Week 4 Horror

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.”

Reference:

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

 

 

Torture porn and post-horror and so on and so forth.

These days we live in a very disturbed society, I myself having, at only the ripe old age of four having watched over three thousand people murdered on television. After that, I was raised in a fairly violent media age and in the shadow of constant wars and a constant increase of terrorism.

All of this as disturbing and terrifying as it is ripe for the horror genre to thrive. The modern world has many a monster hiding in its closet and the thing about monsters in closets is that we always want to peek through the creak in the door. We want to see it from a safe distance.

Let’s talk for a second about what some call “enhanced interrogation”, what you and I might call torture. As the years rolled on since 9/11 the Bush administration began to take more and more drastic measures to get information from suspected terrorists to lead to the capture of other terror cells (Worthington, 2018). Unfortunately, I would say, many of them were innocent, despite this, it would continue under ex-president Barak Obama and is still policy to this day under President Trump. While I personally do not believe that torture against anyone is effective or even morally justifiable that is not the debate I intend to have here. The reason I bring this up is that torture is a terrifying prospect and very real part of the world we live in today, even if we the average law-abiding citizens of New Zealand are not under any particular threat of it. As such it becomes a fear that artists decide they wish to speak about and thus it finds its way into horror. The thing about torture though is that it’s very hard to justify it to an audience even in fiction, especially when it comes to what has been dubbed ‘torture porn’. Take Saw, for example, the serial killer Jigsaw kidnapping people who he feels have sinned in some fashion and making them undergo horrifying acts of self-harm in order to be freed from his circus of blood if they refuse, they die. What a choice. The important difference, however, in my opinion, is that Jigsaw’s victims have generally committed some crime for which they are now being punished, the proportionate response debate notwithstanding. However, in my opinion, the people tortured using enhanced interrogation policies were largely innocent and simply admitted to crimes they had not committed in order to make the pain stop.

I think a better allegory for the way the torture of real-life tends to go is in BioShock Infinite: Burial at sea episode one. Here the torture is not particularly gory but is in my honest opinion more effective. Elizabeth, to keep a young girl out of the hands of the villainous Atlas is tied to a chair and from a first-person perspective, we see him push a scalpel up and over her eye before giving it a light tap with a hammer. There is a loud unsettling noise and a purple blotch that goes over the screen as it begins to move through her skull with each strike, about to reach her brain and lobotomize her. Atlas is in our face the entire time and is taunting Elizabeth while demanding the girl’s location, but Elizabeth manages to use her wits to save the girl. I would argue this works better not despite the lack of gore, not a single drop of blood is shed, but because of it. Sometimes less is more and the torture of an innocent person who ultimately wins out, in the end, can be both more terrifying and more and satisfying.

Horror like any genre, popular or otherwise, needs to evolve and horror is doing so with has been dubbed ‘post-horror’.

Based on my reading of Rose’s article, this is my idea of what post-horror is (Rose, 2018)

Horror generally is a metaphor for some kind of societal fear. Lovecraft is the fear of unimportance and Frankenstein (Shelley, 1869) is the fear of science gone awry, etc.

Post-horror films are a bit different. Instead of focusing on metaphors for things in the real world, they instead are much more personal. Often being written around the personal anxieties of the person behind it. Very telling of what they think about and what’s often on their minds.

Often times the horror is not connected to your typical horror tropes like jump scares and creepy old houses. However, the issue with this is that horror audiences have come to expect certain things from horror movies to such a degree that it is starting to hurt post-horror, many post-horror films being lambasted by audiences who expected something different.

Unfortunately, it’s not exactly the most popular, for that exact reason. The problem with subverting expectations and the birth of any emergent genre or subgenre is that there is always pushback against it that is often not as a result of genuine flaws as much as marketing that is seen as dishonest when it is often down to bewildered marketing teams not really knowing what to do.

The thing I really like about this concept, however, is the possibilities it unearths. You could argue that on some level one of my favourite franchises unintentionally falls into it. That being John Wick.

