Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Knowing the Psycho Genres: SPLATTER FILMS

Gore Film
The “gore film” focuses on portrayals of extreme gore and graphic violence through special effects involving excessive blood and guts that tend to display an overt interest in the human body and its vulnerability to mutilation. Roger Corman’s A BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959) and Georges Franju’s French New Wave classic EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1960) set the guidelines for the gore film, although neither would match what was to come in terms of violence. These types of movies rose to prominence throughout the mid 1960s with the popularity of Herchell Gordon Lewis-directed films like BLOOD FEAST (1963) and TWO-THOUSAND MANIACS! (1965). The “Gore Film” is generally considered the basic, archetypical splatter film, and its popularity continues today with movies like the popular FINAL DESTINATION franchise launched in 2000.
COLOR ME BLOOD RED (1965), THE GRUESOME TWOSOME (1967), THE WIZARD OF GORE films (1970-2007), BLOOD AND LACE (1971), THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW (1972), THE GORE-GORE GIRLS (1972), SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1974), THE LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET (1977), ANTHROPOPHAGUS (1980), BLOOD DINER (1987), and SEVERANCE (2006) are good examples of a typical “gore” film.

Survivalist Film
The Survivalist Splatter film is a type of horror film that focuses on normal citizens stranded in a rural setting, such as the American Southwest. In these movies, the ideals of the travels clash with the culture of the citizens, resulting in a bloody showdown. THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932) lays out the original plot for a survivalist splatter film – in that film, a normal man must try to survive against the world’s greatest hunter, who has trapped him on an island. The sub-genre rose in popularity after the immense success of Tobe Hooper’s THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974). The sub-genre peaked in the late 70’s and early 80’s, but faded out until the early 2000s with the releases of the JEEPERS CREEPERS films as well as the WRONG TURN films and the remake of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2003) and its prequel when the genre made a strong comeback.
EATEN ALIVE (1977), THE HILLS HAVE EYES franchise (1977-2007), ISLAND OF DEATH (1977), HUMONGOUS (1982), SCALPS (1983), HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2003), HOUSE OF WAX (2005), WOLF CREEK (2005), TURISTAS (2006), WILDERNESS (2006), BORDERLAND (2007), THE HILLS RUN RED (2009), and LEATHERFACE 3D (2013) are good examples of a survivalist splatter film.

Psycho Protagonist Film
The central characters in these movies were also the film’s villain – a rare case where the protagonist that the audience follows is also the ruthless killer that they fear. These movies usually attempted to explain “why” the killer killed, and also were extremely graphic in their depictions of the violence. While PEEPING TOM (1960) is the forerunner of the sub-genre, the films that best capture the disturbing nature of these movies are MANIAC (1980) and HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (1986). These movies generally paid very little attention to the other characters in the film, instead choosing to spend the film's plot examining the balance the killer must make between his slayings and his personal life. These movies also typically featured some kind of romantic story that would be to question the killer's humanity. These movies quickly came and went between 1979 and 1980, with Henry's release in 1986 truly being the last of the genre, before it fell into the hands of psychological thrillers like THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) and SEVEN (1995). The mockumentary BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON (2006) is an homage to these film.
THE DRILLER KILLER (1979), DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE! (1980), and DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE (1980) are all good examples of a Psycho Protagonist splatter film.

Revenge Film
Also known as the “Rape and Revenge” film because the revenge that the protagonists attained in these films was usually set off by a horrific rape and/or murder. The best example of the genre is Wes Craven’s THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) and its 2009 remake. The movies were usually structured into two parts – the first half of the film showed the villain torturing, humiliating, raping, and killing the protagonists, and the second half of the film focused on the protagonists getting their revenge through similar tactics as the villains they despise. The sub-genre was extremely popular in the 1970s, as a reaction to the Vietnam War. In the 1980s they died out, as a reaction to new MPAA regulations, but have made somewhat of resurgence in the mid 2000s as a reaction to the Iraq War.
WRONG WAY (1972), LAST STOP ON THE NIGHT TRAIN (1975), DEATH WEEKEND (1976), MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH (1976), the I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE films (1978-2010), LAST HOUSE ON THE BEACH (1977), THE HOUSE AT THE EDGE OF THE PARK (1980), the MOTHER'S DAY films (1980-2010), NAIL-GUN MASSACRE (1985), and THE DEVIL'S REJECTS (2005) are good examples of revenge-themed splatter films.

