June 8 marks a gloomy day on the summer movie calendar — the opening at your local multiplex of “Hostel 2,” the latest in a genre variously known as “torture-porn” or “gorno.” In recent years we’ve seen a glut of these – the “Saw” movies, and the remake of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” for example – that feature prolonged and extremely graphic scenes of people being tortured. Needless to say, these go well beyond the old Freddie and Jason drive-in slasher junk from the 70s and 80s.
The “Hostel” films deal with dumb Americans who are lured into a death trap in which wealthy sadists pay large sums to torture and kill them. Sunday’s LA Times Calendar section offered a breezy article (called “A Queasy Does It Guy”) about Eli Roth, the director of both “Hostel” films, and featured a full page ad showing the anguished face and shoulders of a bound and gagged nude woman hanging upside down, neck veins bulging, mucus draining from her nose. Today’s LA Times ad shows a hulky guy in a leather suit, holding a drill.
For the record, I have not seen any of these films. I will not watch them or their previews. I don’t want these images in my brain. It’s all I can do to read the reviews, or the above-noted article, which are disturbing enough.
That being said, there are several things that make me hostile about “Hostel” and other torture porn films:
These films get an R rating instead of an NC-17 — shame on the MPAA. Their target audience is young males, who are being desensitized to horrific, personal violence. They make obscene amounts of money, which is a sure sign of the decline of civilization. They play at your neighborhood multiplex, where kids will sneak in when the ushers aren’t looking, or (worse) where idiot parents will bring younger children with them because they can’t find a sitter. After they have had their way with theater audiences, thousands of copies of these films (usually in “unrated” versions, and God help us with what those contain) will be bought by people who apparently enjoy watching torture over and over. At least some of these fools will be careless about where they leave their DVDs, and so horrific images will be seared into the brains of other young viewers when their parents, or whoever is in charge of them, aren’t paying attention.
Far too many mainstream critics give Eli Roth and the other “splat-pack” directors a pass, as long as they show some cinematic style. The Sunday Times article also noted that Roth has blamed President Bush for torture horror films, claiming that the “Hostel” films are “political commentary” and that they are “art responding to a world of ugly violence and a country disdainful of other cultures.” No, Mr. Roth, they are actually dehumanizing exploitative crap.
A few final thoughts:
People who enjoy torture porn movies should get counseling – immediately.
Those who make and profit from these films are sucking the life out of our culture.
I would love to see a major theater chain demonstrate some integrity and refuse to show this stuff. (They won’t show sexual porn, so why do they show torture porn?) Better yet, I would love to see this film utterly tank at the box office.
In my dreams.
Ask me how I really feel…