Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Enough With the freakin Torture Porn Bullshit!!!

The following article originally appeared on my Facebook profile but the varied discussion, plus the fact that people are STILL calling MARTYRS torture porn, has moved me to throw it up here as well.

So I'm cruising through borders today to buy the book WHERE TH
E WILD THINGS ARE for my friend's kids cause every child should own it (especially before the new movie comes out). And I stop to look at the new horror magazines. The new RUE MORGUE had a cover story on the new French horror film MARTYRS (See the review elsewhere here for my thoughts on this film) which I thought was cool. I dig when magazines spotlight foreign or indie horror. But right across the front of the mag is the headline "Transcendent TORTURE PORN punishes NORTH AMERICA" written with that exact emphasis and capitals. I immediately just put the magazine back down in disgust.

Come on people it is time to stop with the fucking term TORTURE PORN.

Rue Morgue you're better than that. The term TORTURE PORN is a lazy bullshit term developed by the American right wing news media at the height of the popularity of the SAW and HOSTEL films that was supposed to denigrate the genre. Using it when describing genre movies plays into that mindset and insults not only the movies you are writing about, but the fans and the genre itself. Horror films are NOT pornography. Nor are they torture, no matter if that is what they portray. No one is being tortured for real, it is all special effects. JACKASS would be closer to something that you might want to call TORTURE COMEDY maybe (but I don't even subscribe to that idea).

Tony Timpone editor of FANGORIA magazine (who has been at the helm of that mag for over twenty years now. Who is ever the Editor in chief of a magazine for that long?) has said in some recent interviews that he thought the recent French horror film FRONTIER(S) was nothing but, wait for it, TORTURE PORN. He wrote and editorial 2 years ago slamming the film CAPTIVITY (before he even saw it) for being, you got it, TORTURE PORN. (Granted CAPTIVITY sucks the gas from a dead donkey's ass, but that is beside the point). Now Tony, FRONTIER(S) is actually a pretty prime example of the tried and true backwoods massacre/survivalist horror film (HILLS HAVE EYES, TEXAS CHAINSAW, ring any bells?) and yes CAPTIVITY does cater to the torture elements of some modern horror films, but as bad as it is, it also hearkens back to the sexual obsession type films of the early 70's such as THE COLLECTOR or even PETS. And guess what? None of those older films are even remotely TORTURE PORN!!! (But god yes CAPTIVITY sucks)

You want to see some actual TORTURE PORN? Then here is some... Try the German series SLAVE SEX from the 80's. Shot on video XXX S+M videos that ran at least into 30 volumes or more that showed things like women hung by their breasts by rope, burned with blow torches, steel skewers and needles pushed through their breasts, labia nailed to the table etc. Men with hooks through their penises with buckets hanging off them, their cocks sewn INTO their scrotum, pubic hair set on fire, scrotum nailed to boards etc. Or the other famous German underground porn series FORCED ENTRY that ran into the 40 volume range that centered on simulated rape and not so simulated torture? Then we can travel to Japan for the BUSHIDO tapes that are rumored to have been made by the Yakuza and are pretty much just woman being sexually tortured by heavily tattooed underground mafiosotypes with ropes, hooks, speculum, whips, rods, canes, needles and anything else they can get their hands on. Or what about the TOSHIHIRO RARE FETISH series where women are tied up and have various viscous liquids poured into their eyes, nostrils and other orifices and then are covered in cow and pig guts before being sexed up? And I'm not even going to tell you what happens in the SQUIRM FEST tapes.

This stuff is actually TORTURE PORN. Two things make it fulfill that term. 1) It is actually pornography. The goal for these tapes is to arouse and get the person watching off. There is no plot, no story construction, no characters, no fancy camera work. Just you are there watching this SEXUAL stuff happening for the benefit of the the camera and therefore YOU the viewer. And 2) There is actual TORTURE going on. Granted the participants are getting paid (at least I would hope so, though some of the shit they go through makes you wonder if they are just repaying some Yakuza debt, or drug habit and sometimes they sincerely don't look like they want to be there. But I'm sure that is all part of the frisson of these as well) and are taking the abuse the same way a boxer would a twelve round fight.) But in the most outright obvious, clear explanation of the term, these are actually TORTURE PORN.

