Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cimmerian sightings: A line drawn in blood


In anticipation of the release of the remake of Friday the 13th, which hits the theatres tomorrow (on Friday the 13th—imagine that!), the Boston Globe ran a prominent feature story this past Sunday on slasher flicks, “The Genre That Wouldn’t Die”. In this piece the Globe’s film critic, Ty Burr, pulls no punches in expressing his antipathy for slasher films: “I hate the nasty little things," he writes.

Hates slasher films? That got my hackles up immediately. I’m a big fan of the horror genre, both on the printed page and in cinema. While I prefer the tales of H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and Stephen King to the films of Wes Craven, John Carpenter, and Sean S. Cunningham (the latter directed the original Friday the 13th), I still enjoy a good horror flick. Even the badly-made ones have some merit as harmless fun.

As I read Burr’s piece I mentally began preparing my counter-argument, mulling over which implement to take up in defense of the slasher genre (Machete? Fire ax? Chainsaw, perhaps)? But I soon discovered that Burr’s article wasn’t such easy prey. Instead of taking shots at the artlessness and bad taste of the slasher film genre—old, tired saws that many critics choose to employ—Burr asks some penetrating questions: Why do we like these films? What makes people want to watch explicit violence?

To read more, click here.


Jack Badelaire said...

Interesting article. I can relate to the reviewer in many respects there. I have no problem with grisly bloody violence when it's "combat violence" - people getting limbs blown off and heads exploded and all manner of other carnage in war movies, or people getting sliced and diced by swords and knives or axes etc..

But "torture porn" as it is sometimes called, movies like the Saw franchies, or Hostel, or any of the other torture for torture's sake stuff, I just can't abide watching, and even the bloodier scenes of shows like Nip/Tuck can be too much for me. Pure slasher stuff doesn't bother me too much since in many of these films, the deaths aren't THAT gruesome (at least by modern standards), but when it's just a prolonged agony scene, I have no interest in it (or stomach for it).

But the film major in me understands that sometimes, an id-driven romp through a summer camp with a chainsaw or machete is a quick way to make a name for yourself and drop some $$$ in your pockets. I refuse to believe in "starving for your art", so if it can give a neophyte film maker some work, by all means, slash away.

Brian Murphy said...

Hi Badelaire, I agree. I'm not adverse to violence on screen or the printed page (witness my "top 10 favorite fantasy battles" series), but movies and books that are solely about torture, suffering, and death, presumably to shock the viewer, are garbage.

Anonymous said...

I think people like gory movies because no matter what, they're still just movies. People in these movies can get mutilated all over the place in exceedingly detailed ways but it's all just make-believe and that makes it Halloween fun, not an indicator of some sickness in our souls (similar reason why violent video games are merely amusing instead of revolting). My wife is an aspiring actress and she frequently says what great fun it would be to get brutally snuffed for a horror movie :)

By the same token, I DO get offended at stuff like Cannibal Holocaust, because I have no tolerance for films that depict real suffering (in this case animals) for the sake of creating a shot.