Torture Porn: Then & Now

I know I’m not saying anything new when I point out that horror flicks (and movies in general) are much more graphic than they once were. I Spit On Your Grave (1978) and its recent remake are an obvious example of what the addition of modern ‘levels’ of violence to an infamous exploitation film looks like. Warning: many spoilers ahead.

From nearly their introduction in the original we see humanity in at least one of the antagonists, Matthew, who appears slow and is dominated by the other men. The most obvious example being after Jennifer is brutally raped. He frees her, even after the others demand that he kill her. In the 2010 version, any humanity is removed. They all rape her, including Matthew. The writers also included holding her head under water and draw it out while the friends take turns raping her, until she simply walks off into the forest in shock. The remake even includes the town sheriff and the man who rents her the cabin as in with the sociopathic brood. Of note is that Matthew is unable to reach orgasm in the first movie and is able to in the second.  Another classy touch.   Now, it’s time for revenge.

Matthew dies first in the original. He dies via noose.  In the remake he is drug off, assumed dead. Then things get really different. In the original version her acts of revenge include masturbating one of her perpetrators in a tub until he appears near ejaculation, at which time she cuts off his genitals and leaves him to bleed to death. Another is killed with an axe, one chop to the back. The last to die is sliced up in a boat motor, started by the protagonist, who states the arguably famous line, “Suck it, bitch.” (a reference to the perpetrator’s words to her during his assault).

Undoubtedly, these are all gratuitously violent deaths. But they allow the violence to exists in our imagination along with our visual cortex. They allotted for insinuation. In the 2010 version, the revenge scenes, which have been grossly aided by modern technology, are as graphic as possible.  Her second target first steps in a bear trap. Jennifer then uses hooks to hold his eyes open and she spreads fish guts in his eyes. This conveniently attracts crows that proceed to peck out his eyes. She kills another of her attackers in a torture scene where he is restrained over a bathtub with water in it, which Jennifer adds lye to, while slowly removing the boards that keep him suspended above the bathtub. Eventually we see his face slowly dissolve in the lye. The next death scene sees another of Jennifer’s perpetrators naked with a bridle in mouth, while Jennifer pulls his teeth out with pliers. She then forces him to perform fellatio on his gun, takes out big shiny clippers, cuts off his dick and puts it in his mouth and leaves. Lastly she anally rapes the man who rented her the cabin with a shotgun and in a particularly gruesome end, two die via shotgun blast up the anus.

While both films end with her smiling coyly, suggesting justice has been done and we are to be exalted by this strong woman who’d kicked ass, this feeling doesn’t resonate in the remake. She is still a stranger to us, and perhaps just another sadist.  We’ve ejaculated our fear and secret, silent want to watch others suffer all over the front of us and we’re tired, and more than a little disgusted with ourselves.

Torture porn has evolved, undoubtedly due to the sequel effect, in which each new thing must be more of everything than the last.  Unfortunately this has changed our focus from the one way that it could redeem itself.  The focus appears to have moved from any effort put toward creating relatable or at least redeemable roles and allowing us to use our imaginations, while steadily increasing their energy toward the most vile and visually visceral ways for people to die.  If you’re into gonzo style torture, I won’t fault you. It seems that only the characters, not the character development, should die quickly and brutally. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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