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Almost everyone I know goes to the movies for similar reasons. We go to the movies because they entertain us. In the movies exists a world where the good guys win, hope prevails, and love conquers all. Movies make us feel better about ourselves and the world we live in, and sometimes offer that aphorism of wisdom we need to make it through rough times.
And then there’s the torture porn.
I cannot figure any reason why anyone would find this recently-popular sub-genre interesting. Instead of promoting the good in mankind, these movies promote the worst possible traits of the human race. In the real world we take people who kidnap innocent people and torture, mutilate, maim, and kill them and lock them away, even putting some to death. Now a group of filmmakers want to recreate that same concept in a fictional environment, glorifying sick behavior and selling tickets? Even worse, people are buying tickets, maintaining the strength of these kinds of films and ensuring more to come.
Let me be clear – my problem is not with the horror genre as a whole. A lot of horror exemplifies the ideas I first talked about: good versus evil with good eventually winning the day (not always, but most of the time). The protagonists are innocent and bright and the antagonists are truly despicable and vile. Even when it was fun to cheer for the bad guys, we all knew Freddy Krueger was a child molester whose soul was eternally damned beyond redemption. And we knew he’d be defeated by the time the end credits rolled.
Now, with the advent of the torture porn industry those lines between good and evil are blurred. Sometimes the antagonist is stalking characters because of their own character flaws, which make them easy prey. Or, sometimes the protagonist remains an innocent, but has no hope of getting away as they are slowly tortured and mutilated until death. Fantastic. Even worse are the times where the torturer is presented as the protagonist, and we’re supposed to enjoy the sadistic tendencies portrayed on screen.
Unlike the days of Freddy and Jason, movies have become increasingly realistic. Part of the reason we could cheer so easily for Freddy was the camp factor behind his movies’ visual effects. Today, horror auteurs strive to make audiences cringe with visual effects that look like they’re really happening. Lindsay Lohan’s robotic limbs may have looked pretty stupid in I Know Who Killed Me, but the torturer freezing her limbs until they peeled off didn’t look so far removed from reality. Jigsaw’s traps in Saw may require an amazing amount of precognition, but the executions they cause look disturbingly real.
If we can gain positive lessons about life from the movies, what kind of moralistic values are torture porn movies instilling our culture with? Are we cultivating a crop of sadistic killers by allowing these kinds of movies to be made and shown? And before you say this is a huge leap of logic, let’s remember that Beavis and Butthead wound up with a disclaimer at the beginning of the show because people were stupid enough to try frog baseball and set things on fire just like they saw on TV. It inspired stupid people to do stupid things. So did Jackass… and Grand Theft Auto… and the list goes on and on. If people are stupid enough to think cartoons, video games, and moronic stunts are worthy of imitation, is it really logical to think that torture sequences, created in painstaking realism, wouldn’t be? Even if those same disturbed audience members that would burn stuff because some cartoons did don’t pick up ideas for torture from these movies, aren’t they being desensitized to the violence to the point that it holds little significance for them?
Since the money keeps rolling in for torture porn movies we have to assume they’re going to keep being made. Every Halloween brings a new Saw movie and it won’t be long before the underlying twisted moral code is completely removed and we’re just seeing two hours of Rube Goldberg murder devices snapping people’s limbs off.
Maybe filmmakers need to pair up with police and the government to use Hostel 5 and Captivity 3 as a means to keep tabs on the true sickos in our society – the people who are compelled to keep giving these movies their money. Perhaps if we can identify these people before they have the chance to bring the fantasy from the screen to life, the torture porn sub-genre will have done some good. Even better would be to get rid of these kinds of movies entirely. Stop creating fictional snuff-films and get back to villains we can boo at and life lessons we can learn and prosper from, instead of glorifying the sick behavior that should identify the world’s truly degenerate people.
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