Stephen King once wrote, in his seminal book on horror, Danse Macabre, “I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud” (Kaye 3). From the sequence of horror movies that have flooded the market over the past couple of years, it’s obvious that many of the filmmakers behind him aren’t too proud either. Horror cinema seems like it has become an ocean of gore, and the current trend has even gotten its own name: torture porn.
WHAT IS “TORTURE PORN”?
The term “torture porn” has little to do with real pornography. There is virtually no sexual activity involved, although the victims are usually nude or partially nude. Torture is defined by Dictionary.com as “the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty”. It expresses the idea that its viewers are intensely aroused by the sight of human bodies – usually young and quite often female that are getting torn into bloody chunks in the most awful ways imaginable (Williams 1). The next part of the term, porn, has nothing do to with what is going on onscreen and when placed alongside torture, has nothing to do with the definition of either word. Porn is a shortened form of pornography, which Dictionary.com defines principally as “…sexually explicit pictures, writings, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal.” Seeing a naked body onscreen isn’t extremely explicit or sexually arousing in many situations, especially if the nude is being hacked to pieces by a fictional serial killer with a prop knife.
In short, the characters in most well-known torture porn films are not usually developed enough to make us feel much sympathy for them; they’re simply, men and women, set up to be sliced apart. “There’s a definite distinction between being grossed out and being terrified and I think many filmmakers have lost sight of that”, says Ryan Rotten, managing editor of the horror Web Site ShockTilYouDrop.com (Kaye 3).
WHY WATCH “TORTURE PORN”?
According to Rafe Telsch, an assistant editor of Cinema Blend website:
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. A horror movie primarily serves to scare or horrify, to haunt someone long after they’ve watched, or terrify them while they are watching it.
However, in recent years, sadly, we are mostly seeing gore, more females, or should I say “hotties”, being tortured for most of the film, beaten, tied up, faces cut off, limbs cut off, legs caught in some kind of traps – and for what? The films serve little or no purpose in storytelling or character development. This is not horror, it does not scare or leave you scared to turn the light off, and the films end usually in an easily predicted way. Our generation is past desensitization after watching countless disgusting mutilations slowly destroy the human bodies onscreen. So, do torture porn movies really serve any purpose, other than to gross the audience out and put them off their food?
I personally cannot reason why movie audiences 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, torture, mutilate, maim, and kill innocent people and lock them away, even putting some to death. Nowadays, a group of filmmakers want to recreate that same...