The fear for me here is not of international organizations of assassins paying each other to get into back rooms with specially minted gold coins, although they may well exist, it’s the fear of how little can push a person to commit horrible atrocities. In the first movie, John’s dog is killed and his car is stolen not long after his dog dies of unrelated causes. Because of this, he murders 70 people without mercy or remorse. The last words of one of his victims being “It was just a fucking-” before being cut off by John emptying his skull with one well-placed shot. This is not John’s first set of murders either, he had at one point been known as the ‘baba yaga’, meaning the ‘boogeyman’ by the Russian mobsters that formally employed him. Not only that he had also been a professional assassin with god only knows how many lives taken by him. At least five of them with pencils that we know of. The thing about John, however, is that he’s kind of a regular dude. A guy pushed too far who then goes on to kill hundreds of people across three films. To me that is terrifying. If more so conceptually than in terms of exposing heads and alien babies tearing through people’s ribcages. But horror is subjective and that’s what makes it so interesting (Stahelski, 2014).

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

Shelley, M. W. (1869). Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus.

Stahelski, C. (Director). (2014). John Wick [Motion picture]. USA: Thunder Road.

Worthington, A. (2018, February 7). Exactly 16 Years Ago, George W. Bush Opened the Floodgates to Torture at Guantánamo. Retrieved from https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/02/07/exactly-16-years-ago-george-w-bush-opened-floodgates-torture-guantanamo

Irrational games. (2014). BioShock Infinite: Burial at sea – Episode 2 [Video game]. Novato, CA: 2k ganes.

Torture Porn + Post-Horror Week 4

 

According to Reyes, 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 (2014, p. 128) identifies Hostel as one of the most profitable and important among a wave of Hollywood horror films which followed Americans traveling abroad in search of “strong experiences, exotics sights or illicit pleasures” only to find themselves at the mercy of killers, torturers and various other misfortunes. While Hostel portrays its protagonists as victims of their own hubris it still remains sympathetic to the victims, as the tension is derived from whether they will survive or escape torture (Neroni, 2015). This role-reversal between perpetrator and victim is a common trope in horror, and holds particular relevance to the socio-political landscape of the time – visual parallels are drawn between the brothel the protagonists visit for sex tourism in the beginning of the film and the factory used for torture. The real life sex trade and the imaginary torture industry both deal in flesh, and the two are equated within the film. “Underscoring all actions in the Hostel franchise is an extreme capitalist – often retributive – ethos that renders everyone interchangeable and reduces everything to its monetary value.” (Reyes, 2015, p.30)

Saw differs greatly in execution, building on serial killer films of the 1990s that was intensely focused on the murder method of Jigsaw, the primary antagonist, who creates mechanical traps and devices to force p. Jigsaw believes that torture and pain are a redemptive force, although his methods yield zero results – even the one person who does survive devotes her life to him, living not for herself but for the person who tortured her, and dying in the third film (Neroni, 2015). The injuries incurred from surviving Jigsaw’s games would be enough to severely impair their quality of life and leave them isolated from society (Reyes, 2014). After the first film the sequels dived deeper into spectacle, forgoing its psychological aspects to instead display increasingly complex torture devices. This is closer to the intended use of torture for information and confession, but Jigsaw only deals further psychological and physical damage until they die, with no satisfaction for torturer or the tortured – aside from the former’s sadistic desires. Jigsaw’s “fantasy of transcendence” is a lie (Reyes, 2015, p. 141). There is no deeper meaning to torture and attempting to construct it as a noble act is simply a justification for sadism.

While horror films had used torture extensively before what really defines torture porn of the 2000s is its reactive nature to 9-11 and Abu Ghraib prison scandal, both of which revealed a darker side to the United States of America’s Government and policy. Torture was not only seeing a boom in horror but found itself into thrillers on television such as the show 24, which promoted what Neroni (2015, p. 27) calls the “contemporary torture fantasy”, in which torture is normalized as a tool in pursuit of the greater good. Torture was given euphemistic terms such as “enhanced interrogation techniques, or outsourced to other countries in order to distance the Government from sanctioned torture. (Kerner, 2015) The Abu Ghraib photos challenge this fantasy, as it is clear from reports and photos that the American soldiers were smiling as they tortured, not pursuing some grand truth or world-saving secret.

The Hostel franchise acts as an exploration of post-911 anxieties about the world outside of America and the West – Kerner (2015) notes that in real life many CIA “black sites” are suspected to be located in Eastern Europe – and the glee with which American soldiers violated prisoners’ human rights for pleasure. In some ways Jigsaw’s machines are the ideal form of torture that the “contemporary torture fantasy” purported to be – an impersonal judge forcing confessions out of their victims, in addition to forcing them to participate in their own mutilation as penance (Reyes, 2014). However, the fact remains that the machines were constructed by another human being who cannot be removed from the equation.

