Throughout time, movie buffs have been subjected to good and bad films. True fans of cinema, like me, will sit through nearly any movie. But, times have made it harder to do so. Some sub-genres are hardly recognizable anymore, like horror, and the so-called torture porn flicks that became mainstream in the mid 2000's. By definition, torture porn is sadomasochism. The torture part is obvious, but the porn part comes from a few things, such as people who get off on the suffering of others, and the exploitation of sex and violence. So, a gory movie with no bare skin and just buckets of blood spilled can still be considered torture porn if those watching get a rush from it. But usually, it's a marriage of gore and the overuse of nudity. To me, the importance of a motion picture is a combination of many things, such as good characters and story telling. Seeing everything down to the last breath a human being takes isn't necessary to me, you don't have to show everything to have a good movie. In fact, most masterpieces in the horror genre got by on their ability to scare their audiences without showing much of anything in terms of gore and/or the torture and murders. What has become of the horror genre when we categorize heart wrenching events on celluloid as torture porn instead of dramatic interpretations of non-horror historical and violent events?
Gore and torture have drastically evolved in not just horror films, but in all genres. The torture porn sub-genre dates back to at least the sixties, possibly even before then. With films like Blood Feast (1963), Two Thousand Maniacs (1964), and Color Me Red (1965), it's easy to see that a major slip into the deep depths of the macabre was inevitable. The 1970's gave birth to some of the most cruel movies ever put to film including Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left (1972) and I Spit on Your Grave (1978). Watching those films about torture and victimizing women can be hard to sit through, but what's even worse is how far the movies of today go. Motion pictures like Saw (2004), Turistas (2006), and Eli Roth's Hostel (2005) are so cruel, their only intent is to disturb and gross you out, not to entertain. I don't honestly know anyone who genuinely likes to watch people get their Achilles tendon cut, and thus the films of today are all about shock value. The gore and brutality scale has been overfilled so much that now it's drowning out any and all character development and decent storytelling. Everything is so elevated now that moviegoers have to have a higher tolerance of what they can withstand watching just to keep up with modern cinema. But who do we blame, ourselves for our lust of bloodshed and violence? Or is it the fault of those behind all the earlier films that helped callous us and prepare us for the standards of today?
Remakes are also to blame for the torture-porn genre getting out of hand. Take Piranha 3D (2010) for example. If you can take looking at an abundance of nudity and almost explicit bloodshed, you'll find it to be entertaining. But, is that what it's come down to nowadays? A lot of genre fans around the world like to watch movies with their moms. Most people who do this either skip modern horror and go see the comedy that's playing. Or if their at home, pop in a DVD of an older horror film just to avoid having their parent(s) grossed out, or to avoid an awkward moment shared between you and them. Though they don't get the credit deserved, there's a lot of good remakes out there that surpass their predecessors like, The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Maniac (2012) and I Spit on Your Grave (2010). These remakes integrated character growth, and genuine story along with violence. The problem with most modern remakes is the dilution of storytelling, and the increase of nudity and gore, like My Bloody Valentine (2009). The 1981 original, My Bloody Valentine, has a full cast of characters you like and can relate to, who all could be suspects in the Valentine's Day murders. However, the 3D remake cuts down most of the character development (and suspense) and goes straight for guts, gore, and nudity. Most remakes not only fail to exceed the originals, but they're totally unnecessary and are made to "update the story", like Carrie (2013). What's the point in an update of a story we already know, when it's made in lesser quality? Not to mention that most remakes used to happen every twenty to fifty years, and now it's as though remaking or rebooting (same thing, fancy term for tricking the viewer) a movie or a series is the common thing to do once the film hits maybe 10 years old. And, they're doing remakes of remakes! Like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and the terrible re-remake Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013), and now the 2006 Omen remake is getting a remake. It's a vicious cycle of bad writing and laziness and an easy way to fill pockets. With the remake trend growing, you would think that integrity and good story telling would be a priority over a gross-out fest full of dreadful and cringe worthy ways to disembowel or behead someone.
Mel Gibson is a controversial figure both because of his personal life and the films he directs which are notorious for vigorous violence, such as Apocalypto (2006) and Braveheart (1995). In 2004, Mel Gibson really brought heat on himself when he created the Bible epic, The Passion of the Christ. What really gets under my skin is the misconception of The Passion getting labeled as torture porn. It's the same type of misapprehension that goes along with The Exorcist (1973) winning a Golden Globe for best drama. The film credited as "the scariest movie of all time" wins a drama award? Clearly those saying it are ignorant and have no idea what torture porn/horror really is. I don't think that anyone can't say that the violence and amount of blood spilled in The Passion of the Christ is borderline atrocious, but there's no sex and no nudity in it at all, therefore it is not a torture porn movie. Torture porn is a combination of suffering along with sex and/or nudity, or with no nudity or sexuality, just the persecution of people(s) with no moral or purpose other than to witness their affliction. And, if you believe the story of Jesus to be true, then there's nothing wrong with the way the picture is portrayed. In the Bible, Jesus' death and beating were even worse. Some things were withheld from The Passion, such as Jesus' beard being ripped from his face and being mutilated beyond recognition. And if you don't believe in God or religion, it's just a fictional story about someone being tortured, which is the plot of countless horror films, or movies pulling the race card to exploit things such as slavery. The problem is that religion and racism are controversial in and of themselves. The fact that a movie depicting the final days of Christ is looked at as a bad thing, yet it is okay to show an African American girl get explicitly whipped in 12 Years a Slave (2013), is a double standard. Some could argue that it's a true story, and some could say the same about The Passion of the Christ. So, two wrongs don't make a right, and a double standard isn't tolerated as far as I'm concerned. It's either okay for all films to show certain things like people getting whipped or not. There should be no sympathy cards or excuses. Racist or not, religious or not, both films and those alike are historical epics and therefore should not be put into the same category as films like, The Collector (2009). 12 Years a Slave and The Passion of the Christ have more to them than just a pay off of someone being brutalized. They both are character driven and have a touching and meaningful moral to their story, which cannot be said about films in the torture porn sub-genre. What's uplifting about watching Saw?
Justifiably, I can understand why movies like The Passion of the Christ have been mislabeled. But mostly, it stems from the personal beliefs and the ignorance of moviegoers. However, the torture porn era has blinded most from understanding the true sense of what these movies are really about. Torture porns don't rely on a story based on characters, but instead center the story around the gore instead of just incorporating it. In the end, people will always have their own opinions, but in my eyes, a deep and gripping story doesn't need hundreds of gallons of blood poured over it to make its point, and people should see the difference.