FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jan 5, 2006

The Return of Gore

The Mercury News posted an interesting little article about the current trend in horror films: the resurgence of gore and that special 70's feeling.

It's true, movies like Saw, The Devil's Rejects, and Hostel seem to be the antithesis to the WB-friendly, late-90's, ironic horror trend. As Eli Roth, the writer/director of Hostel and Cabin Fever, says:

I think scary movies are back. People clearly don't want to see a horror movie to laugh.
Trends come and trends go...just ask Macarena, wherever she is. I agree wholeheartedly, in particular with the second statement (I'm in more of a "Well, we'll see, won't we?" place with the first.). My point of contention is that 'gore' does not equal 'scary'. 'Visceral' and 'grisly' don't equal scary...they equal gross. I don't refuse to watch a movie with gore, but I certainly don't get bummed out if a flick is blood-free.

I love Dawn of the Dead, with all it's blood and guts and the chomping on them, but it's The Haunting that scares me...and it's got exactly one visual special effect- and no blood (of course, I'm talking about the 1963 version, silly). When Jason Voorhees squeezes some unfortunate guy's head until the unfortunate guy's eyeballs pop out and fly towards me in magnificent 3-dimensional fashion, I say "Eww!" with much glee. But when Michael Myers stands in the doorway covered in a white sheet, stark still but audibly breathing, I get goosebumps...and on and on. The movies that keep me up at night tend to be the most 'tame' blood/effects/gore-wise: The Haunting, Halloween, The Changeling, Black Christmas, The Ring, The Blair Witch Project...

I haven't seen Hostel yet, and honestly, I don't know if I will. I'm really not into watching people being tortured. People getting their heads punched off by Jason, please, hell yes- bring it on. It's fun- fake fun. But hours of torture and cruelty? That's not fun to me, and it's certainly not scary.

Am I in the minority on this? According to Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations I am. As he states in the article:
With video games and all the entertainment options, it really takes a lot to impress audiences today. The level of violence and gore cannot be too intense for a lot of people. Horror fans in particular are very keen on seeing the most intense, violent images they can.
These kids today, I swear.

You can read the article in its entirety right here.

Ah, the good old days.


Steve said...

I'm totally with you on this subject Stacy. I own House of 1,000 Corpses and saw Devil's Rejects and Saw, the sequel isn't over here yet, but my money is still on the bloodless horror. I think the gore just takes your focus away on the scare and you are too busy being grossed out to be scared.

For instance, I watched High Tension (Haute Tension). There was a fair amount of gore and story aside, I felt like it would have been just as or even more scary had it not been so messy.

Also, I think Hollywood is going to bank on this and totally fail. All it is going to do is start to alienate the majority of people, including horror fans, and people will stop going to these movies, leading to Hollywood citing the end of the horror comeback. I'm guessing this is what happened in the late-80's when more and more blood starting showing up and we were left without a lot of horror movies until the success of low splatter movies like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer brought the studios around again.

John Barleycorn said...

Steve is totally 100% spot-on. This new trend will drive people away from the theatres. Look at "Scream": it did the blood, it did the funny, it did the ironic, and people fucking Loved it. Made millions of dollars.

But "Cabin Fever" didn't do so hot, and I think "Hostel" will bomb. Who really wants to see torture? Where's the plot or character in that? I'm surprised "Saw" did so well, even.

However, I saw "Audition" last night, and found it amazing. But that film did it different. Instead of just going for the gory stab-stab-slice-gut, it had an underlying metaphoric message, and it was awesome. The torture was emotional as well as physical. Good stuff.

I don't think Eli Roth has that kind of intelligence in his films. He certainly didn't show it in "Cabin Fever," which I personally thought sucked sac.

Anonymous said...

I know a lot of people, myself included who, for lack of something better to do might have ended up at HOSTEL, but are skipping it because torture is neither scary nor fun. I also feel like they're torturing my nostalgia for the 70s. It took me about an hour of watching to realize that the AMITYVILLE HORROR remake was a period piece and not just obnoxiously stylized.

Stacie Ponder said...

