Friday, July 21, 2017

Director Run-Through - George A. Romero (In Memorium)

Well, this is certainly one of the hardest blogs I've ever had to write, as this is one of the saddest occasions I've ever encountered as a movie fan. Today, in lieu of our regularly scheduled retrospective of Ghost Movies I was doing to celebrate Hungry Ghost Month, I'm putting that on hold to offer this memorial tribute to the works of George A. Romero, who was taken from us last Sunday, July 16, 2017.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

New update

New notice on the Additional Writing page, a review of Game of Death on for the Fantasia Festival 2017.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Random Article - A History of Ghost Movies, Part 2 (A)

So, last time I talked about ghost movies and what different styles there were in the genre, and it's time to get a little deeper into the style. Since we're still dealing with Hungry Ghost Month this time around, we'll go one at a time here and go through these different styles starting with the Haunting style.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Random Article: A History of Ghost Movies, Part 1

Well, it's time for another write-up here, and the one I've chosen for this blog is one of the biggest, most impactful genres in all of horror in the Ghost Movie.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Random Article - Remembering the Late-90s Teen Horrors

Welcome back to another writing piece here, and this time we're going to take a look at a maligned and basically ridiculed part of horror history. There are some defenders of these films out there, and I'm about to join them for the most part in saying that the late-90's teen-based horror films were nowhere near as bad as they've been given in the community.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Random Article - Father/Son (and Daughter) Horror Directors, Part 1

Welcome back to another entry here, and once again we're going topical for today's special post. Due to Sunday's rather special significance, I've decided on doing today's write-up on father-and-sons who were horror directors.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Franchise Run-Through: Toho's Dracula Films

So, welcome back to another entry here. We're going to be taking a look today at a collection of films that form a loose trilogy of efforts that are going to be tentatively dubbed Toho's Dracula Saga.

Now, usually, this is the part of the write-up where I give a long description why I'm doing this series, and the answer to that is incredibly strange. The answer here is that a Facebook group that I'm in decided to run streams of various Japanese horror films involving Universal monster adaptations in celebration of the upcoming reboot of The Mummy, and with my being stumped for a blog entry for the week and not having seen the films before, this seemed like a perfect fit. That's really that called me into doing this write-up, so I don't have anything else to say about my history with these films or even why I'm doing it this week. I had heard of them but never seen them, they were available to watch for the first time, I was unsure of what to write about, the end.

With that rather interesting tidbit done, let's learn a little more about the series. Considering the time period of their start as well as the overall look and layout of the films themselves, they are clearly inspired by the Hammer series of horror films being produced during that time, as the first film Horror of Dracula was released in 1958 and would've reached Japan long before the time this one started up, and even some of the later sequels would've made it to their shores by the date the first one was made. Considering the success they were enjoying throughout the world, both financially and critically, as well as the fact that Toho Studios had a long history of success in American theaters with their films, it makes sense that they're willing to dabble in their own brand of imitations.

That is indeed an important note to make here, in that these films were all done by Toho Studios. The legendary home of the original Godzilla movies as well as countless other films throughout their existence including works from many of the most revered and respected Japanese directors and actors. In fact, working on the technical side of these films were many of the special effects technicians during the series' 70s adventures, while the main cast includes several faces that popped up in a Godzilla film or two. That gives these some familiar ground to help ease these films along as they're startlingly more western than would be expected.

That is one of the more surprising issues with these films as a whole since I really haven't discussed them much as a whole yet.  Filled with traditional Western-style houses, replete with wooden staircases, furniture more accommodating to a Western audience and utilizing familiar Gothic tropes in storylines and appearance, from the ladies walking around in flowing nightgowns, the incorporation of coffins and chest-staking in the plots and the imagery throughout the film all come together into these films for the first time in Japanese cinema. That is a big part of the historical importance in these films is that they're the first attempts of Japanese genre filmmaking to make films openly taking advantage of outside influences as the history of their films had been decidedly against that trend.

