This was far too good not to copy and paste. Link here. This is why I don’t write and don’t support these new “torture-based” horror movies:
Barring a wave of sweet mercy and enlightenment sweeping the nation, by the time you read this, “Saw III” will be the No. 1 movie in America. The “Saw” series revolves around the cruel stylings of Jigsaw, who traps his victims in fiendish puzzles that they must solve as the clock winds down. A woman wakes up to find herself fitted with the retainer from hell, a spring-loaded device that will rip her head apart unless she can fish the key out of the entrails of her companion, who’s understandably dubious. The lesson here is to never get sideways of a maniac with a degree in mechanical engineering.
Halloween typically leaves the box office slicked with blood, but October’s fare was particularly hemorrhagic. I give you “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning,” yet another gory terpsichore through the heart of Bush Country. Taken together with “Hostel,” “The Hills Have Eyes,” “Wolf Creek” and “The Devil’s Rejects” (and their ineluctable sequels), these films constitute a quickening sub-genre of horror movies, the ultra-violent torture flick, or as Entertainment Weekly has dubbed it, “claustrophobic cruelty.”
Here diners at the feast of American life might be tempted to say, “Check, please!” The very notion of torture chic is profoundly dispiriting. Has our culture become so debased, so desperate for frisson that films glorifying inquisitional agony can find an audience? Well, duh.
Before you even start, horror fans, I get it: Commerce in images of cruelty is nothing new. From Seneca to Shakespeareâ€”whose arm-chopping, head-lopping, children-baked-in-a-pie “Titus Andronicus” is the weirdest carnage in English literatureâ€”there’s always been a theatrical appetite for violent depravity. Nor is it a peculiarly American appetite. Witness Chinese martial arts films and Italian mondo horror. For world cinema, blood is a primary color.
But there is a quantitative difference between this year’s dicers and anything that pioneering gore-meister Herschell Gordon Lewis ever made, and that’s the size of the audience. Exploitation flicks were once cult films, consigned to grind-houses, drive-ins and other shame-based venues. “Saw” I and II have a worldwide box office of nearly $250 million and counting. “Hostel,” a movie where a young woman has her eye burned out with a blowtorch, has made $80 million worldwide since January. A butcher blockbuster, if you will.
I walked into a Sunday matinee of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” expecting the theater would be empty. It wasn’t. Perhaps 100 people were there, and while most in the audience were teenagersâ€”slasher films’ primary demographicâ€”a lot of them were Gen-X’ers and older. Uh-oh.
“Chainsaw” is supposed to be scary, I guess. Except that it’s such a piece of genre apparatus, with conventions so smoothly grooved from decades of use and so generously lubricated with bloodâ€”imperiled hottie teenagers, cannibal psycho-billies (and not the good kind), falling-down house of horrorsâ€”all that’s left to ponder is the stunning, bone-and-gristle violence.
In one scene, Leatherface nails one of the heroes to a vivisection table and flays the poor lad’s forearms to the radius and ulna. Then he gets downright unpleasant. With the movie’s eponymous power tool, he guts the poor kid, then filets his face offâ€”all while the boy’s girlfriend hides below the table, drenched in runnels of blood and organ juice. Popcorn?
There’s also a qualitative difference. Older slasher filmsâ€”such as the original 1974 “Chainsaw” by Tobe Hooperâ€”were by current standards pretty delicate. They were carefully, not to say responsibly, edited to cut away at or just after the spattering moment of impact. Look-away editing is a thing of the past. This filmâ€”and I can only assume its genre contemporariesâ€”is a work of unblinking sadism, cold and profanely explicit. It’s astonishing that the filmmakers actually had to pare back 17 scenes in order to avoid an NC-17 rating. Geez, what did they cut? Never fear, sociopaths, these scenes will be restored for the unrated DVD release.
For me, the worst horror was not on the screen. A half-hour into this film, a mother brought her son, no more than 9 years old, into the theater. To that woman, wherever you are: What in Christ’s name is wrong with you?
I don’t want to come off as the Tipper Gore of gore, but I can’t help wondering: How far can this line be pushed? How far into the mainstream can these images reach? When the guys on “CSI” take the revving bone saw to the bloated corpse of some poor floater, why is there no outrage, no network boycotts? I guess so long as we don’t see her nipple.
Forgive me. I’ve been working with this material for a couple of days now. I’ve read the blogs and contended with the defenders of this vile trash. I’ve tried to keep an open mind. And at the end of it, I just want to let out a biblical howl of despair.
I don’t know exactly what these awful movies say about us, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t good.