What 70s movies are they even trying to emulate? Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Tobe Hooper made you 'see' alot more than was actually on the screen in that one, as far as gore goes. These movies are closer to exploitation than horror, and hell yeah, it's going to alienate people. Aren't some of the stereotypical people in the audience at a horror movie on dates? Who'd want to take their girlfriend (or boyfriend, I suppose) to watch some guy get cut up slowly for an hour?

Now, I haven't seen Cabin Fever, so I can't speak to it's merits or lack thereof...but wasn't it just about universally panned? It just seems that suddenly Eli Roth is a wunderkind, out to save horror singlehandedly. Maybe he will, who knows.

Des said...

Cabin Fever was ridiculous. If it ended 6 minutes earlier it may have been a decent film.

I will be a bit of a Devil's advocate here and say that I kind of like this New Wave of Horror Films.

I quite dislike gore films but these movies make people uncomfortable. Maybe not me or you but lots of people. It is in that aspect that they work.

They must become the "forbidden" again. Exorcist, TCM, these films (when they came out) divided people into 3 camps: the camp that wanted to see it because it looked cool (the camp I've always fit into), the camp that was so perturbed by the very idea of the film that they had to see it and the camp that was so vehemently opposed to the film that they would never see it or let anyone they knew even think about seeing it.

Horror films need to be naughty again.

On the torture issue: I defy anyone to sit through Marathon Man and not be terrified.

John Barleycorn said...

I think the hollah-back to the 70's is hollah'ing to the wrong period. After movies like TCM came out and made everyone believe they were seeing gross splatter, all those "video nasties" popped up depicting torture, rape, all that disgusting stuff, for the benefit of perverts everywhere.

Modern horror directors - especially Eli Roth and the douches behind "Saw" - think of the 70's and, for some reason, think of the nasties instead of the artful shit.

Plus when you get into a gore-war with France ("High Tension"), the weakest one will back down first, and America won't back down from a little rough-n-tumble with the Frogs.

On a different note, I saw "Audition" the other night and was wowed by its intelligence and skill. I think this should be the movie everyone follows. Read my blog about it here.

Stacie Ponder said...

Hmm...good point Des, about horror flicks becoming a little more dangerous again. I just hope there's some quality behind the notariety, and not just exploitation. Like The Exorcist, TCM, or The Evil Dead- movies that were so shocking and outrageous, but had the goods to back up the attention they got.

As far as Marathon Man, that's some of the most harrowing stuff you'll ever see on the screen...and while it is 'torture', it's basically still proving my point. It's the anguish Dustin Hoffman conveys with his acting, the eerie, determined calm Olivier conveys with HIS acting, and the sound of the drill that make that scene work. There's no blood (or is there a little, maybe?)- it's not overly gory with eyeballs hanging out and the such.

In addition, this might sound weird, but it's torture with a purpose beyond simple depravity. That doesn't make it pleasant to watch, but it's more like torture in the context of warfare. It's about the extraction of information, not sadism. To me, that difference makes a huge impact on my comfort level as a viewer.

And everyone go read Brennon's blog! I've yet to see Audition. What's wrong with me?

Unknown said...

cabin fever bombed! i couldn't believe the director got a chance to do another film!

oh well, nobody ever lost money betting on unoriginality in hollywood.

Carnacki said...

Well said post Stacie. I agree completely with you on the difference between a movie like Hostel and a movie like Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc. The only place where I slightly disagree is I'd say torture even in the context of warfare is simply sadism as it's not worked at extracting useful information. I know some on the right have pointed out the torture of Senator John McCain in the Vietnam War as evidence that torture can extract information, but they ignore the fact that it extracted false and useless information from him. To me a film like Hostel is not really about horror, but about shock and while horror might have elements of shock the main purpose of it remains horror. As Stephen King wrote in his excellent nonfictional review of horror, Danse Macabre, not seeing the horror is more effective than showing it because of the imagination of the viewer is more powerful than what can be put on the screen.

Anonymous said...

I just saw Hostel. Husband & I quit smoking so we have become complete movie whores.

It is gratuitous to say the least. The reviews don't mention how graphic the sex is. My husband was having a blast with all the tits & ass.