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On Torture Porn 22 September, 2008

Posted by silentpyjamas in blather and claptrap, inflammatory!.
Tags: , ,

i think i’ll be doing a double post today.  possibly.  we’ll just see about that.
it’s been a good while since i’ve posted and perhaps that’s for the good, since i’ve had a lot to think about and perhaps a bit of maturing to do.  much like my livejournal (you’ll never find it), i look back at my past posts on this blog and think it’s pretty emo.  or lame.  or stupid or what-have-you.

anyway, i was taking a break from working today and somehow got onto the topic of “torture porn” films.  this is sort of a radom interest of mine.  i love horror films, and i don’t even mind gory ones.  there are certain places i can’t go though.

when i was in my 20’s i watched a movie called “Blood Sucking Freaks” which was to be sure pretty epxloitative and graphically violent.  it seemed to me to be, as painful as the tortures appeared, cartoon violence.  it wasn’t really serious.  i’ve sat through many things and held my stomach contents and my drinks and my composure.  several years ago i went to one of the swanky cinemas here in town with my mom to watch the movie “Saw” which seemed like it would be great fun based on the sort of choices the victims had to make.  it’s not a bad movie, but i haven’t and probably will not see the sequels.  nor Hostel and its sequels.  nor turistas, captivity, or any of the new bumper crop of blood-drenched films out there.

it seems perhaps foolish of me to write this as i admit to not having viewed more than one film in this genre.  i have good reasons, let me elaborate.

in 2000, as any reader of my blog (this one or that horrible lj) knows, my brother and his roommate were murdered.  i sat in courtrooms for many days in the ensuing 5 years, for hearings, a trial, for sentencings.  i made victim statements, i lashed out at people, i talked to reporters.  most of all, i saw a photograph of my brother on an autopsy table.  i heard the woman who lived downstairs recount, on several occasions, the horror of hearing lives being taken in the apartment upstairs.

i threw up every day, i was stressed out all the time, i drank too much.  and when i would go to bed and close my eyes the crime, as told through photographs, testimonies, and police/criminologist/pathologist reports played through my head again and again.

when i went to watch saw, i felt uncomfortable.  i chided myself for being old-fashioned.  for loving only cheezy old slasher flicks.  for not being with it.

it took me some time to realize what it is about these films that makes me sort of want to watch them but know that if i do i will feel filthy and awful.  i’ve read the wikipedia entry for pretty much every horror movie in existence.  possibly also the imdb entry.  and movie review entries on every site i could find.  what gets me is this.  everywhere, these tortures are described in such detail that eventually they become clinical.  “decapitated” “severed” “crushed” “burned” “stabbed” “beaten” “raped” etc show up again and again, in blase tones as if this is just perfectly ducky.  it may be, i could be getting old and being wrong and in fact not be with it at all.  but what gets me from movie clips and trailers, and all of that reading, is the way the camera lingers lovingly on this pain.

that is where i must draw the line.  i cannot watch some innocent person in an impossible situation, begging and screaming for his or her life, sobbing, desperate, knowing that something is coming and maybe not specifically what but that this something includes “the end.”  i never physically heard my brother screaming for his life, but in my mind i have heard it a million times.  it’s not entertaining, believe me.  it makes for a very anxious insomniac.  i imagine the look on his face, the fear in his eyes, the primal terror that this is it.  this is the end.  there is no way to escape from this and i cannot imagine watching someone who i am supposed to empathize with, going through that.  especially to no purpose. 

it frightens me that the centerpiece of these films seems to be the brutalizing of innocence.  “darling, let me linger and watch the light go out of your eyes.”  where’s the triumph?  where’s the resolution?  that the good guys all die at the end or in saving themselves, become the bad guys?  i reiterate that i might just be a special case here, but does it make anyone else’s skin crawl that the piece de resistance of these movies is the absolute and unabating nihilism that seems inherent in their plots?  horror films has always been the stuff of nightmares but these are bad dreams i don’t want to have.

i’ve heard it said these movies are addressing the brutal truths of life.  terrorism.  torture and abduction.  pain and horror.  there are ways to convey that without making naked barbarity the dressing for every course of the meal.  when you tell me “this is some basically decent young person” (as my brother was) “who may or may not have made the best choices in the past” (everyone may or may not have done that) “that is about to undergo horrifying torture and pain without relent until they expire, in the most possibly gruesome way” you are saying to me “there’s no story to tell here but there are plenty of pictures you’ll wish you had never seen.”

i’ve already seen those pictures.

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