Neroni (2015, p. 91) states that “All torture porn films take torture out of the realm of immediate national need and place it in a more individual and personal level”. While as films they can only act as a substitute for the non-vicarious experience of pain, torture porn can help create empathy with the victims of torture and speaks to a wider cultural shift in America’s (and the Western world in general’s) view of it. Viewers consider why the torturer smiles, how effective torture truly is at obtaining information and what is like to know the people tortured in the film are very much like themselves.

 

  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) does not offer a particularly clear cut definition of post-horror but suggests it could be a new subgenre of horror which is unconventional, mainly made up of auteur-driven indie films with low budgets which often divide audiences and critics. I would contend this more a consequence of misleading marketing rather than a dichotomy between how critics judge a film and how the average moviegoer consumes them. However, Rose (2017) claims these films are “reacting against” a mass market of low-budget horror films created by highly profitable successes such as Split or Get Out.

I am at a disadvantage as I do not consume much horror media but Rose’s definition of horror itself seems too limited in scope. At one point in the article he claims that horror is bound by rules and tropes and that post-horror throws off “cast-iron conventions”, suggesting that horror is inherently formulaic. To me this seems equivalent to judging a genre by its worst or least interesting work and creating an unnecessary label to separate it from the films Rose approves of.

Brown (2019) suggests that post-horror is a largely pointless term that stems from a lack of historical perspective on the genre, as people fail to acknowledge that socially aware horror films have existed since the early day and that most post-horror are nowhere near as experimental as what has come before – films such as Eraserhead and Suspiria have “expanded the language of cinema”, and socially aware horror is nothing new. He also notes another recurring aspect in films labelled post-horror is the focus on psychological realism and the domestic, harkening back to the nineteenth-century realist novel. However, “Allegiance to such modes of storytelling not only skip twentieth- and twenty-first-century artistic innovations but also fail to recognise the unique contributions of horror to the history of cinema.” Rose only gives a token acknowledgement of horror’s transgressive nature as a genre, but has a reductive view of it overall. When he encounters horror films which appeal to his sensibilities as a critic he qualifies them instead of simply accepting them as horror. An overview of horror’s history reveals that these films are arguably not even particularly unlikely outliers.

However, Rose is defining post-horror as something that is largely defined by our current time period in reaction to today’s audiences. In that sense the term makes more sense, but it does overstate the subversive qualities post-horror films possess in relation to horror’s larger canon. I do not have the knowledge to say whether or not there are other horror films today which resist categorization of both the typical post-horror mould or mainstream market appeal.

This will be my most speculative claim but there also seems to be an unspoken rule that Rose is using quality as an indicator – he gives little criticism of the films he considers post-horror and places an emphasis on the film’s philosophical subject matter as one of their defining characteristics, and implies they are more worthy as art with other horror films simply being there to simply frighten people. Quality is a dangerous qualifier for a genre to include because it is highly subjective. Including it in the definition of post-horror muddies the discourse and encourages elitistism (whereas even a film like the 2018 Slenderman can be reviled by critics and audiences alike and still find itself in the horror genre alongside a diverse and beloved catalogue of films as The Thing, Halloween and The Shining). Rose (2017) never outright states it because the idea of post-horror is still quite loose, but it speaks to his biases as a critic. I think it is erroneous to assume something must be good to even find value in it as a cultural resource, but that is another topic.

Overall I think Rose has placed too much emphasis on a false dichotomy between critic and moviegoer based on first impressions made by both. It is only natural that people’s expectations affect their enjoyment of a film. The fact that critics and audiences are divided seems to be a consequence of bad marketing rather than a deliberate attempt to defy conventions. Like Brown (2019) I do not think it can be denied that the films labelled “post-horror” share many elements, and I think as a concept it has some use as a way to describe the current crop of horror films which do not fit the mainstream. It has value as a subgenre but the assertion that it is breaking new ground is a spurious one.

