghraib notorious torture scandal was committed by U.S. prison guards there who were brutally torture the Iraq prisoners’ bodies and took the videos of woman prisoners’ bodies while they were raped by the prison guards. The humiliation of Abu Ghraib prisoners happened because of “Islamophobia” which was occurred after 9/11. American people wanted to revenge the Muslim (Hilal, 2017).  Then, the fear of immoral torture of body scared people since ‘damaged’ body was a kind of trauma at that time and still, it is. Therefore, the genre of torture porn became a franchise.

Socio-politically, the capitalism was affect early 21st century world such as the political establishments’ rampages by using their asset (Piketty, 2014). They instigated gangsters to destroy their enemies. Similarly, the movie Hostel, the psycho, rich clients pay some bills to torture and kill the tourists for fun. Therefore, the fact that mysterious disappearances might be related to someone who have absolute power also might have accelerated the birth of torture porn.

References:

Hilal, M. (2017, September 28). Abu Ghraib: The legacy of torture in the war on terror. Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/abu-ghraib-legacy-torture-war-terror-170928154012053.html

Keetley, D. (2016, November 15). Saw, Hostel, and the Death of Manufacturing. Retrieved September 8, 2019, from http://www.horrorhomeroom.com/saw-hostel-death-of-manufacturing/

Piketty, T. (2014). Capital in the 21st century. Inequality in the 21st Century, p.8. Retrieved from https://dowbor.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/14Thomas-Piketty.pdf

Reyes, X.A. (2012). ‘Beyond psychoanalysis: Post-millennial horror film and affect theory’. Horror Studies, 3(2), pp.243–261. https://doi.org/10.1386/host.3.2.243_1

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

Question for Post Horror:

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.

Rose (2018) describes post horror as the new horror genre that have replaced jump-scare feature in the previous horror genre and added more realistic figures such as the different kinds of relationship between family members. Also, the young auteurs are finding the way to impress the audiences with the low budget (Rose, 2018).

I believe that the definition of “prestige horror” could differ depending on how audiences and critics are impressed by either different and new way to scare people. Ari Aster’s Hereditary (2018) contains those new features such as cursed family, tragic family tradition, as well as even unknown, supernatural threats which can be included into cosmic horror. Hereditary also has earned $44 million in the United States and Canada, and $35.3 million in other countries which is total gross of $79.3 million, while a production budget was $10 million (Box Office Mojo, 2018).

Therefore, Hereditary deserves the title of “prestige horror”. Besides, Hereditary hints audiences by using frequent foreshadows such as close-up towards pigeon’s decapitated head which was the foreshadowing of Charlie’s death – I did not realise this as the foreshadowing when I first saw this movie, because I thought Charlie will be the main protagonist who will solve this mysterious and dismal family atmosphere. Therefore, I still cannot forget Charlie’s dreadful death. Idika (2018) analyses Charlie’s death as “orchestrated” because the demon, Paimon was inside Charlie’s soul and body at first. However, Paimon wanted the male host which explained as the reason why Charlie’s brother, Peter goes through a ritual to be the real Paimon itself, one of the 72 demons appear in “Lemegeton” at the end of the movie. I did not recognise Paimon has its own sigil, and this signature was engraved on the telephone pole. This scene also proves that Charlie’s death was scheduled by demonic being. Moreover, Charlie’s grandmother’s and her mother’s necklaces symbolises the Paimon’s mythological character. Besides, Charlie’s clicking sound of her tongue is known as the tick of Paimon. Idika (2018) cites Ari Aster that “the headless body” belongs to no one but Paimon. That is why Charlie’s grandmother’s body was in the attic as well as Annie’s (Charlie’s mother) body which was floating towards the place where the ritual for Peter (Paimon) was enacted (Idika, 2018).

These features enhance the quality of horror movie not just by jump scaring people to make them tense and feel uncomfortable, but make them lingered by the contents of the movie by using the mythological materials as well as stimulating the fundamental emotion towards family and family bond.

