The following post contains mature content including language, themes, and images. To avoid fainting keep repeating: It's only an article.... It's only an article.... It's only an article...
"Who will survive and what will be left of them?" questions the 1974 theatrical poster of the cult classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, written and directed by Tobe Hooper. Initially, the tag line alludes to the obvious dismemberment of the human body. It implores the viewer to imagine the bizarre and brutal ways in which the "chainsaw massacre" portion of the title will be employed. After viewing, it is apparent the tag line is more clever than previously anticipated as there exist fates worse than death. Having survived the attack of a chainsaw wielding maniac is a true testament to the resilience of the human psyche, but what truly is left of a person after such a traumatic experience?
Upon its release, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was negatively reviewed and abhorred by critics due to its depiction of brutal violence. The film was banned in several countries because of its graphic content. Despite backlash, the film succeeded as a character study on the insanity and depravation of morality. Years after its theatrical run, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is now positively reappraised as one of the best horror films in history as well as being credited with originating integral elements in the slasher genre.
The most prominent archetype is embodied in actress Marilyn Burns, who portrays Sally Hardesty, the original final girl. The sexual politics of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are deeply imbedded into its subtext, allowing the explicit cannibalism to take center stage. Still, after removing the layers of barbarity, the story is an allegorical feast that represents the horror of America post Vietnam, correlating the sinister divide between the higher economic branches of society and the rural wasteland of the Midwest.
Peeling back the skin of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1978's Halloween bared its bones as a simplistic approach to the slasher genre. Decades after its release, John Carpenter's third directorial effort is still considered to be the genesis of the modern slasher movie. Its premise revolves around Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), a timid and sexually inexperienced teenager tasked with babysitting a neighbor's child on Halloween night. Coincidentally, convicted killer Michael Myers is also returning home to exact his revenge.
The approach to sexuality in regards to femininity is more conventional in Halloween than in Texas Chainsaw, for the movie truly serves as an account of the progression in social standards for the decade. Still, the notion of sexual intercourse and its consequences are treated with respect and presented with high regards to ethics. The nudity depicted in the film is not objectified but provides an intelligent juxtaposition between the exhilaration of coitus and the horrific thrill of being chased by an assailant with a big knife. Is it a coincidence? Not so. In many cases the phallic symbolism of the murder weapon showcases the savagery of man. In contrast Halloween empowers the female form as women are nurturing and resilient in nature.
Regressing from the high standard of storytelling originated by Halloween, Friday the 13th favored a higher body count and the exploitation of the female anatomy. The franchise became notably iconic for diluting the social commentary on sex, drugs, and adulthood and in 1980 transformed the slasher movie into a soft core porn event with boobs and blood.
There is an art to the straightforward approach of Friday the 13th, and yet Jason Voorhees serves as a composite metaphor for the recklessness of youth. Don't have sex or you will die. Don't do drugs or you will die. Despite his absurd conception and inconsistent origin story, Jason is a moral crusader that relentlessly kills those who sin and ignore their unethical behavior. This idea is interesting, but unfortunately the movie relies too much on its surface scares to actually impact on a deeper level. Director Sean S. Cunningham has never shied away from admitting that the Friday franchise was never more than just a skin flick that delved into sporadic violence because he wanted to make easy money.
Friday the 13th set the bar low for slashers to come, each one more degrading than the last, resulting in countless productions of forgettable imitators. After all, being stranded in the woods with nothing but sex and booze to occupy time is a quick cash grab that elicits horny teenagers.
