The Art of Torture

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The Art of Torture
According to a 2006 survey conducted by BBC News, 58% of Americans say that any form of torture upon a fellow man for any reason is wrong (“One-third” 1), which is ironic because horror films, such as Saw and Hostel, where victims are brutally murdered and ripped to shreds for the audience’s pure entertainment pleasure topped the box offices with their releases in 2004 and 2005. By looking at sociopolitical platforms and moral messages behind the ‘torture porn’ subgenre, it is apparent that this style of film is in fact art and has a prominent spot in the history of film, because it is expressive and forces people to come to terms with difficult truths about our culture and humanity as a whole. As the movie industry has progressed, it has pushed the limit with each new release in hopes of continuing to get the ‘shock and awe’ response out of its audiences. It use to be the simple monster popping out of a closet or the grotesque face of the killer sufficed in bringing terror to people, but as these aesthetics are used consistently, movie goers have become desensitized to them, causing filmmakers to have to intensify the subject matter they show onscreen. This is what helped affirm the subgenre known as ‘torture porn’. Torture porns are often characterized as not being as concerned with the plot as it is with how graphic and gory its kill scenes are. The spurt of blood is suppose to be equivalent to that of the money shot in porn (Edelstein 1). It is for these reasons that there is much controversy surrounding this subgenre of horror films, asking if this type of filmmaking should even be considered art and/or is worth mentioning in our history of films. Besides the excessive amount of blood shown, torture porns share attributes such as not really having the traditional ‘killer popping out and making you jump in your seat’ kind of scare. Most of the terror that comes from these movies is just the disturbing content of people being dismembered. They also tend to have a deeper meaning to them and show some of the moral dilemmas humans face on a day-to-day basis. In this way and others, they reflect on our society today. Torture porns can go as further proof for the famous Stanley Milgram obedience to authority experiment. In this experiment, test subjects are ordered to push buttons that they are told will send a shock of a certain amount of voltage to a person in the room next to them. Once the voltage level of the shocks reach a certain point, the people can actually hear the person in the other room crying out in pain due to the shocks. They are instructed to continue increasing the voltage, which most do, some even have a slight smirk on their face at this point. What the test subjects do not know is that no one is actually receiving these shocks and that the groans of pain they hear are really just a recording. This case study is important to this point because it proves man’s capability of inducing pain, especially in a high stress situation. The stakes are raised higher in the circumstances of the Saw movies by having the other person’s life at stake, but it is still interesting to see man’s quickness to choose his life over another’s. These films are great examples as to how perfectly sane people can resort to hurting other human beings out of anger, revenge, fear, survival, or sport. In a scene from Hostel, the character Paxton has his cell phone stolen by kids just after he has started to realize he cannot find his friends. Out of anger, Paxton grabs one of the kids and starts strangling him. Once he realizes what he is doing, he lets the kid go. This first hints that this character is capable of inflicting pain on another. It becomes completely clear at the end when Paxton is making his escape and he notices his friend’s killer. Out of pure revenge, Paxton decides to follow the man, cut off his fingers, and then kill him. In a post 9/11 world,...
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