Monday, July 02, 2007

US horror "torture porn" versus French (snuff), UK (creep) and Japanese horror

Some quick comments on horror films particularly as the BBC has stolen the thoughts out of my head and done a piece on US horror films called Torture Porn films. This is about the growing tendency in US films to have extensive torture scenes of beautiful females. I have often wondered why North Americans have to watch someone get hacked and slashed to call it a horror film. As anyone who has read Poe can attest, it is the horror of anticipation which is far more compelling than that of the actual.

I recently saw the French thriller/horror film Tzameti 13, about a 19-21 year old young French male from a poor family who takes a letter from a junkie whose roof he is fixing. The junkie has died but the young poor worker has overhead that the letter will bring great wealth. What it brings him instead in being trapped into a world of snuff gambling, of “players” and “betters” and bullets. Through his innocent eyes we see this world until it almost seems normal (when he arrives his “handler” doesn’t understand why he isn’t on morphine “it’s great, all the players take it, don’t you want some?”). I would NOT recommend watching this film before bedtime since unlike the slash and hack horror, it seeps into your head, until you are unsure whether you WANT the tension of holding a gun up to someone’s head, hoping to pull the trigger before they pull theirs. Like our hero, once we have chosen to start the film, we are in, and once in, we cannot go back; and you will watch until you begin to notice the anticipation in the betters, in the players, in the judges has become the same as your own. Trailer below.


While on this side of the Atlantic, the US film Hostel II with its prolonged torture scenes of three American girls is supposed to get you into the head of torturers. Well, I suppose if that is what you want. Myself, I have always found much in life horrific and not needed to look inside sadist torturers minds to find it. Besides my greatest turn-off for American Horror is that basically everyone is STUPID. That usually ranges from the killer to the people about to be chopped up. Now British horror like Creep or Descent tries to get you inside the head of both the “heroes” who are trying very hard to survive but also the villains, who often are more sympathic. For instance in Creep, you get to point where you are so understanding of the poor mistreated character you have to shake yourself and go: “Yes, but remember, caging and eating people isn’t the right way to work out that inner pain.”

I, of course, love Japanese horror. First because they seem 10 times as scary as American Horror but can do it by simply showing you a shot of a girl’s dripping feet. The Ring, which would be the Japanese film most American’s might have seen is a good example. The protagonist is trying very hard to save her child. She does research. She is desperate but working both physically and intellectually to reach out and avoid “Fate.” Another good one in this line is Premonition. But the one film I have told people to watch for years is Pulse also named Kairo (Avoid like death the american remake named Pulse which does to the film what US sometimes does to cuisine; remove all original ingredients and add ketchup: gag me!). I had Kairo about six years ago on DVD from Japan after it won two awards there. It is by far the creepiest film I have ever seen. I can watch about 20-30 minutes of it IN DAYLIGHT. It is not just the plot but the whole set, the way the characters interact, the distracted camera work which makes you feel that something really really bad is happening pretty much ALL THE TIME. When I was manager at a video store I gave it to a guy who only watched horror films. He have it back to me in a brown bag saying: “I don’t want to see the cover of that film, it freaked me out so bad, I couldn’t sleep that night. I couldn’t go near phones!” No chopping, no slashing. Try just watching the first minute of the trailer (by the way, “tasukete” is Japanese for “Help me!”) HERE

The director of Kairo/Pulse is Kiyoshi Kurosawa who has a very strange mind. Another of his early films from 1997 available now in the West is Cure (winner of 9 awards) as well as Séance (2000). Cure, which has a trailer below will really take you out there. Kurosawa seems to have a fascination with how humans operate in the extreme (another one of his films Charisma is about a bunch of people fighting over/guarding a single tree, with a policeman who has burned out walking by and getting sucked in). Cure among his other works are so horrific because they break many of what Desmond Morris would call the rules of The Human Animal. For instance humans are supposed to work up to acts of violence (shouting, then pushing, etc), and US horror films reflect this. To Kurosawa, silent acts of triggered violence are a back drop to his themes within the film. It is this inane fear of people acting in ways we don’t understand or things happening to us without warning that he taps into. No matter how much we might like a character…try not to get too attached. Trailer for the decade old crime thriller/horror The Cure below.


I made the mistake of watching a new anime series of which I knew NOTHING about called Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni which I thought was a mystery/school life anime where new guy moves to town and gets to know the girls in his small one room school. First episode was pretty slow and then…my God, did things turn creepy. Turns out that people in this small town kinda disappear. Particularly around an odd festival the town holds (no, no Wickerman knockoffs here). Simply watch the first four episodes (19-21 minutes a episode) at 1:00 am and see if you can do what I couldn’t...go to sleep. The first part of episode one is below and you only need to go to episode four to have a full story arc (the rest of the episode and the other 3 are found here)


Happy dreams!

4 comments:

Daniel, the Guy in the Desert said...

I wonder if that's why Americans have problems accepting the Japanese, because they have almost NONE of the same social cues.
I don't watch horror flicks at all. I'm way too empathetic.

Cooper said...

Fortunately, most of NorthAmerica is ignoring the latest run of torture porn. But let's face it, regardless of genre, just about every country in the world produces better quality movies than the US......sad to say. Hollywood should be leveled, fenced and turned into a maximum secirity facility.....lawyers first.

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