the unnecessary horror movie

Torture porn has many detractors. I am not one of them. They are the extreme descendants of 80s grindhouse/slasher flicks. Nude, crude & blood soaked. Having said that, the ‘torture porn motif’ has been around since at least the 70s; I Spit On Your Grave, anyone?

They are by no means cinematic gold, but they’re watchable. Done well, they’re truly unsettling – though I’m of the opinion that when they become structured & plot-orientated they aren’t so much torture porn but a different kind of extreme horror. Martyrs & Inside (& much recent French horror, although I wasn’t too keen on Frontiere(s)) fall into this category. They are unsettling, ooze torture porn themes, but are actually good (subjectively) cinema.

Last night I decided to watch one particular movie that had been raved about. Eden Lake. It had been raved about by articles, it had been raved about by petite pink-clad girls who are still scared by the opening sequence of Nightmare Before Christmas, it had been raved about by teenage horror addicts. & the question I found myself asking whilst the movie flickered dimly on my computer screen last night was ‘why?’.

Eden Lake, I’m afraid to say, was not a good horror movie. I’m not even sure it can be called ‘horror’. Some of it was horrific, certainly. But to include it in the grand pantheon of titles – Rosemary’s Baby, Wicker Man, the …of the Dead series, Halloween, Psycho, Ring, The Shining, Alien, Audition, Tokyo Gore Police, Cannibal Holocaust, Braindead, & on & on & on – just seems inappropriate. It seemed unnecessary. Even Hostel didn’t feel unnecessary.

WARNING: SPOILERS

Eden Lake tried to be several altogether entirely noble (in a cinematic respect) things at once. It wanted to be a psychological thriller – the dementia displayed by the lead antagonist could really have been something, were he not just blindly violent & general gobby little twat. It could have made some wishywashy social commentary with the happy-slapping style phone camera recording their crimes. But it didn’t. The girl with the phone ran away, in some kind of mute protest, before being run down by the car – incidentally, the moral message of the movie is: if you have a conscience you’ll probably die, if you’re a mean fuck you’ll kill all the nice, well-to-do ladies & gentlemen & get away with it because all your friends are also all complete psychos or conscientious people who’ll die soon anyway. It could have been a lost-in-the-woods horror. It’s been done to death, but there’s always potential for putting a new twist in the old dog. It could have been torture porn – no problems with that, it would have just been as dull as the Hostel series.

The attempt at, or the perceived attempt at, realism was just a bit too distracting. It kept rubbing itself in my tired face like an absurd rag. Okay, so there are some troublesome kids in England. Rather blatantly the stereotypical troublemakers are quite clearly ‘chavs’, or ‘pikeys’, in that time honoured way of generalising a demographic, labelling it, & blaming it for all society’s ills. But, Jesus Christ, they don’t burn people alive! Literally living, alive, breathing people. This is what spoilt the horror & torture porn. Zombies aren’t magical, they have potential realism, but they never will be real! There’s never going to be a hotel in deepest, darkest Europe that lets you murder nubile girls! There’s never going to be a sect that tries to push people to the utter extremities of pain so they can see into the ‘other side’! Torture porn is just as implausible as other horror sub-genres. Yes, Eden Lake was implausible, but I got the feeling it was pretending not to be. & not in a ‘oh no, the zombies are coming, the zombies are coming!’ sort of way, in a ‘oh look at our clever social commentary, aren’t the youth just ghastly’ sort of way.

Ohh, & didn’t that ending just rile you something rotten? She may have been dazed from serious blood loss & a great gaping hole in her foot, but she knew that house, she knew at least one of the kids (& thus their equally unstable parents) lived there. & the adults – the grown up folk we trust with running our tiny little lives – were just pathetic. Angry, angry people. Irrational & incapable of reasoning with this woman. & it didn’t help she’d irrationally killed two of their kids either. But they believed the ‘sick’ things the lead antagonist said of the two middle-class campers so unbearably willingly you just wanted to vomit their stinking senselessness back into their inexplicably hateful faces. It makes you angry. The desired effect, I imagine. But an intentional effect accidentally accomplished, I also imagine.

Besides, you’re in a fucking town! GO NEXT DOOR! It’s not Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s not Cabin Fever. It’s not even Wrong Turn. It’s a fucking business-orientated development park in the middle of a fucking town! You’d think there’d be a fairly intelligent, reasonable business-man somewhere nearby, or it wouldn’t be worth building the park, would it? But no. Everyone staggers around in an almost visible cloud of anger like monstrous inbreds better suited to a backwoods cannibal flick than a movie set in a fucking ENGLISH TOWN IN ENGLAND IN A TOWN, A TOWN! But plot holes aside for now, since most movies have them anyway.

There was perhaps only one sympathetic youth. Even the reserved bullied kid is a total dick in the end – although, he is somewhat unfairly done-in near the end. This reflects badly on our youth. Obviously all horror reflects badly on those it’s vilifying, but these kids were not anomalous kids, they were the standard bearing representatives. That is, they were the only kids portrayed. Yes, they were the product of equally odious families, so again – all the adults become evil. So our conclusion? They Daily-Mail-satisfying reaction of ‘TEENAGERS; BURNING THE MIDDLE CLASSES ALIVE”. It just isn’t.

Frankly, if I were a teenager, I’d be thoroughly offended at how my generation is being portrayed. In fact, I’m considering returning to teenage-hood for a few days just to wallow in indignation a little longer.

I’m sorry this blog has lacked the relative elegant loquaciousness of former entries, that it wasn’t doused in the pleasant waters of rhetoric, smeared in the comforting goo of verbosity. I had to take a break from that to relay this tedious dribble of opinion.

Expect a return to pompous oratory soon enough.

j.

Today, your post-script comes courtesy of paragraph four. You’ll notice I ranked Tokyo Gore Police & Cannibal Holocaust alongside classic horror. I felt I should note that I too noticed the absurdity of that. But feel no need to justify it, so there, I’m afraid, my post-script ends.

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