From the early days of Akira Kurosawa and Hiroshi Inagaki making period dramas and folklore-inspired fantasies throughout the 40s and 50s to the work of Ishiro Honda and Jun Fukuda who started incorporating fantasy and horror into their films, an overwhelming amount of work in Japanese cinema had been aimed for local audiences and were decidedly Japanese in tone and appearance. While Honda's Godzilla films, and to a lesser extent the Gamera series as well, were popular overseas outside of Japanese cinema there were few instances of films being made that specifically broached that topic until this series started up and it sparked a minor movement in Japanese cinema that brought more outside influences into their filmmaking. Unfortunately, a nationwide oil crisis and a booming explosion of popularity in television-based shows crippled that before it really began, yet the seeds were sown and it felt a small ripple across the filmmaking community based on the success of these films taking on a more Western-based sense of familiarity.

Now, that being said the films themselves are striking underseen here in America even with these influences more than readily appealing to our audience. The first film is still unofficially unreleased here with no official dub-track ever recorded for it and never given any kind of official home video release, existing as subtitled bootlegs found at conventions or tape-trading to this day. The two sequels, though, are known to have a dub-track attached to them but also manage feature no official home video release on DVD or Blu-Ray. Parts 2 and 3 were released on VHS in the mid-90s on cropped, pan-and-scan format with their dub-tracks but that has been their only release to date here in the US. An import set from Japan does exist, but that's long out-of-print with a 2005 street-date and has more-than-likely resulted in the series being ignored to this day. It's definitely worth the time to revisit them and rediscover this rather unconventional approach from the country.

And with that, let's get to know these efforts.

Legacy of Dracula (Yûrei yashiki no kyôfu: Chi wo sû ningyô, or The Night of the Vampire, Fear of the Ghost House: Bloodsucking Doll)

This was a highly enjoyable and interesting effort. The main thing here is the fact that this one really piles on the Gothic ambiance and atmosphere throughout here, going for a much more Western tone and set-up than would be expected to come from the country. With the large layout of the mansion and the way it's decorated, the feel is a lot more of a familiar one rather than being distinctly Japanese, and with the expansive mansion grounds visible under the burning moonlight, the eerie fog-enshrouded grounds and straightforward storyline it's quite a chilling Gothic horror effort. The touches of Japanese culture in here, from the bizarre camera angles to the distorted visuals and sense of despair and loneliness do add a great feel here by mixing together both cultures rather nicely which gives this a fantastic blend of both styles in one effort. Along with some nice action and a bit of creepiness from the main vampire leads this one has some solid points going for it over the flaws. There are some pacing issues with the middle of the film being about the investigation into what happened which does counteract some of the vampire action, but nonetheless, there's a lot to enjoy here. (9/10)

Lake of Dracula (Noroi no yakata: chi o suu me, or Bloodsucking Eyes, Dracula's Lust for Blood)

This was a decent enough if slightly flawed vampire effort. What this one gets right is mostly the buildup of the vampire in the area in the first half which is rather nicely done. Building the strange crate delivery alongside her arrival at the same time is quite nicely handled, and the first attacks, as well as the discovery of their aftermath, comes off rather well as the mystery starts to unfold. Once it's confirmed that there are vampires involved, things pick up far more here with the Gothic action scenes really enhancing this one, as this one becomes far more energetic and frightening knowing that there's a powerful figure out there trying to get them so it really works nicely especially with all the brawling and confrontations in the final half which make this a lot more engaging than earlier. It's just bogged down way too much by a slow and uninteresting first half before that's not really all that exciting regardless of how well it builds up the storyline. While it mixes the Eastern and Western scenarios a little better, overall it does come up a little short. (7.5/10)

Evil of Dracula (Chi o suu bara, or Bloodsucking Rose)