Euro Erotica
While the American gore film’s popularity grew in the states, European filmmakers advanced a step further by making movies that showed not only extreme violence, but sexual sadism as well. These films were a response to the post-World War II world in a war-torn Europe, trying to capture the horrors of real life in cinematic storytelling. Euro Erotica was most popular from the mid 1960s through the early 1970s, but began to die out by the late 1970s as it became taboo to make films that sensationalized violence and sex. In the early 2000s, French filmmakers rebooted the movement with even more extreme films, a filmmaking movement called “French New Extremity”, where filmmakers like Alexandre Aja released controversial films such as HIGH TENSION (2003) or Pascal Laugier released MARTYRS (2008).
HORROR CASTLE (1963), BLOODY PIT OF HORROR (1965), THE EMBALMER (1965), NIGHTMARE CASTLE (1965), BLOOD BATH (1966), ASYLUM EROTICA (1971), HANDS OF THE RIPPER (1971), THE MAD BUTCHER (1971), THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF HER GRAVE (1971), NAKED MASSACRE (1976), THE SISTER OF URSULA (1978), KILLER NUN (1979), and FRONTIER(S) (2007) are good examples of Euro Erotica splatter films.

Asian Extreme
Around the turn of the century, Asian cinema took a turn. A very extreme turn into films that were sold on their violence, torture, and mutilation of the human body. These movies pushed all boundaries, while usually delivering a compelling character-driven story in the process. The films that arguably started the trend were AUDITION (1999), BATTLE ROYALE (2000), and ICHI THE KILLER (2001) - all three of which took what were considered acceptable at the time and pushed the boundaries, while each providing unique twists to their respective plots. The sub-genre grew throughout the mid-2000s, but there were signs that it was started to die out by the end of the decade. That's when releases like I SAW THE DEVIL (2010) and THE RAID: REDEMPTION (2011) were released, and gained success and acclaim worldwide, including in the United States. While many American and European films of the decade were considered to be "torture porn" by critics, and often derailed because of it, the violent Asian Extreme films were critically acclaimed for their filmmaking style and strong themes presented throughout the movies.
SUICIDE CLUB (2001), PHONE (2002), BATTLE ROYALE 2 (2003), GOZU (2003), THE DOLL MASTER (2004), BLOODY REUNION (2006), RETRIBUTION (2006), SICK NURSES (2007), THE SCISSORS MASSACRE (2008), THE MACHINE GIRL (2008), TOKYO GORE POLICE (2008), MACABRE (2009), BEDEVILLED (2010), and CONFESSIONS (2010) are good examples of Asian Extreme splatter films.

Torture Porn
Labeled “torture porn” by genre fans and critics alike, this sub-genre’s focus is on the torture of victims and the mutilation of their bodies before their actual death. The genre’s most famous films are the SAW movies that were extremely popular in the 2000s, starting in 2004 and one being released annually every Halloween until SAW: THE FINAL CHAPTER (2010). The torture porn sub-genre may have been a reaction to the Patriot Act and other laws passed in post-September 11th America, where certain torture tactics could be used on suspects in question. While these movies were extremely popular, they quickly died out toward the start of the new decade in 2011, as now the torture porn genre is more obscure and less mainstream.
The HOSTEL films (2006-2011), CAPTIVITY (2007), TRAIN (2008), BLOOD CREEK (2009), THE COLLECTOR (2009), THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE series (2009-2012), and SEVEN DAYS (2010) are good examples of torture porn films.

1 comment:

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