 

 

Reference List

 

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

 

Carroll, N. (2003). The philosophy of horror : Or, paradoxes of the heart. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com

 

Kerner, A. M. (2015). Torture porn in the wake of 9/11 : Horror, exploitation, and the cinema of sensation. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

 

Neroni, H. (2015). The subject of torture : Psychoanalysis and biopolitics in television and film. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

 

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

 

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

 

Dominic McAlpine

WEEK FOUR: TORTURE PORN & POST-HORROR

QUESTION ONE:

The role of torture in the Saw and Hostel film franchises is to play on the viewers fears over the human body, on a physical and metaphorical level. These fears are linked to the wider societal fears of the time, following the terrorism and torture scandals of the early 2000s. 

In the Saw franchise, the use of torture plays on the idea of justice and punishment. The torture victims of Saw are being put through a sadistic atonement process which will only end by mutilating their body or death. The role of torture here is to push audiences to question the morality of torture. There is context and reason given to each torture a victim has to endure, so the audience understand these are not random attacks. Therefore, as the torture was an consequential punishment based on morality, it raised the question whether torture could be justified. Wilson (2005) claims that, the dynamic camera work and editing of these films blurred viewpoints, literally and morally. Audiences were not able to be by-standers, they were both the torturer and the tortured. The unavoidable violence and torture used in the Saw series questions the audiences moral standpoint on this issue.

In the Hostel series torture is used as a metaphor for the exploitive nature of large corporations (Eggerton, 2010). In the Hostel series, victims are abducted and then sold to the rich as essentially a piece of meat they can do anything to. They are objectifying the human body and reducing it to nothing more than a commodity. It begs the audience to ask themselves, where do we draw the line at what we can purchase? But also, what is the true cost of the products and services we buy? Hostel repositions torture from a form of intelligence gathering, to nothing more than a hobby for the excessively wealthy (Reyes, 2014). By giving both the torturers and victims a face, it also pushes the agenda that this could be a reality. It is not faceless monster completing these atrocities, it is humans, just like the audience.  

According to Reyes (2014), torture became a significant part of horror in the mid-2000s. This surge in popularity can be linked to the socio-political environment of the time, when the horrific events of 9/11, the Abu Ghraib torture scandal as well as rumours of torture at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp were occuring. During this time, Western culture was being subjected to real life images of terror and torture that could not be dismissed or ignored. The shock value of seeing these terrible acts on screen brought fears around the human body and morality to the forefront of society. The fact that real life horror was clearly visible in society, allowed fictional horrors to push the boundaries of what is acceptable on screen but also society. Torture did not have to be implied off camera, it actually made it more believeable seeing it happen right in front of the audiences’ eyes (Reyes, 2014). Terror and torture had become part of mainstream media and horror capitlized on this financially and morally. That is a large reason the film franchises Saw and Hostel achieved so much commercial success during the mid-2000s. 

QUESTION TWO:

“Post-Horror” is a term that encompasses a series of recent horror films in a new subgenre of horror. According to Rose (2017) Post-horror films are defined by their lack of conventional horror elements, like jump-scares, dramatic evil monsters or the final surviving girl. Instead these films create suspense by not revealing all. They attempt to instill a sense of dread in audiences through atmosphere, character dialogue and other subtle hints of something else being presence. Horror films which fall under this category according to Rose (2017) include It Comes at Night (2017), A Ghost Story (2017) and The Witch (2015).  

The Post-horror label has been heavily critiqued and rejected by fans and critics alike. One of the main critiques of the Post-horror label is a disagreement to Rose (2017) suggesting horror is a rigid genre “governed by rules and codes” more so than any other genre. Edwards-Behi (2017) finds this classification both “incorrect and ignorant” as it fails to acknowledge the fact that, genre is only a framework. This means genres, are guidelines more than concrete definitions. Horror has redefined itself throughout its history more than any other genre. This is because horror has often been used a vessel to reflect societal fears, which have never stayed the same. 

Stewart (2017) suggests the label is elitist and comes out of a refusal by critics to accept horror as a high quality and purposeful genre, meaning any well received horror film must be categorized as something separate from just horror. Therefore, Post-horror is just a way to repackage horror for those who do not acknowledge the artistic value the genre. This can be seen by recent horror films like Get Out (2017) and Heredity (2018) being called a “social thriller” and “psychological family drama” respectively. According to Edwards-Behi (2017) the terms “social” and “family drama” are used as they apparently carry more weight in the cultural sphere than horror does. This is why many horror fans and critics are rejecting the term Post-horror as it seen disrespectful to the horror genre as a whole.