This was a highly enjoyable and engaging effort in the series. What tends to give this one a lot of it's best qualities is the fact that there's quite a creepy atmosphere developed from the very start as the Gothic atmosphere becomes a focus quite early on. Even going with a more Western-familiar backstory for the main villain trying to tie in a religious-heavy backstory to his creation while still staying rooted in Japanese lore which gives this quite a traditional feel overall. With some strong action scenes, quite chilling vampires and a rousing action-packed brawl in the finale that ends this on a high note, there's enough to like here to hold this one up over it's few minor flaws. The film's biggest issue is the focus on overlong, rather dull dialogue-heavy scenes to tell a vast majority of its plot points, leaving this one to feature a rather jerking pace where it's fast and frantic then somewhat slower right after. (8.25/10)

And of course, it's now time to rate them:
1. Legacy of Dracula (9)
2. Evil of Dracula (8.25)
3. Lake of Dracula (7.5)

And with that, time to end this one. Thanks for reading, and we'll see you next time.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Franchise Run-Through - Universal’s Frankenstein Series

So, we're back for another effort, and this time we're going to talk about one of the classic series in the genre which is one of the most iconic and influential series in the entire genre. Today, we're going to talk about the Universal series of Frankenstein films.

Now, usually I go through an extended setup regarding the history of the chosen franchise and its impact, but rather I'll skip that instead for several reasons. One, I have bigger and better plans in the future regarding this series as well as many other adaptations to turn that into one huge article about the novels' adaptations over the years which is of more pressing concern for retelling a lot of the history and influence. As well, there's also the fact that this one manages to have such a complex and twisting backstory throughout it's production and release that detailing all of it in this blog would render it twice the length that I would like to keep it to for these kinds of articles as, lastly, I've been fighting back a cold for most of the week and researching the whole of it is a little more than I can handle for the week.

Instead, then, we're going to skip over that section and instead go for the personal history of the series. Now, this is one that I have had quite a confusing watch-history for the series as I came to Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein first when that aired as part of a celebration of their work on TV right around the time I started getting into the genre back in the late 90s. After this one, I got to the original and Bride rather quickly, but then it took me years to catch another franchise entry which actually ended up being the back-to-back efforts House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, then about a month later, Son showed up on TV. Lastly, it took me picking up the original Franchise Legacy collection set to finally get to Ghost as that, ironically, was the reasoning for buying that first DVD set. So, as you can see this is a rather odd take to get through the franchise as a whole which is why I love discussing that type of personal history.

And now, onto the films themselves.


Frankly, this still one of the more important and impressive films in the genre. This one still retains its power with the legendary resurrection scene that comes off as incredibly exciting even before the creature stirs beneath the sheets which are still some of the most visually-arresting and chilling scenes in the genre. Taking plenty of advantage of the opulent Gothic sets, filled with all manner of electronic gadgets and fanciful equipment which really brings out the grand location as the second half goes into the great scenes of them attempting to control it in the laboratory which proves incredibly difficult with his violent tendencies and begins lashing out at them forcing the need to dispose of it before it escapes which is where there's plenty of fun to be had here with the creature loose in the countryside generating more solid fun. Finally, the action-packed spectacle that is the finale is one of the best in the genre with its full-scale hunting of the creature leading to the big battle at the windmill where not only is there the torch-wielding mob to contend with but also the brawling of the doctor that makes for a rather spectacular finish needed in this kind of movie. Though it gets a little slow at places with the final half with the atrocious dance number and lack of creature scenes featured, there's a lot to really like in this one. (10/10)

