I've never been a fan of slasher films. If I'm going to watch something that falls into the horror category I much prefer suspense over blood. I'll take "The Exorcist" and you can keep "Saw."
Because my sensibilities don't run toward anything bloody, there's been a more than a few films that have escaped my notice. I'm not talking about stuff like "Halloween" or even "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (which is bad enough) but a newer more disturbing trend toward movies that take the "torture porn" genre to a level of grotesque that defies description.
So bad are these films (one in particular) that I don't want to print the names here for fear that you'll look up the descriptions (as I did) and hate me for bringing them to your attention. So I'm going to deflect and mention the post that brought them to my attention over at The House of Sternberg and leave it at that. Call me a chicken-- but let me warn you, even the descriptions of certain movies are not for the faint of heart. This stuff makes movies like "Hostel" look like a Disney production.
And you may think it strange to have a discussion about films that I don't want to mention by name, but it's a discussion I want to have without increasing their footprint-- if that's possible.
Sadism has been around a long time and some of the most offensive content in film today takes its inspiration (if it could be called that) from the infamous Marquis de Sade who put pen-to-paper and brought his diseased imaginings to the masses. But Sade didn't have tools like the internet to help his ideas spread and fester. In fact, his deeds earned him many years in a mental asylum-- not to mention the death penalty at one point. But his work has endured to be studied and dissected at will, though it's not something you usually fear will fall into the hands of your children. But when film-makers decide to up-the-ante on Sade's fascination with fetishism, torture and rape, even incorporating children into the narrative beyond Sade's sick writings, and put it on film, it's inevitable that you have to confront the issue of whether the slippery-slope argument isn't a good enough reason to stop this garbage from ever being made.
The umbrella of "art" and "free expression" has been the tool-of-the-trade when it comes to purveyors of smut. If something doesn't fall under the heading of one, it can usually be shuffled to the other category. And we let it because we know that we must allow content we don't like so that there will be freedom to distribute content we believe has actual merit. And if that fails to garner audience support, a political justification is often thrown in for good measure. As I scroll through the descriptions and reviews of some of the most aggressively violent and offensive films I have ever heard of, I am frequently told these movies are meant to be an allegory of "societal rape"-- it appears that this is the fall back raison d'etre of these films. And, sadly, there are no shortage of takers who'll seize on that as reason enough to justify the existence of such "entertainment" as they throw around multi-syllabic words in an attempt to intellectualize what the rest of us can't comprehend was even made in the first place.
I've been surprised that I can have such a visceral reaction to films I've never seen. That a description and audience reaction is all it takes to make me feel sick to my stomach. I can't imagine what it must be like to sit through something that critics have said will break your soul, wish they could "un-watch" and encourage readers to never, ever consider watching. It's clear that the world is a worse place because something like this exists and I resent that it's out there waiting to be discovered by my kids. We're not talking about horror films at this point, we're talking about a horror that has been inflicted on society.
So what do we do about it?
*Sigh* Probably nothing.
I've never been an advocate of censorship because I presume the marketplace will put the worst-of-the-worst in the darkest corner it can find. And usually that's the case. But there seems to be a creeping acceptance that comes as more content accumulates over time. We've gone from grainy films shot in secret to movies that are lovingly crafted with large crews of people determined to present them in a way that has critics decrying the substance even as they admire the cinematography. And society at-large doesn't seem to know what to do either as they are banned in some countries and given awards in others. No doubt the creators of such swill pat themselves on the back for having blown our collective minds-- but all I can do is hope that karma has the last word where these people are concerned.
Ultimately I know I have to live in a world where this kind of thing not only exists, but will continue to be made. And it worries me. I worry because it's so easy to believe that we won't be touched by the fringes of society and that, really, it's nothing to worry about. But apathy and complacency are deadly to any society and I wonder how far down that road we've gone. This isn't solely a problem that belongs to any one group as the grossest of the current crop of atrocities are foreign made. So we're globally screwed-up at this point.
The only thing that gives me hope is the nature of societies to go through pendulum swings. It is often observed that as societies go through economic periods of prosperity and austerity, entertainment will go through it's own fluctuations that reflect the economic mood. Though I haven't quite figured out what to call the mood that has led the appalling creations that have led to this post, it's not hard to draw comparisons to the era that gave birth to the Marquis de Sade and the worst of today's degeneracy. But if, as I hope, the pendulum swings back I also have to wonder what the reverse arc will look like-- and face the uncertainty of whether censorship will have been the more gentle option in the long run. I'm not jumping on the censorship bandwagon just yet... but for the first time ever, I'm tempted.