Amidst the decreasing quality of horror movies in the mid 80s, Wes Craven resurrected the mainstream slasher with A Nightmare on Elm Street aided by the most iconic, modern horror movie villain of all time, Freddy Krueger. This franchise is set in fantasy, allowing wider range and more creative kills as Freddy stalks his victims in their dreams. What sets this film apart from any other in the golden age of slasher movies is that it does not rely on sex to sell its premise. Although a lot of action takes place in the bedroom, it is sleeping as opposed to sleeping with someone that fuels the narrative. In addition, Nancy Thompson, the final girl, is a fleshed out character with a clear motive and resilient strength that makes her memorable. She overcomes her adolescent insecurities while struggling with sleep depravation and a supernatural serial killer because she is intelligent. All of the final girls in Friday the 13th were dispensable and interchangeable as they had no defining characteristics or ambitions, but thankfully actress Heather Langenkamp was able to provide Nightmare with an iconic and memorable performance that truly brought the genre back to basics.
Sex is as powerful as it is universal. It is a gratification that motivates individuals to act and behave erratically, but most of all sex sells. It is a primal instinct that drives pleasure and pain, blurring lines between fact and fiction. It is a surreal experience that beguiles and torments. It is essential for evolution and sustainability, but it also weakens judgement and places individuals in a most vulnerable state: Shameful nudity. That is the true essence of horror.
This inherent fear is embodied with tenacity in Clive Barker's Hellraiser, an elaborate tale of bloodlust and lascivious, carnal pleasures. The slashers preceding Hellraiser were grounded in a skewed reality that separated the sex appeal of nubile women and the barbarian masculinity of serial killers. Clive Barker's movie however, is a mature rendition of the genre, sexualizing the male body and stripping it of any humanity, fully relying on animal instinct for survival. Hellraiser is an erotic ode to our perverse mentality, our fantasies and the fetishes that are the source of our agony. As creatures of sin we cannot contain our desire to deviate from normality. The frailty of femininity and its symbolism of purity ultimately prevail over evil.
As a society we are fixated with sex and the horror genre has perfected the art of exploiting this as a means to sell movie tickets and motivate a crowd mainly composed of males to root for more. But in a world where pornography is easily accessible on our mobile devices is it truly necessary anymore? There has been a decline in the nudity shown in mainstream horror movies in the 2000s with popular franchises like Saw and Paranormal Activity relying on torture or found footage to enthrall viewers. Regardless, it is undeniable that sex and naked men and women have always been an integral part of the genre, but why is this?
Through the analysis made utilizing the five major slasher franchises, it can be concluded that sex represents a connection to our mortality. By removing lust as a factor for engaging in sex, the act itself is a means of survival, to reproduce.
Horror movies such as Cabin Fever or Final Destination 3 utilize nudity in a discomforting way that causes the viewer to chastise their perversion after witnessing the demise of a character.
In the essence of Friday the 13th, many slashers continue to push the envelope by exploiting sex on screen, specifically females. Is it fun? Perhaps. Ultimately, it is a disservice to females by promoting rape culture. When viewed in the most simplistic manner, most horror films represent just that...a relentless man chasing a young, beautiful woman who wants to stab her with an extension of his virility, drenching her in sweat, tears, and body fluids.
Is this action cheap payoff? Yes, most definitely. But it's also educational. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to horror, but there is a matter of taste. Personally, I prefer subtlety over underdeveloped excuses for TNA. What is the incitement behind these gratuitous scenes? Misogyny? A struggle between power and control? Anti feminism? Torture porn movies such as Hostel: Part II and Piranha 3D never aim to hide these assets. They savor in their oppression of women, treating them like objects whose only purpose is to trigger ejaculation.
This enigma will continue to plague movie theaters as long as sex remains relevant, and in truth that will be always. However, every so often there comes a movie that takes our cultural infatuation with sex and employs it in a narrative that is sleek and sophisticated. 2014's [It Follows](tag:1474803) is astutely written as a horrifying allegory for sexually transmitted diseases that does not seek to abuse women. Instead, the film holds them equally responsible for the carelessness of premarital and unprotected sex. The best horror movies are the ones that engage in subtext that harnesses our most primordial fears. Nudity, exploitation, and sex do not make a classic film, but if used in an insightful and innovative way, can enterprise a reevaluation of principles. Otherwise such ignorant films only stand to terrorize more than the monsters they purportedly slay.