Bride of Frankenstein

This here was quite the exceptional sequel. Much like the original, this one exploits the concepts of life and death only to a much greater degree here. The central scene in the hermits' cottage emphasizes this quite effectively with the monster able to show compassion and friendship despite not having any need for doing so based on previous experience, and the concept of this shows this off far better than anything possible out there to attempt this and offers a great side to him that wasn't possible before hand. While this here is quite fun, the fact that there's such a plentiful amount of action here gives this a fantastic pace as there's the absolutely spectacular opening, the following chase through the woods showing the villagers forcing him through the area is really exciting as the halting chases are utterly enjoyable as he escapes several times leading to even more encounters and the film's main centerpiece sequence with the Bride at the finale. There's so much to really love with the intensity of the creature matching the original and it lifting off the table elicits the same eerie chills, and with it again playing into the life and death there's absolutely crazy finale in the castle tower which is the explosive, frenzied spectacle of the whole place coming and burying everything inside which is rather fun. Alongside the fine monster makeup for both creatures, these here are what make this one hold up incredibly well. There's only one flaw here, which is that the Bride comes into play so late in the film and doesn't really do much that it seems almost like an afterthought as there's so little screen time that it doesn't have much to do beyond its appearance. This here is what really holds it back. (10/10)

Son of Frankenstein

This here was quite the fun if overlong effort. It still holds up rather nicely with the great creature discovery and the detailed work to get him back to life as the scenes in the laboratory trying to get him repaired give this some nice scenes here. As well, once it gets the creature out this one has plenty of fun with the rampage through the castle at the end following the energetic brawl which really ends this one on a nice note. Filled to the brim with opulent Gothic atmosphere as the strange house makes for a chilling location for all the action throughout here, it does have some nice pluses here which brings this up over the fact that what really short-changes this one is the extremely long running time that slows this one considerably as the build-up to getting the creature to live again really feels way too drawn-out. Though settling the issue of what's going on and getting many of the story lines set up, the fact that it goes into overdrive with the detail of the villagers' distrust of him and their coldness towards the family as well as settling into the castle and preparing to reanimate the creature as there's quite a long time here before anything happens and altogether drags this one out far longer than it really should've been. The endless banter between everyone in the final half is a little much as well, but on the whole, it's still got some good points here. (8.25/10)

Ghost of Frankenstein

This is a surprisingly enjoyable and effective entry in the series. What really gives this one a lot to like is the fact that it's got far more action scenes than expected, really offering up a far more engaging plot than expected which is exceptionally fun. The first half has a lot of exciting scenes, and once it gets to the village scenes the return of his sympathetic side gives these some surprising pathos that holds this up quite nicely. The brain-swapping and double-crossing that carries it on through the frantic finale is another big plus and makes the film much more enjoyable as it holds it up over the flaws. Once again, we have villagers who seem fine with the family arriving and then start flipping between being outraged at their presence or ignoring them all together which is pretty inconsistent, yet it's not a huge detriment to it in any way. (9/10)

House of Frankenstein

Overall this one wasn't all that bad but did have some flaws. What this one really does well is to celebrate the big action usually required in the genre, featuring plenty of great moments here with the initial resurrection, the rampage through the woods and the high-energy finale in the castle at the end which is exceptionally fun using the atmosphere of the area to great effect. Given that there's a lot to like here with the transformation sequences features a rather startling amount of great special effects work on getting each of the monsters a big shining moment. It does have a few flaws, in that the dropping of one of the monsters halfway through is a bit of a mistake, making it seem the creature is an afterthought and turning the film into a strange conglomeration of featuring one monster for half the movie and then switching gears with the others for the remaining half. Even giving up the rather familiar turn of the off-screen kills done in silhouette which does get a little old here, this one does have some nice positives that are held down somewhat. (7.75/10)

House of Dracula

This was a rather decent effort in the series. When this one works, it's due to the rather impressive idea of having the concept of vampirism as a blood disease that can be transferred to a person rather than letting it be considered a more traditional variation of using it as a form of feeding on people. That this takes up a majority of the first half gives this a unique feel before turning over to the monster action in the second half where pretty much every one of the monsters gets a lot of screentime to really shine and moves this along at a much more frantic clip. There are several issues which do hold this back, which starts with the flimsy plot that makes no sense why the creatures are coming together and seems to just have them out for the sake of getting them on-screen. With a disappointing finale that doesn't really excite as much as possible and a lot of the special effects work looks a little flimsy that holds it back, this one is quite decent overall. (7.25/10)