References:

Box Office Mojo. (2018, June 8). Hereditary (2018). Retrieved September 10, 2019, from https://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=main&id=a24horrora.htm

Idika, N. (2018, June 19). 11 Horrifying clues and hidden meanings in ‘Hereditary’ that you 100% missed. Retrieved from https://www.popbuzz.com/tv-film/features/hereditary-meaning-paimon/

Rose, S. (2018, February 22). How post-horror movies are taking over cinema. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/jul/06/post-horror-films-scary-movies-ghost-story-it-comes-at-night

Post Horror & Torture Porn

Torture Porn

Sadomasochistic Phenomena and 9/11

In the aftermath of 9/11, Americans became aware of a significant new reality: there was 9-11pican enemy at the gates and they had a bone to pick. The events of Abu Grahib, the new popularity of suicide bombings and the horrific wave of filmed beheadings on the internet and the televised terrors of the Taliban put the destruction of American bodies at the front of the media cycle (Ignatieff, 2004). After a decade of relative peace, America was plunged into a war that made use of the media in new and bloody ways – and in Hollywood films like Saw and Hostel began to reflect a bleak and nihilistic world. According to Amanda Alvarado, (2007), this is no coincidence.

download (2)The early 2000s were time fraught with fears about globalism, and isolationism. American tourists, in many movies, live a fantasy of a disinhibited Europe, where they can be free to do drugs, have casual sex, and let go of some of the inhibitions that they should keep firmly tucked away whilst at home. The movie Euro Trip (2004) is almost parodied by Hostel,  characters in Euro Trip meet Europeans of varying degrees of silliness, who are at the end of the day, kind hearted and sweet. In Hostel, the Americans find themselves the targets of extreme animosity. Any kindness shown to them is only a tool of manipulation in service of the torture and dismemberment that is the ultimate goal.

It is possible that this American made film is reflective of a guilt the nation of America

wk26-APR-bartlett-abu-ghraib13
 

Chris Bartlett’s Photographs, New York, 2019

 

was feeling (Alvarado, 2007). Many were against the war in Iraq and their republican led government (Alasdair, 2019). After the leaking of images from Abu Grahib – pictures of Americans smiling while subjecting prisoners to grotesque physical and psychological punishment, America was left reeling. As photographer Chris Bartlett, rather miserably, put it, “The camera became a torture instrument” (Alasdair, 2019), and this became true not just in real life, but in Hollywood too. As Alvarado posits, horror movies in a post 9/11 Hollywood don’t muchneed to set up the rules of the filmic world, they are already set in the real world – the real world is bleak and horrid enough.  Indeed, in Hostel II (2006), the American Elite are among those torturing American bodies, objectifying them and using them in a reflection of the nihilistic view of the world the franchise poses; at this point, human bodies are pawns in

download (1)

a bloody game won by the highest bidder. The premise of Saw and its sequels is that people must choose whether they die or cause themselves grievous bodily harm. The destruction of the body comes from the admission that one has done wrong and deserves to lose the privilege of having a functioning body. As Reyes (2014), says “torture porn negotiates corporeal anxieties at both superficial and metaphorical levels.”

 

What does it all equal? A Sadomasochistic enjoyment of a new kind of catharsis, one that is set in a world that couldn’t take the lens off the “corporeal anxieties” of the 21st century? Perhaps. Or perhaps the world is too nihilistic to care what it all means. Now, eighteen years after the 9/11 attacks, torture porn has dropped from the mainstream, and the world is still fraught with horrors – but Alvarado (2007) points out that a nihilistic viewpoint is not helpful in the long term, and at its core, fear is uncontrollable. Perhaps the torture porn phenomenon served the world its worst fears, and in a larger cultural sense, allowed the mainstream to move past the fears.

Perhaps.

References

Ignatieff, M. (November, 2004). The Terrorist as Auteur. Retrieved August 16, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/14/movies/the-terrorist-as-auteur.html

Alvarado, A. (August, 2007). Living in Terror: Post 9/11 Horror Films. Retrieved August 16, 2019, from https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/20163

Body Gothic: corporeal transgression in contemporary literature and horror film – Torture Porn (Reyes, 2014)

Alasdair, S. (April, 2019). 15 years later: Abu Ghraib and the faces of torture in Iraq. Retrieved August 16, 2019, from https://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/15-years-later-abu-ghraib-and-the-faces-of-torture-in-iraq-1.854512


Post-Horror (Question 2)

Is the term “Post-horror” an attempt to distance “cheap” horror movies from highbrow art?