Despite films labelled as Post-horror by not having the horror conventions audiences have to expect, they are essentially still just horror films. The films which are being considered as Post-horror still share a lot of similarities with classic Horror titles. Heredity’s elements of dysfunctional family, body possession and paganism all feature heavily in previous horror films like The Exorcist (1973), Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Shining (1980). Even the racial issues of Get Out have also been previously explored in Night of the Living Dead (1968). At the core, horror films main purpose remains scaring the audience. The method of how they scare audiences has undoubtedly changed, but so it has in the past, numerous times.  Therefore, I don’t think the term Post-horror is necessary at this time.

References:

Edwards-Behi, N. (2017). A Response to Post-Horror. Retrieved August 14, 2019 from https://www.walesartsreview.org/cinema-a-response-to-post-horror/

Eggerton, C. (2010). 100 Years of Horror: Culture Shock: The Influence of History on Horror. Retrieved on August 1, 2019, from https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/20853/100-years-of-horror-culture-shock-the-influence-of-history-on-horror/

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 

Stewart, T. (2017, July 8). Sorry, but “Post-horror” is just another unnecessary elitist label. [blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.cybercraftvideo.com/blog/2017/7/8/sorry-but-post-horror-is-just-another-unnecessary-elitist-label

Wilson, K., (2005). Horror in History: A Decade by Decade Guide to the Horror Movie Genre. Retrieved August 2, 2019 from http://www.horrorfilmhistory.com/index.php?pageID=about

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?

One constant in any horror movie or horror novel is that eventually one of the characters is going to end up bleeding out all over the audience. The cinematic horror style Tourture porn is not simply the art of making this violence as real and visceral as possible, but it’s created in a way so that the audience can feel actual pain. The violence in the movie is made so corporeal that we the audience go through the torture alongside the victims in the film. Though this may be a symptom of Torture porn and most likely the reason why its dismissed as nothing more than groteqitise violence, its not the only purpose of this style. Tourture porn and the destruction of the body becomes a narration on some social issues. Broken down, the film in question has themes which relate to current world views or fears. The style of torture and violent dismemberment is used to add to our association with the films themes and our empthay is increased due to the realistic qualities of the violence on screen. 

 Eli Roths film, Hostel, Is about American tourists who travel overseas and become hunted by a group of murders who capture and torture people for money. The film is brutal in its depiction of violence. I wasn’t actually able to finish the movie as I don’t have the stomach for such honest depictions of human suffering. However there is much meaning behind the film and it can be understood when framed with the post 9/11 social landscape and the suggested purpose for why Torture porn breifly existed as a type of horror cinema. The World Trade Centre bombings in 2001 changed the world and will likely stand out as one of the most piviotal events of human history because of what it caused and what it changed. In cinema and specifically Horror cinema it brought about the end of the happy ending. Wetmore Jr (2012) notes that horror movies pre 9/11 often gave some hope to the audience that everything would end well. Even if the bad guys won or some cliffhanger presented further challenges in films to come we were given hope that good, could prevail. Post 9/11 that all shifts to a sense of nihilism and despair. Tourture porn came along to reflect that attitude and Hostel, gives us no hope of a happy ending whatsoever (I checked how the film ends)

Hostel is filled with representations of how foreigners were viewed in a post 9/11 environment, specifically how Americans became distrusted yet valued. This is an interesting point that is raised in Reys (2014) article. America as a nation has only ever been attacked twice. In December of 1941, the Pearl harbor attacks launched the American Pacific war and in September 2001 the Trade center bombings begin the war on terror. In a way, the value of American tourists in the film, as a high priced commodity reflects the almost untouchable and rich nature of American society. America was supposed to be impenetrable. A land of wealth and power. Yet it was vulnerable as history has shown. The American tourists in the film help translate that attitude towards American society and by extension American people. As they are a high priced and sought after body for the people who pay to torture.