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

This is one of the greatest horror comedies ever made. What makes this so much fun is the fact that this one allows the duo plenty of familiar reign for their traditional comedy, which is wholly enjoyable here. Keeping the monsters serious and instead featuring their broad comedic chops in the initial reactions to the creatures as well as the just hilarious sight gags and wordplay that are part and parcel of their routines. Given the fact that it mixes these two themes together, from the great slapstick to startling monster action, gives this one a lot to really enjoy here makes this stand out so well here even before getting to the amazing action in the finale as the big finish at the castle gives it a strong, high-energy way to finish. About the only flaw here is to be found with those that don't prefer this kind of effort with their slapstick routines and generally fast-paced comedic timing which is possible to find but is really the only thing to do that can knock this down. (10/10)

And as usual, the ranking of the series is as follows:

1. Frankenstein (10)
2. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (10)
3. Bride of Frankenstein (10)
4. Ghost of Frankenstein (9)
5. Son of Frankenstein (8.25)
6. House of Frankenstein (7.75)
7. House of Dracula (7.25)

And with that, we're done. Hopefully, I'll do a little more as I'll be back to full health by then. Thanks for reading, and see you all next time.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Franchise Run-Through - Final Destination

Time for another entry today, and this time we're taking a look at yet another franchise that I have managed to get through in its entirety which is one of the most important parts of going through these retrospectives. Today, we're going to look at the franchise Final Destination.

As usual, that means we start at the beginning and how the franchise got its start. The original idea was written by Jeffrey Reddick as a spec script for The X-Files in order to get a TV agent. "I was actually flying home to Kentucky and I read a story about a woman who was on vacation and her mom called her and said, 'Don’t take the flight tomorrow, I have a really bad feeling about it.’ She switched flights and the plane that she would have been on crashed," said Reddick. "I thought, that’s creepy; what if she was supposed to die on that flight?"

Building on his idea, Reddick wrote the script and got an agent, but never submitted the script to the show after a colleague at New Line Cinema suggested he write it as a feature film. One of the biggest misconceptions about the project is that it was based on the real-life disaster of TWA Flight 800 that occurred in 1996. Like in the movie, the TWA disaster involved a Boeing 747 that exploded after take-off from JFK International Airport in New York en route to Paris. Moreover, five chaperones and sixteen high school students from Montoursville, Pennsylvania, were aboard the doomed flight, heading to Paris with their high school French club. The TV spec script for The X-Files, however, was actually written in 1994. New Line Cinema bought Jeffrey's treatment and hired him to write the original draft of the script, which featured Death as an unseen force. After the script was finished, New Line Cinema submitted the script to directors, including writing partners James Wong and Glen Morgan. Both writers were willing to make it into a film, although they rewrote the script to comply with their standards.

Now, there are some other interesting tidbits to speak out about in terms of the franchise. One of the most prominent aspects of the first film to come out was the media's insistence on calling these particular type of films under the title 'Dead Teenager Movies,' which was denoted to mean that a cast that was deemed to be 'teenagers' in mortal peril with a general aim directly at the teens they were supposedly portraying. They were intended to be slick, glossy studio productions filled with a glamorous, appealing cast of recognizable and up-and-coming faces that are put into peril and forced to battle a big deadly threat as a result. A pretty popular term at the time of its release, this term was designated to appeal to films that basically equate to sheer stupidity on the stars to force themselves into dangerous situations where they're graphically killed in over-the-top manners which are what the sole purpose of the film is clearly built around. Although there were a few earlier films retconned into the genre afterward, it took off after the release of this film as the term grew in popularity based on the success of the film, and while it's no longer as impacted as it was in the heyday a few films trickle out ever year or so which is what keeps the term in use. Likewise, this is also one of the few genres to display a sense of humor within the genre by having every single character granted with a surname to have one designated from a horror film director. Not all characters have one, but those that do have one taken from the genres' past which is a somewhat nice, humorous touch.

