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.
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.
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