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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Add Cronenberg to the Anti-"Torture Porn" Camp

A couple months back, I posted some interesting comments from Clive Barker, in which he took a shot at the current state of the horror film genre. Along similar lines, another 1980s shock-meister, David Cronenberg, had some things to say on the subject in an interview with Wired yesterday.
After churning out a series of horror classics in the big-hair decade that included Scanners, The Dead Zone, Dead Ringers and The Fly, Cronenberg left genre fans in the dust to pursue crime dramas like A History of Violence and Eastern Promises to even greater mainstream acclaim. But D.C. doesn't rule out a return to fright flicks, provided "something came along that was intriguing and challenging." According to Wired, however, the director is somewhat less than enthusiastic about the rash of so-called "torture porn" that has arisen over the past decade. In fact, Cronenberg goes so far as to intimate that the sub-genre is nothing more than a pale imitation of the "body horror" subgenre he pioneered a quarter century ago:
"'Body horror' was not my term. It was a term someone used to describe what I was doing, so it is not a category in my head that I use to make films. And I think, without trying to sound egomaniacal, that my movies have been picked apart piece by piece, and recycled quite a bit. But that's the nature of the film business, or creativity in general: We are all feeding off of each other. There's no question about that, so I guess it's not a surprise that I'm moving somewhere away from all of that."
Cronenberg argues that he still has the same mission, which is to shock and horrify audiences. However, in a world where images of violence are so much more a part of our everyday life, he now chooses to do it sans the gore with which he made his name:
"We're in a very bizarre era right now, where snuff porn that never really existed before is now available. If you want to see beheadings or stonings, you can see them any time you want on your computer. And it's low-tech, too: not the internet, but a woman being stoned to death."

11 comments:

Garg the Unzola said...

To me, the older Cronenberg genre films were mostly metaphors for how technology is taking over our lives. The newer torture porn flicks have very little to say, they take the body horror thing at face value. Not that I don't enjoy buckets of blood, but there's a distinct lack of quality in say, Hostel, when compared with Rabid.

B-Sol said...

I completely agree. Cronenberg made films with something to say, there was artistic merit in them, a message about technology and its interaction with humanity. I am not at all a fan of the torture porn genre, particularly Hostel, for the reason that I think its main purpose is strictly to titillate through the depiction of violent torture. Which actually does make it a form of softcore pornography.

Garg the Unzola said...

Softcore pornography. That's a valid description of Hostel. I felt the story had great potential. It was just underdeveloped. As you say, they focused on depictions of violent torture instead of working with the amazing story they had underneath all the gore. Cronenberg films have artistic merit, but besides that they are crafted well. Hostel is a poorly made film because it fails to engross the viewer by trying to gross the viewer out 90% of the time. Great idea, poorly executed.

Karl Hungus said...

I'm not entirely sure that was what Cronenberg meant when he was talking about snuff, but rather how easily it is to see actual death. At least, that's what I take from the mention of beheadings and stonings; exactly what Islamic militants have published on the internet.

Secondly, I think it's ridiculous to compare Hostel to pornography. The purpose is not to titilate, and I think you seriously miss the point.

Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of crap movies out there, Captivity, Vacancy, the endless stream of Saw sequels, and they should be criticised for exactly what they are; shitty films. But I think Hostel was a much better film than all that.

Eli Roth is a much better film maker than people give him credit for, and for me, Hostel was an absolutely edge of the seat film. Furthermore, the second film didn't just pump out more of the same at all, there was great continuity, and it really added a lot to what the first film layed down. It was actually a very clever film compared to other films of the like.

Honestly, I believe people should re-evaluate their opinions on Hostel, and throw away the preposterous "Torture Porn" tag. Here's a quote from Stephen King on the subject:

"There's something going on in "Hostel II" that isn't torture porn, there's really something going on there that's interesting on an artistic basis. Sure it makes you uncomfortable, but good art should make you uncomfortable."

Look beneath the surface, and you'll find there's a lot more to the films than just gore.

I've written about why I think torture can be a valid form of entertainment before, so please take a look here: http://www.karlhungus.com/2007/10/torture-in-cinema-whats-attraction.html

Sorry for the long rant guys. :)

Karl Hungus said...

Sorry, botched the link, this should work:

Torture in Cinema

Garg the Unzola said...

Mister Hungus:
I haven't seen Hostel ii.
I agree that Eli Roth is a great film maker, but still maintain that Hostel (the first one) failed to live up to the expectation garnered by Cabin Fever.

I feel that with Hostel, there was too much bang and too little anticipation of it. Perhaps you are right, I should watch Hostel ii and see where it goes.

Mister b-sol:
Thanks for your comment on my latest blog entry

B-Sol said...

Hey don't sweat it Karl, rant as long as you like, that's what it's all about lol. I definitely understand where you're coming from with Roth. I don't think he's a bad filmmaker--I actually think Cabin Fever is just about the most underrated horror movie of the past decade or so. I just felt that he took things in a much more unsavory direction with Hostel. Watching it just left me with a bad taste in my mouth. It didn't feel like entertainment to me--and this is coming from someone who adores Romero, Fulci, Dead Alive, Evil Dead, etc.
As far as Cronenberg's quote with relation to snuff material, reading it in the context of the interview, it sounds like he's saying that making gory horror movies today is kind of a pointless endeavor because today's audiences are much more hardened and jaded by real violence.

Karl Hungus said...

I threw a link to your blog on my links section, b-sol. ;)

B-Sol said...

Thanks Karl, I did the same.

Karl Hungus said...

Did you? I don't see it.

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