Now, as for my personal history with these films, again there's not a whole lot to tell here. This one went pretty much straight-on through in order of release, although there's one rather intriguing bit of useless trivia here with the franchise as part 1 was the first horror film I ever bought personally on VHS. I did have films on VHS before I bought that one, but part 1 is the first one I actually bought with my own money rather than accepting a trade-off from a friend or stealing it from my school's library, which did happen once and I actually found a replacement copy of that film back on the shelf a week later as the clerk that actually forgot if they had it or not and didn't even know that was in the system so no harm was done. However, beyond that, there's not a whole lot else to say here as this one has quite a simple story, a franchise where I've seen the entire series of entries in the order of their release without any skipped over or missed out on.

So, with that out of the way, let's get on with the films.

Final Destination

This here ended up being quite the impressive and enjoyable effort. Among the numerous qualities here is the fact that there's a lot of high-quality suspense here since there's a lot of focus on the ploy of not knowing when and where Death is going to strike. That makes a big part of the film about the accidental nature of the setups here, so the random strikes and future visions here become all that more impressive and chilling while managing to offer the kind of necessary action-packed sequences that keep the pace charging along. Along with the strong manner of storyline tactics that bring about the way it portrays the character of Death and some solid gory kills, these here make this enjoyable enough to hold out over the film's lone flaw. There's almost nothing to like here about the federal investigation which gets tiring with all the different interludes fingering him without too much real info to do that with. This does bring it down somewhat but is the only real issue here. (9.25/10)

Final Destination 2

This one was an immensely enjoyable sequel that really rivals the original. Among the better qualities here is that this one manages to really portray a truer sense of dread and suspense about the situation. This one really bridges that concept about the surroundings really affecting everyday life from the first one even further here by making the accidents seem that they're simply, truly accidents brought about through actual, honest coincidences. This is compounded by the tendency to showcase the warning signs as the suspenseful nature of these supposed encounters is incredible foreshadowing on what's going to happen, and the fact that there are some rather creepy moments from these issues makes this quite fun. The film's best feature, though, is based off the most impressive part of the story here in its really freaky action-packed encounters here that really give this one plenty of impressive, stylized sequences which are a huge step-up from the original. Along with the fun, over-the-top kills that are present here these here are the film's good points which hold off the few flaws here. It's all in the finale here which really seems to meander around with numerous side-plots, rather middling suspense scenes and the rare occasions where the traps just seem contrived and the whole affair seems to be quite the letdown from what came before it. Otherwise, this one was quite the impressive enough sequel. (9.5/10)

Final Destination 3

Overall this was quite an enjoyable and wholly entertaining part of the series. Like with the others, what really works well here is the setup for the initial premonition, as the scenery at the carnival is quite well-handled and really amps up the suspense in here. There's also the film's best part here with its spectacular action scenes really carrying this one along with the absolutely thrilling crash scene that comes off incredibly well and even plausible as to how the crash could occur in real like taken to an extreme, and the later encounters offers plenty of big action. There's also plenty of tension throughout here with all the different potential hazards at play before getting to the crazy death scenes, and along with the usual high-quality gore for the kills, these here make this one quality enough to hold off the few small flaws here. The main issue here is that there's very little set-up for the kills which are just so quick and over so briefly that they don't have much in the way of suspense about them. This is compounded by the other factor here with the lame mystery about the photographs not being all that well-handled and it just doesn't have much intrigue about them. These here are what hold this one down. (8.75/10)

