Forced retirement for the moronic term Torture porn

Some years ago, some snide critic coined the term “torture porn”- and probably smiles with smug satisfaction every time it’s used. Too bad for him he didn’t copyright it, which come to think of it, sounds like something Lloyd Kaufman would do.

“Torture porn” as most of you probably know, generally refers to what passes for hardcore horror movies these days, the kind that once earned the much catchier moniker of “splatter movies”. Typical examples are HOSTEL, WOLF CREEK and the SAW flicks. It seems to be taking hold as a more general (and derisive) term aimed at horror in general.

Equating horror -even its lesser entries- to porn, is clearly a way to undermine it as “legitimate” entertainment. But when a filmmaker puts a tale of torment and abuse on screen; the maniacal glee of the antagonist and the desperate terror and pain of the protagonist exposed for the world to see, it forces the viewers to ask some questions about themselves. It’s no coincidence that the issue of torture –so recently prevalent in the press due to incidents from both our side and the enemy- has found its way into popular media. It’s a good hard look at that part of human nature that is disgusting and pointless.

A decade ago, the idea that human beings would do these kinds of things to one another probably seemed rather far-fetched. So a well-insulated Hollywood churned out tongue-in-cheek, pretty-people-infested fear fare with nice quick death scenes for all the rising TV stars making a quick stop in our genre on their way to bigger things.

These days, not only are war and torture back in vogue, but the nation’s false-prophet president and his corporate/Christian administration have brought his formerly back-slidden constituency into the cold light of day, where they level accusations of a satanically inspired Hollywood corrupting our youth with an ever increasing onslaught of desensitizing and dehumanizing fare, with horror movies joining rap music -and porn- as the greatest offenders.

Horror writers, filmmakers, and fans are generally of a more free thinking bent (though I’ve met my share of horror ass clowns), so it’s only natural we’d rebel against the constraints imposed by a hypocritical and uninformed right. (And some on the left as well, let’s not leave them out.) Every time a Bill O’Reilly or Pat Robertson type hates on horror, they might as well be a commercial filmed in Hypno-vision. If it pisses off the parents, it’s a must see.

I “get” it: porn is only about sex, so torture porn must only be about torture. Nevermind what that says about our society’s attitudes toward sex. The implication is that we as patrons of these films enjoy torture. This term and its underlying argument are severely shortsighted, not to mention prejudiced and uninformed. The SAW films for example, carry more morality than a week’s worth of Old Time Gospel Hour re-runs, heavy-handed though they may be. Viewing the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE has converted many people to vegetarianism, including filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro.

Many modern hardcore horror films suck, and are geared toward the mistaken perception that a large number of moviegoers just want to see torture. Having skipped CAPTIVITY, and some of the other recent entries, I can’t comment on them in particular. But when I see producers posting want ads for “extreme, hardcore horror movies in the SAW and HOSTEL vein”, with nary a mention of story or characterization, I know that the suits have missed the point (or don’t care) and that that particular sub-genre is on its way to the back of the line.

At any rate, the term ‘torture porn’ -with all that it erroneously implies –belongs on the trash heap of disused and annoying colloquialisms, such as “Y2K” and “That’s hot.” So the next time you hear or read of someone perpetuating it… bring them to me, that I may chain them to a cold slab in my basement, and do unspeakable things to them with a power drill, a set of jumper cables, a rabid badger, and a hot glue gun. Boy, that’ll show ‘em.