Post modernism, while hard to define is, in general, about defying conventions. It’s moreGet_Out_poster about asking questions than it is about standard narratives; it dissects tropes and breaks boundaries (Hull, 2017). Some even say that Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) was more political drama than horror movie (Rose, 2017). Understandably, moviemakers can feel a bit insulted about the attempt to disassociate literary and academic ideas from pop culture – as if meaningful discourse is, somehow, only possible in highbrow art. However, in the last few years, we’ve seen horror movies defy this boundary placed on them by genre conventions.

tmp_1k627H_4e8cf868a700cd77_MCDHERE_EC082In Hereditary (2018) a light is shone on the horror of grief and trauma in a family, their isolation leaving them open to a terrifying fate. Post-horror films like Us (2019) and Get Out talk about race and class inequality; to watch these movies without pondering the social economic state that they are describing is impossible, which was writer Jordan Peele’s intention (Zinoman, 2017). In Get Out, black bodies are literally objectified, turned into commodities, and the traditional trope of a good white family is turned on its head, becoming the monsters that the hero must defeat. In Us, an upper-middle class black family is terrorised by exact copies of themselves living in misery underground. The final twist of the movie forces its audience to reconsider their perception of protagonist and antagonist.

Even the filmic language of post-horror tends to be unusual or unconventional. Ari Aster, tmp1063532286768578563writer of Hereditary, chooses angles that frame his actors like dolls in a doll house, mimicking the actual miniature sets in the world of the film, giving the characters a helplessness, a sort of God’s eye view reminiscent of cosmic horror. In an interview, Aster said that he wanted to make the movie feel like the family was being watched, as though somebody else was pulling the strings (Kohn, 2018). The way the camera moves between the doll-like miniatures and the house itself, while not entirely new – think Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) – creates a filmic atmosphere quite zTJ3FiB_VSHlsingular to Hereditary (Raup, 2018).

Similar techniques can be found in the series The Haunting of Hill House (2018), where five children live with deep trauma after the suicide of their mother. The children, fully grown up, have to deal with literal and figurative ghosts representing each of their different responses to their pain. The argument -that difficult topics like these are new to the genre- is a shaky one. As some say, these elements were always part of horror (Muncer, 2018). Stephen King wrote about the difficulties of abuse and adolescence in his book It (1977). Rosemary’s Baby (1968) dealt with the fear of modern motherhood years ago, and Silence of the Lambs (1991) with its themes about womanhood, identity, and trauma was nominated for an Oscar. Horror has always been a post-modern medium, so why call anything Post-Horror?

Well, for one thing, there’s a very obvious difference between the products one would 220px-A_Nightmare_on_Elm_Street_(1984)_theatrical_postercall “post-horror” and just “horror.” It’s very clear to any audience that Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) is not post horror. It doesn’t change convention, it relies on jump scares and cares little for character relationships. That doesn’t negate it’s validity in popular culture, but the point is that it’s not trying to make the audience think deeply on a difficult, more literary topic. When you describe something as post-horror, you outline what will be a part of it, and what wont. Perhaps to call films post-horror sounds a little elitist, but to ignore the term altogether is to ignore a very real trend toward changes in horror as a narrative medium.

References:

Hull, J. R. (2017). Get Out. Retrieved August 21, 2019, from https://narrativefirst.com/analysis/get-out

Rose, S. (July, 2017). How post-horror movies are taking over cinema. Retrieved August 23, 2019, from https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/jul/06/post-horror-films-scary-movies-ghost-story-it-comes-at-night

Zinoman, J. (February, 2017). Jordan Peele on a Truly Terrifying Monster: Racism. Retrieved August 25, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/movies/jordan-peele-interview-get-out.html

Kohn, E. (June, 2018). ‘Hereditary’: The Year’s Scariest Movie Required Years to Make and Painful Experiences No One Will Discuss. Retrieved August 25, 2019, from https://www.indiewire.com/2018/06/hereditary-ari-aster-interview-inspiration-history-1201972348/

Raup, J. (June, 2018). Ari Aster | Hereditary | Film Comment Talk. Retrieved August 25, 2019, from https://www.filmlinc.org/daily/post-type/videos/?

Muncer, M. (October, 2018). Horror & Post Horror: Film 2018. Retrieved August 25, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYn3swCLimI