The Final Destination

This one wasn't that bad. Aside from several personal indiscretions the film, like the blatant and retarded 3D gags, woeful CGI and sloppiness merely there to set up the death that wouldn't happen that way in real life, which is one of the biggest set of problems in this one. The brevity is to be commended as it doesn't overstay it's welcome, there are some ingenious attempts at suspense beneath the dirge of crap hurled at the screen and it's opening crash is pretty cool. As well, the majority of the film focusing on the series of accidents that befall the group enables for quite a spectacular pace as it moves along quite nicely from one outlandish set-up to the next and provides plenty of exciting moments along throughout here. This is way better than expected, although it's still flawed. (8.75/10)

Final Destination 5

As much as I wanted to absolutely love this one, there's still a few problems here that need to be mentioned. The new twist on the hero's plight doesn't make much sense, for something as supposedly vicious and cruel as what's stalking the heroes to just roll over like it does here with this new twist doesn't really make any sense at all, for that changes around the entire purpose of the events that transpire, and that also ends up giving us the finale in the restaurant which has no business being here and nearly ruins the film on its own just for its inclusion. It's also much to laid back about going after them once they've survived, taking forever to start knocking them off and we get way too much time with their personal lives here, making it way too boring. The deaths are still a lot of fun (if a bit hokey at times in the Rube Goldbergian-ness of their set-ups) the gore is spectacular and the suspense is decently handled. All in all, a pretty decent entry if not overly spectacular. (9/10)

As for the rankings:
1. Final Destination 2 (9.5)
2. Final Destination (9.25)
3. Final Destination 5 (9)
4. Final Destination 3 (8.75)
5. The Final Destination (8.75)

And that wraps up another look back into the different franchises within the genre. I know that some out there want this series to be resurrected and continued to this day, and personally, it's not the worst idea out there. As well, it's worth mentioning here that this one definitely has more in terms of other media out there, with two lines of comic book runs telling similar stories to the films' proper, as well as a set of novels that were initially reprintings of the first few films before they started in on their own individual, unique stories which were popular enough to spawn a few entries before that line was discontinued. These won't be covered as they're not movies which is what this site is about, but as usual a mention of them is required and is thus duly noted here.

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you all next time.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Random Article - A Treatise on ‘Torture Porn’

Welcome back to another entry here, and this time we’re going for something rather different with this post. Rather than take a specific look at a franchise or subset of the genre, we’re going to deal with an issue that I’ve wanted to talk about that really bugs me: the “Torture Porn” movement.

Frankly, I’ve long had an issue with these types of films, but it’s not in the manner some may think. I really don’t mind the extreme, excessive gore, the overlong setups or the constant social-political messages within the films, and while I actually have problems with plenty of them by themselves there’s another reason why I’m not a huge fan of the genre and the whole point of this post. Frankly, I’ve never agreed with the genre tag: ‘Torture Porn.’

It’s really odd that I have a problem with the specific tag for a small subset of films, but it’s always been an issue that bothered me and it took me a while to figure out why. It’s not like there’s a rather misleading bit of information to be found in the name, there’s certainly plenty of that to be found in these films and there’s plenty of stellar work in detailing the general gruesomeness that comes with the territory in the genre so there are some fun elements with the genre.

However, I’ve never cared for the title at all. It’s the connotation that the films feature a connection with the torture as porn scenes instead, which is frankly not the case in the slightest. It’s not a big deal to admit that I've thought of this for a while, and in terms of what is produced within the porn industry featuring short scenes rather than full-on movies, there are two general subsets you can find which comprise around 90% of the industry: the interview and the fantasy.

As for ‘The Interview,’ this is probably the more common and readily-found types of scenes. In this scenario, it’s usually a short sequence that lasts on average of four-to-five minutes showing the titular starlet posing around the location of the shoot, whether it be outside by a swimming pool or inside the house around the living room or kitchen before it turns to the cameraman asking her questions and basically doing an interview with the performer in question. Naturally, that can even include the male performer of the scene talking with her as well as the option to have the two of them perform a rather risque activity together, and at the end of it all it turns into the  main sexual act that lasts anywhere from 15-20 minutes to a half-hour, depending on various elements within the scene.

