I have long believed that horror movies and professional wrestling are pop cultural examples of any given time or generation.. I have believed that, still do, and will always.
As an example, as quick as I can explain, Hulk Hogan was the hero of the 1980s. Pure. Americana.. vitamins. The secrets of the 80s era became known later, as did many secrets. But the bear was in the woods during the Reagan years, and flags were waving. All the while, Jason Vorhees was slashing his way through Camp Crystal Lake during the heyday of slasher flicks. But Jason wasn’t just a villain, he was commentary by filmmakers against the Christian Right. Jason was the ultimate judge and jury. Almost Godlike, some would say.. he killed those who had premarital sex and also teenagers who lost respect for adults. Fast forward to the 1990s, beer swigging Steve Austin became Stone Cold and the attitude of the Clinton years came into full swing.
After 9/11, the birth of the torture porn films took place. Torture was ripe in American society, with debates and Dick Cheney proclaiming the goodness of ‘techniques’ to inflict pain. In movie theaters, people watched torture in the SAW franchise films and many others, including just about any gut-wrenching (literally) flick from Rob Zombie involving houses and 1000s of corpses.
My actual interest in horror has been present since childhood. As a kid, Freddy Kreuger fascinated me as much as he scared me. The concept was genius. A dream killer.. Michael Myers and Halloween was one of my favorites, and still is. The thought of a silent killer in a William Shatner mask is horrifying alone, but add in John Carpenter’s cheap piano music that eventually became a classic and you have a match made in hell, or in this movie theater world, heaven.
While horror has evolved, I actually think it devolved. No, not just because of the remakes.. endless remakes.. and remakes of the remakes (New Line has announced that are re-re-making the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET film again, most likely since the 2010 incarnation was so awful).. I think horror has became a mockery of itself. Instead of scaring and carrying weighty issues, often societal commentary in Hitchcock or Romero style, we are treated to an endless supply of blood and gore. Without a point..
Oh yes, the sex.
Before I get into the point of this post, I want to first say that if you really want to find creative horror—real creativity—look no further than independent filmmakers on YouTube who are busy offering up amazing short films that will scare the wits out of you. Some of them are 15 minutes.. others are two.. Either way they are amazing and fresh, not recycled nonsense like Hollywood shovels down our throats. But true scary little tales that will make you cringe if you watch them in the dark. As a matter of fact, queue a whole bunch up and play them on your SMART TV if you’re smart enough to have a SMART TV. Instead of a marathon of garbage and drivel, take an hour and watch a few short movies.. I recommend anything with Lotta Losten. Also films from SKYPEMARE.
Back to the point of the article (since I wrote over 500 words and have yet to get to it): Bloody Disgusting, the website I follow for horror news, did something awfully disgusting the other day.. so much so that I feel it deserves some attention.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am part time busy writing posts on NIGHT TERROR NEWS, what you see here, and also now and then updating a site called the HORROR REPORT. The HORROR REPORT has a long history, but it never quite made the fame charts in the horror world. While it focused on such film and entertainment, it also delved into the more realistic nature of the scary world. So it’s not a fan site.. Bloody-Disgusting.com is a far far far more popular site, perhaps one of the most popular in the horror website world. It’s unbeatable, even Mr. Dark at DREAD CENTRAL cannot hold a candle to the popularity of Bloody-Disgusting.
But that doesn’t mean Bloody-Disgusting is superior.
As a matter of fact, the site does a lot of the nonsense other sites do—turnoffs for me but clickbate for Facebook and Twitter. The lists. The ‘best ofs’ .. the top tens..
And a top ten they offered is exactly what I wanted to discuss.
The other day on BLOODY DISGUSTING posted August 4, a write at the site posted a story called “10 incredibly graphic sex scenes in horror movies (NSFW).Fair enough.. Sex and horror often go together, I suppose. But when you peruse the list, it’s not what you think.. Included with the list: The expected films like FRIDAY THE 13TH movies.. But so is the film ANTICHRIST, and SALO, OF THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM. And A SERBIAN FILM involving awful sex crimes to an infant. And LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, proclaiming that an “extended rape scene that is absolutely grueling.” And with that.. the floodgates of commentary on Facebook and the website opened.
People opined quickly that rape scenes being included with what was billed as a fun little list was icky… sickening.. over the top.. wrong.. One fan of the author, in the comments thread, lectured that it seemed as though the post celebrated rape. And even a few responses from the author, Trace Thurman, showed up. Like this statement,
“After reading the plethora of comments about the inclusion of the rapes, I take responsibility for not thinking about that aspect of rape vs sex. Those belong on a ‘most disturbing’ list.”
The thread and Facebook comments opened up a fierce argument, often nasty crude and cruel, between readers.. Is rape sex? By definition, perhaps, but it’s forced.. should it be included with ‘sex scenes,’ and for God sakes, why included the awful SERBIAN FILM on any list at all!?
The entire post seemed to blow up in all the wrong ways for BLOODY DISGUSTING. And it’s too late to just retract. The damage is done. Now it’s damage control time—with the author busy apologizing one by one to the commenters who seem most offended by the inclusion of such awful scenery in horror films.
I am not someone who proclaims any allegiance to the path of censorship. However I also think ethical standards should be adhered to for common sense reasons. The other day I saw someone going to work at a business location that deals with the public, and he was wearing a “Don’t Treat on me” shirt. While I believe he has the right to wear what he wants, I simply question the logic of someone who seems to want to pick a fight for no reason..
And in horror, as a viewer, I don’t want to see pets or babies abused. I don’t want to see the death of a child. I don’t even want to see graphic scenes. The R rated and X rated fans would call me a PG-13 wimp. I’m not completely a PG-13 fan either, but instead am more a horror of the most sort of person..
That or I am growing up. And as a parent and husband, simply take things a different way. Like the scene in the HILLS HAVE EYES remake when my wife and I literally wept at the scene where the father was crucified and burned in front of his family in an agonizing death sequence. I actually stopped watching horror for a while after that.
I feel somewhat bad for Trace Thurman, who now has to busily say sorry for his article and explain that often times sarcasm doesn’t come through very well. That being said, I think it was a mighty awful error to include scenes of graphic rape in a list that was advertised on Facebook with a photo featuring a pleasant looking women prior to the ‘deed being done.’
I also think it has led to some uncomfortable soul searching for horror fans who read the post, and responded in writing.
Once more, I don’t think censorship is an answer. Art needs to flourish and sometimes offend. That said, I think self-censorship is often intelligent. Especially when you’re writing a list about the top ten sex scenes in horror and somehow find it wise to include graphic rape.