The way the body is used in Hostel is simply a reduction of human values and degradation of human beings to nothing more than meat. Post 9/11 thinking brought about much thought of what the American society had done to result in the attacks that nearly killed three thousand people. The body as a reduction of humanity to a monetary value is a lens being held up to the capitalist and consumerist nature of society. Specifically American society. Saw, by James Wan, works in many of the same ways. However, I feel like there is more emphasis on bodily destruction and distortion in the film and its subsequent additions, which is the tool in which the film becomes meaningful for the time it was created. Though there would be many ways in which you could analyse the film, Reys (2014) made a point about how the film critiques the audience for watching it. We, by admission of enjoyment are culpable in the series as it is us that gives the film its audience. If we didn’t enjoy the films they wouldn’t exist. But they do, so we are in a sense the ones subjecting the protagonists to torturer and disfigurement. In 2003, America invaded Iraq and a year later, photographs were released of prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison being tortured and subjected to humiliating and awful treatment. Americans saw first hand the result of the war they wanted. The disgusting nature of war and the capability of your own people to take away the humanity of another person in such a horrific way. The Saw movies, perhaps without meaning to, reflect the guilt that must have been felt by people when seeing those images. If you had supported the war, then perhaps you bore some responsibility for what had happened in that prison? You watch these films. Your enjoyment fuels the machine which creates entertainment out of torture. Aston and Wallis (2013) Describe the films progression as a morality curve. Which begins in a vaguely fair and understandable way and ends with the complete end and destruction of any moral good. The Saw films begin with the antagonist torturing people who themselves are criminals or complicit in some form of criminal act. Jigsaw offers a type of redemption through destruction of your body, which, though violent, has a sort of brutal justification, that we the audience can understand. As the film progress, these justifications become less understandable and the antagonist begin to kill and torture seemingly for enjoyment. Perhaps this is the American people coming to terms with the horrors of violence and warfare?  The shine righteousness and purpose was rubbing off and Seeing the photos from the Abu Ghraib prison brought home the honest reality that there is very really justification for violence.

2. 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 is described by Rose (2017) as the new wave of low budget indie horror films that are more existential in nature and focus less on monsters and violence and more on subtle themes and fears that are perhaps plaguing the writer. I would summarize the term as a sort of tombstone. Post horror means we now exploring a new type of horror. Which borrows from the styles and themes of old horror, but adds a new existential element. So, for example, the film It follows by David Robert Mitchell, is a movie about a demon hunting down people and murdering them. But the larger story is the destruction of trust and safety in our communities and between loved ones. 

Old tropes of demonic possession mixed with new elements of personal crisis. 

Post Horror.

The term Post horror has been placed under somer serious scrutiny. One recurring comment  is that the term, Post horror, seems to suggest that this era of horror is the first that should be taken seriously as a style of cinema. Michael Brown (2019) Critiques the fact that elements of family drama and more characteristic plot movitations, something which Post horror leans strongly upon and is often credited for is by no means new. He cites numerous films to support this, which in his opinion destroys the validity of the phrase. McMurdo (2019) Describes this title, post horror as underscoring the rich history of horror. Showing a lack of understanding of the craft. Behi (2017)  dissects Roses article directly, commenting that the phrase shows a simple lack of understanding of horror and says basically that all this term says is that this is the horror which I like and It’s better than the rest. 

I think that the term, post horror does not describe very well the films which are hung underneath its banner. Some of the critiques of the term suggest that the title isn’t just a mistake but it categorically misunderstands the history of cinematic horror. Brown (2019) discusses the history of horror as a peak at whatever cultural boundaries we have been hiding behind. The word post, wants to tell us that these films are a departure from the normal cliques, tropes and styles of horror. But what the films, coined as post horror, really do, is pay homage to their history and then, like all horror before it becomes steeped in the socio-political  landscape of the day. Are we not in this day and age concerned with identity and belonging? The new “Post Horror” films seemed to stress the conflict within oneself and be reflective on modern social issues. More than a complete rebranding of the horror genre. In this sense, the term can stay but what the meaning of it is has to shift. What I mean to say is that the term, Post horror, is simply the style horror films that are currently popular today. 

References:

Reyes, X. A. (2014). Body gothic: Corporeal transgression in contemporary literature and horror film. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.

Wetmore Jr, K, J (2012) Post-9/11 horror in America cinema. America:Bloomsbury publishing 

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

McMurdo, S (2019) The problem with post horror. Retrieved from http://mediacommons.org/imr/content/problem-post-horror

Behi,E, N (2017) Cinema A response to post horror. Retrieved from https://www.walesartsreview.org/cinema-a-response-to-post-horror/

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

Steve, R (2017) How post horror films 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 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.

Reference:

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/