(I wrote this for a film studies class I’m taking on “guilty pleasures.” Hope you enjoy)
Gore Films: The Depraved And The Delicious
Guilty pleasures are somewhat of a conceited concept. Why feel guilty for something that brings joy into your life? Long as they’re not hurting anybody, everybody should be free to get their kicks however they wish. Life is far too short to give even the smallest amount of care to what others think, especially about your hobbies.
Saying that, while I don’t feel the slightest amount of guilt or trepidation in enjoying gore movies, I can understand why others might. There’s something a little sick, a little depraved, a little naughty about taking pleasure in the taboo, and gore movies are certainly nothing if not taboo.
Defining a gore movie isn’t exactly complicated; it’s right there in the title after all. Just about any movie that relishes in bloodshed, that turns splattering the red stuff into an art form, can qualify as a gore movie. From mainstream hits like “Saw” and “Hostel” to underground depravity like “A Serbian Film” and “Street Trash” gore films come in every hue of the rainbow, unified by their embellishment of violence.
Bloodlust isn’t anything new in the history of humanity. Few could forget the gladiator battles of ancient Rome, where man and beast alike were torn apart for cheering crowds. Likewise public executions were held in the United States all the way up until 1936, when the botched hanging of Rainey Betha led to a bill passed banning them. People love violence, they love gore, and gore movies are a safe outlet for violent desires.
Does this mean all people who like violent films are violent people? Well I’m not a violent person, so that means there’s at least one (fairly) normal fan of the genre. I’d bet not everyone who went to see “Saw” dreams of razor blades and screaming victims. A lot just really like to see violent (fictional) acts performed on screen.
Fred Vogel, a famous director in the genre who crafted the infamous “August Underground” films, has described in detail why he makes violent films.
“I like to provoke people, I make movies that provoke people,” Vogel said. “That’s what horror means to me, that’s what horror should be.”
And gore movies are very provocative; sometimes it’s just fun to watch something that you know you probably shouldn’t be watching. It’s an escape from the mundane, from the viewer’s safe world to one much scarier, more gruesome, more violent. It not at all surprising that gore films and horror films are more popular in America and other affluent countries. No one wants to fear for their life, to live in an area filled with actual violence; but to visit that mindset for a few hours, that can be exhilarating.
The question that does need to be raised is just how violent, how gory can a film get before even ardent fans reject it? “Cannibal Holocaust”, a famous gore film from the 80’s, has come under fire in recent years for it’s inclusion of actual animal deaths. One scene, where a turtle has it’s stomach sliced open, is particularly distressing. Watching the animals legs kick futiley in the air as it’s life drains away, it’s not something any sane person takes pleasure in.
“The Human Centipede” series has also come under fire in recent years, although every violent scene is staged. If you can’t guess from the title, “The Human Centipede” features a…human centipede….which is made from……er…. well let’s just say some people get their mouths stitched where the sun don’t shine.
The term shit eating grin is taken perhaps a tad too literally, with unfortunate victims, their mouths sewn open and onto another’s buttocks, forced to consume the human feces.. Even gore fans had trouble stomaching that one.
Asking myself why I enjoy gore films is no simple question. It’s always easier to label society after all, than to label oneself. I’m not a violent individual. Eccentric, sometimes strange, more than a little weird? Sure, but how boring is a person without at least a touch of madness?
I feel no shame in finding a small bit of escape in a bloody film, and I don’t see myself quitting one of my favorite genres anytime soon. And as long as the silent sickos of the world still have a kink for the red stuff, I doubt gore films are going anywhere either.