ByScott Pierce, writer at Creators.co
Yell at me on Twitter: @gingerscott. Managing Editor at Moviepilot.
Scott Pierce

We've been told time and time again that the equivalent of the modern slasher, torture porn, was inspired by real life atrocities that happened during the Bush-Cheney years: 9/11, the Iraq War, Abu Ghraib, Halliburton. Domestic mistrust and torture were part of daily headlines from around the world for years. It was enough for us to declare that it was time to say goodbye to our horror icons like Michael Myers, but it wasn't enough for us to say that Captain Spaulding replaced him or the others.

Naturally, this dark, serious turning point in history is still ripe for cultural examination. How did it effect entertainment? How would these horrific true stories inspire the broad ripped-from-the-headlines pastiche that Law and Order wore as a badge of honor for years? The collective answer quickly poured out as gruesome scenes of extreme suffering. Characters were forced to slowly saw off their own arms. A man cut off someone's dangling, burned eyeball. A young woman was forced to wear the skin from her boyfriend's face. Even for a genre that reappears out of a dark corner faster than an undead Jason Voorhees, these images pushed boundaries in a way that we hadn't seen since the 1970s.

What's so intriguing about this dark period is how quickly directors like co-opted and relegated the headlines to their films in interviews, giving them significant importance as cultural examinations of our times. Even as recently as this year Roth expressed these beliefs, saying, "I think that horror films have a very direct relationship to the time in which they're made. The films that really strike a film with the public are very often reflecting something that everyone, consciously or unconsciously feeling – atomic age, post 9-11, post Iraq war; it's hard to predict what people are going to be afraid of." To a certain extent, this is obviously true. And maybe since film criticism has grown, we're more able to quickly assess how and when real world events have an impact on entertainment.

But the biggest misstep in this conversation is the complete failure to acknowledge how the home market - the rise of previously unreleased VHS and DVD horror films, full of audio commentary from the filmmakers in the box - influenced what horror movies are popular today and how we talk about the ones of the past. I believe the nostalgia for 1970s' grittiness in the 2000s was inspired more by archived films like The Hills Have Eyes, Prom Night, Dawn of the Dead, Halloween, Maniac, and the stylized violence of and getting wide distribution from companies like Anchor Bay, along with the fanboy culture that grew exponentially with the Internet in the mid-90s, than what the current crop of directors claim.

[[yt:waTkW-UFyl4]]

[[yt:dtR9Fxz2lng]]

After Scream perfected the self-referential era that was a response to the comical detour of beloved franchises like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, horror became parody. It wasn't scary. It was predictable. More than anything, nostalgia reigned supreme. We asked: "Remember when horror was gritty? We want that." We said that with our money and on forums. We wanted our horror icons to exist, but to be like they were. The studios heard and we got a slew of brutal remakes that did away with whatever number sequel we were on to get back to the shocking, abrasive quality that pushed our boundaries in the past instead of the compliance we grew accustomed to.

It's true that at their best movies like 's Texas Chain Saw Massacre were viewed as responses to the Vietnam War. However, even classic filmmakers have expressed that much of the importance given to their movies was circumstantial. Even if the radical casting of a black male as the lead in Night of the Living Dead, for example, made the film a commentary about race. But the reality is that Romero has expressed that this was just a coincidence. Still, the untimely death of Martin Luther King, Jr. made the film more significant in the long run.

Embracing the rawness of the 70s wasn't an evolution and response to the times. It was a business move. Instead of being subversive commentary like the slashers of the past made on a shoestring budget and released independently, these studio films were calculated moves to give fans the nostalgia factor, whether we wanted the original stories to be retold or not. We were sold something under the guise of a bloody renaissance that was really just a billion dollar precursor to BuzzFeed.

Hit me up below and on Twitter

Latest from our Creators