A gut reaction to movie gore
Grisly mutilation on the big screen has become a nasty game of one-upmanship.
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You could argue that gore serves different purposes in different kinds of movies. But, whether the dangling guts are there to make a thematic point or because the target audience demands mangled flesh in its entertainment, the filmmakers are crossing the line for the same reason: to get a visceral reaction. The line drifts further away every time one of them crosses it, though, and the next auteur has to invent a more grotesque atrocity to get the same reaction.Skip to next paragraph
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This is not to say that I wish Hollywood would return to the days of "The Sound of Music." Still, I respect and appreciate directors who, when they deal with violence, make their point artfully, without positioning the camera for maximum horror. (Consider, for example, the violent but masterly D-Day sequence in 1998's "Saving Private Ryan.")
Film violence as catharsis?
It would be possible, I suppose, to defend all this dismemberment by calling it a rejection of society's false, smothering politeness. You could argue that these filmmakers want to force their audiences to confront the violence that really exists in the world and inside our heads.
The more our culture requires us to be good all the time, to behave ourselves and respect the rights of others – even if we can't stand them – the more we seek outlets for the aggression that has been forced underground.
Film violence as catharsis: It's a plausible argument, but I'm not buying it. I don't think people have an innate need to see this stuff. They're just going to see whatever's playing.
In the quest to create indelible images, filmmakers have gotten in the habit of taking a sleazy shortcut. Grisly mutilation has become a nasty game of one-upmanship.
By shoving brutality in our faces, filmmakers push our culture in an ugly direction. I don't want to see a young man tortured with a drill, or an eyeball getting cut out ("Hostel," 2006) – and, to be blunt and un-American, I wish other people didn't want to see those things, either.
Apparently, though, they do: "Hostel" grossed more than $140 million in its first month. I guess fans wanted an extreme experience, something that would knock them out of their seats with fear and shock and never be boring – unlike school/work/life at home. What bothers me more than my own nausea is that violent entertainment has become so much a part of the mainstream that my children are growing up accepting it as a norm.
I wish I could persuade all the filmmakers in the world to leave the splatter behind and go a different way – but that's not going to happen until they start losing money at the box office.
Amazingly, that actually seems to be happening. The New York Times reported in June that horror movies like "Hostel II" are selling far fewer tickets than in the past. The likeliest explanation: not public revulsion, but boredom.
Apparently, even horrendous atrocity gets tiresome after endless repetition.