So, apparently there's this song by the Beatles called "Octopus's Garden". Who knew?
I love my husband, because he finds me pictures like this:
Oh, this movie. I am *so* going to be at this movie.
Also: my Weird Tales
finally came in! Profile updated. Glee. And so forth.
A little less of a smallnote and more of a ramble. By the way, this does contain spoilers for the movies mentioned below.
Been thinking about The Ruins
(and The Descent
, and Hostel
, and Saw
, and, 30 Days of Night
, and Night of the Living Dead
) and trying to put my finger on where the line between torture porn and survival horror comes in. Because all those movies are about protagonists in a horrible situation with the world turned against them, and how they try (and most often fail) to cope with it, and how they suffer.
Correction: all those movies *involve* protagonists in a horrible situation etc. I am not sure torture porn is about the titular protagonists (not as people at any rate; perhaps only as meat).
(Hm. The difference between torture porn and survival horror is like the distinction I occasionally hear people describing between porn and erotica? The one merely has meat, the other has a person? That's not all of it, but that's part of it.)
There is a distinction. I know this. And I think a huge part of it is the antagonist.
(Jigsaw is kind of interesting in this regard; in the first movie at least, he is portrayed as a morally correct force--a kind of retributive angel who tortures people into the realization that their lives have value. Horror movies have a long history of the people who get it "deserving" to get it; the people who die are (a) the people you shouldn't be, or (b) the people you don't want to be.
(Jigsaw differs from said long history in two ways that seemed important. First, he is human. I don't mean he's not the monster of the piece, not monstrous, not a Dionysian other. I mean that he's just a madman; he's not supernatural, he does not exist in a context which confirms a supernatural dimension, his existence does not indicate the presence of metaphysical evil, and his victims are not portrayed as particularly worse than anyone else. And second, there is no opponent worthy of him. Where's Ben, Laurie Strode, Nancy Thompson, Sidney, Clarice Starling? He's not something to be met and challenged and survived (or not); there's no valiance in those who oppose him. Jigsaw is not harsh but just desserts for the relatively bad; he's a bad accident that could happen to anyone.
(And this annoyed me, actually. Because I very much got the impression the movie wanted me to question presumptions and admire the boundary-shattering brilliance of the guy who leads people to realization, and had somehow forgotten to fix the fact that he was a torturing murderer who spun some line of bullshit about not *really* being a killer.)
I look at Saw
, and I think of it as being on the boundary between torture porn and survival horror. It does involve physical violence, but it puts a huge focus on characterization and psychological pain, and that was what I found allowed it to be disturbing. And if I dismiss it in spite of that, if I call it torture porn, what keeps Band of Brothers
or A Clockwork Orange
from the same category? The aspect that had me curling my lip at it was the attempted valorization of the villain (which didn't really have much to do with the story), not the dismissal of the humanity of the victims.
The antagonists in Hostel
, on the other hand--
--okay, I think I just got something.
All the movies I've described involve people in situations where their whole world's gone wrong, either because they're trapped in a small part of the actual world (a cave, an industrial bathroom) or because a terrible disaster has overtaken the world (zombies). They're not needing to beat back something that's intruded into the normal world, they're trapped in an abnormal world.
Everything I can think of that I classify as torture porn involves a social setting dominating the situation which says that that abnormality is okay
, you've got the group working to collect people for killing, and the buyers; the organized group cooperating to make it happen. In Captivity
, you've got a pair of people who regularly abduct, torture, and murder people in a set environment; nearly the entire movie happens in the setting of that ongoing abnormal situation, and it's established as an uncontested norm in the opening shot. In Turistas
, you've got much the same planned and organized setup as in Hostel
; different purpose, but same case of "This is a place where the norm says the protagonists are meat."
(Jigsaw, again, is borderline here. He does dominate the situation. But he knows he's not normal; he justifies himself. The world outside and its attempts to deal with him are covered. And unlike the villains in Captivity
, he is not bringing people into his home; he is interfering with theirs.)
Zombies, on the other hand, do not say that their norm is okay. Neither do giant bugs, anacondas, or vampires in a small Alaskan town. They simply moan/chitter/hiss/speak ?Russian?, and attempt to eat you. They are not *people* gone wrong; you're not trapped in their society. They are simply things which have invaded yours.
Incidentally, the latest Cemetery Dance
had a scathing review of Live Feed
. Something about how the great crime of the evil non-white foreigners was not kowtowing to the Americans being drunken idiots, and if travel broadens the mind, what can we say about a work that attempts to villify it?
So. Elements of torture porn: lack of characterization, established social setting in which it is acceptable to treat humans as meat, human villains, and the (given) promiscuous use of blood and pain and screaming? I don't know. Maybe. It's a good start. I'm not looking to establish a checklist for anyone else, I'm just trying to articulate to myself where my boundaries lie.
It's been on my mind, you see, because I want to go catch The Ruins
tomorrow, and I'm wondering how good it'll be. I know they've changed it a little from the book; looking at the trailer, I can see that Stacy's been infected with vines (attractive blonde woman with body distortion--possible bad sign in direction of cheap body horror), and they don't actually show Pablo at all, although he may still be in there (removing slow death of somewhat undeveloped character as protagonists are helpless to save him--possible good sign in direction away from torture porn).
Anyway. This has taken me nearly an hour to write. I am going to go crash.
 If you listen to theweaselking
, *everybody*. Except me.
 No, I didn't see the others, and am honestly not interested; compelling counter-arguments will be heard.
 Yes, I know Jason's mother is another example of this. So's Norman Bates, if you want to stretch back. However, I think the lack of moral differentiation between the victims and everyone else is also an important difference. (I will stop repeating what I wrote above, now.)