For ‘The Fantasy,’ this one tends to play out more like an actual movie scene. It usually consists of more varied locations and tends to bring out a sexual fantasy to play with. Whether it be taking the neglected wife of your best friend, the mother of their girlfriend or the sisters’ best friend among many other supposed fantasies at play here, the main point here is that this one plays out more like a movie scene that happens to include a fantasy sexual element driving them together into each other where there’s no winking at the camera at before delving into the  main sexual act that lasts anywhere from 15-20 minutes to a half-hour, depending on various elements within the scene.

Now, granted each of these names are my own personal take on the scenes as a whole and are my own nicknames that I don’t expect anyone else to follow or adapt as their own names, but it’s easier to understand these types of scenes better with the nicknames. Given that it’s possible to claim at least 90% of hardcore porn would fall under these two categories, it’s hard to tell where the connection to these films and the ‘Torture Porn’ films come from. If we’re comparing the amount of time they showcase their own particular selling points, then it comes off incredibly uneven with the general setup in hardcore porn being 5-10 minutes of foreplay before the single-take 20-30 minute ‘main attraction.’ When it comes to the ‘Torture Porn’ films, there’s a wildly unbalanced tone here with the films ranging from 30-40 minute foreplay scenes and then only sporadically tackling their ‘main attraction’ which comes and goes throughout the remainder of the movie.

Now, when it comes to softcore there’s a bit more clarity when it comes to the naming. Rather than going for different scene-setups like with the hardcore stuff, here it’s mainly just a plain movie that tends to build frequent excuses for the ‘main attraction’ to come along through the course of the familiar plot, and these scenes are indeed multiple offenders that tend to go about four-to-seven minutes at a time at regular intervals. Now, in theory, that sounds closer in spirit and tone to the ‘Torture Porn’ series of films, but yet there’s a major difference to be had that to me makes them slightly different. In softcore, the focus isn’t on selling you on the ‘main attraction,’ rather it’s about the setup and the spoofs that it’s railing against. There’s almost an air of trying to be a legitimate movie that just so happens to go into these sequences at sporadic intervals which oftentimes stop the film cold to get them in and then try a wild reach-around to get back to its main story. They’re not the main focus or else not only would these scenes be written into the film a lot more coherently but they would also be integral to the film itself: it wouldn’t play out much differently had those scenes been taken out.

That is the main crux of my contention with the naming. ‘Torture Porn’ sells itself on the titular torture, it’s the reason for being there. The way the human body is cut up and bleeds profusely from the massive wounds inflicted upon it while the usually lackluster manner handled around the rest of the film, it’s not hard to see that’s the main selling point and the outlandish scenarios created to try to top the one that came before it are what sell that fact more than anything. In traditional porn, regardless of the set-up found, it never tries to top what came before and instead relies on varying the formula between its two principle factors: stars and location. Nothing else really changes from one to the other than who’s performing the scene and where they’re going at it, which means that the act itself is thus the ‘main attraction.’ On the whole, these issues here have really kept me from really embracing that label.

So what do we do in the meantime? I know the issue won’t mean much to many of you out there, but still, on the whole, it’s something that is a rather curious affair, keeping the misleading genre tag for something not many may care about. So, what can we do in its place? Personally, I’ve always used the title ‘Torture Slasher’ when describing these films even though it also has some misleading properties and can cause confusion. The films as a whole aren’t really based on a typical slasher premise, but the fact that each individual torture sequence here can line up and replace a traditional stalking scene found in a slasher film does hold far more weight and connection than the other label. It’s good enough for me now, but might be one worth more thought in the future as a resurgence might mean more thought and care for a better tag.

Whatever the case may be, that’s all for now. See you next time.