Movies like HOSTEL, SAW, MARTYRS, FRONTIER(S), INSIDE, CAPTIVITY, HAUTE TENSION, or any other recent horror film are NOT. Because not matter how much you may or may not like the material they are NOT pornography. No one is in the theater jerking off to them. There may be a few sickos who do, but then there are lots of sickos who jerk off to Disney cartoons too and that doesn't make them Pornography either. The intent of these films is not sexual gratification and release. The intent is to horrify, scare and provide catharsis. To take the viewer on a ride through a series of complex and unpleasant emotions and fears, that by the end will hopefully allow them to release some aggression and terrors. Also the so called TORTURE on screen is never under any circumstances real. The violence is acting and special effects. Even a film as questionable as say MURDER SET PIECES, where it is arguable that the director is putting the actresses through the paces for his own sexual gratification, is still at the end of the day, phony. These are effects, camera trickery and people acting out scenarios for the service of a story to be viewed by an audience that is here for no other reason but to enjoy a horror movie.

But to call horror films TORTURE PORN is to put horror films in the same ghetto as porn. Now I have nothing against porno at all. I watch my share, hell, I even know a porn actor or two. I've nothing against the genre. It is as legit as anything else. But this term is being used to degrade. Porn is generally seen by the public as something bad or to be kept in the shadows and fought against. That it is somehow poisonous to good people. Yet it is a multi-billion dollar industry, so we know the people who say those things are liars. But to label the horror genre with the porn tag is to put it into bed with the porn genre and say it is also something bad, something to be ashamed of. Something unhealthy and evil, that will corrupt the family and normal people of the world. And that is a dangerous precedent to set. The right wing media was setting out to do just that when they started throwing around the term TORTURE PORN several years ago. The aim was to scare middle America into thinking horror films were the equal of the hardest most unsettling pornography that were scarring the youth of the nation. The Bill O'Reilly's of the world (who openly admitted he had never even seen the movies discussed) was happy to throw the whole horror genre under the bus. Now we have the genre itself walking right out in front of the bus willingly, saying "yep we are TORTURE PORN. Our genre is made of SHIT and we are gonna keep saying it!"

TORTURE PORN is a bullshit term made up to hurt the genre and scare idiots who watch too much TV. Lets stop hurting the genre by bandying it around and start being more creative and smarter than those we would like to see the genre fail. Let's stop using the distinctions created by the media that degrade our precious genre and in the process stabbing ourselves in our own hearts.

Andy Copp

Trailer for FRONTIER(S) (this trailer sucks BTW..

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Perfect Violence

Ultra Violent
Issue 10

When you stop to think about the magazines that cover the horror genre today you might get stuck on the big buck ones that are full color and come out monthly or even bi-monthly. Those have their worth for getting out the news on the big films (or studio press releases as it may be in some cases) but for my money THE best magazine in the genre right now is ULTRA VIOLENT, severed hands down. You may have to wait a year for each new issue, and they don't generally cover the latest in cinematic slop that is coagulating the cinematic multiplex sewer pipe. But what they DO deliver is some of the BEST fucking writing on the genre going. UV has the most knowledgeable genre staff writers on the planet. I challenge anyone to find people who can compare brain cell for brain cell with the people writing for them when it comes to knowledge of our beloved genre. In a day and age where every hack with a blog (ha, that sounds familiar, as he looks around the room and realizes he is talking about himself in third person) thinks they are an expert because they read the IMDB and visit a few message boards, thank god for the people who write at UV because they really, honestly know what the fuck they are talking about. (Okay, it should be known that I wrote a couple of reviews for ONE issue, four years ago. But I EXCLUDE myself from all the accolade in the previous paragraph. I hardly wrote enough to be considered any kind staff writer, at all!)

With that in mind it says a lot to call Issue 10 their best issue to date. And I can say that because I have read them all, right from the beginning. The magazine has grown in leaps and bounds as writers came and went and the staff finally settled in with the group they have now, who frankly all are fantastic. But even with that there are sometimes articles that don't quite make it, either the content is only marginally interesting (really a matter of opinion of course), or maybe it comes off a bit rushed. Nothing feels that way this time. Everything clicks just right.

This issue is all highlights so it is hard to pick ones to recommend, but a stand out for me is the interview with illusive Documentarian Robert Hendrickson who directed the incredible 1973 MANSON and has continued to fight legal battles regarding the film and it's copyright ever since. He's a fascinating (and quite ornery) character who has, as far as I know, never been interviewed elsewhere. His talk is in depth and quite enlightening. Publisher Scott Gabey should be proud of his work on this interview. Also terrific is Art Ettinger's amazing, career spanning talk with Giovanni Lambardo Radice aka John Morghan aka Dirty Mike to CANNIBAL FEROX fans. This is no slobbering fan boy talk where just questions about getting his head drilled by Fulci, or getting castrated by Cannibals come up. This mother covers his family history, his commercial and stage work, his sexuality, his genre work, working with various actors and directors, going to conventions... You name it Art asks it. An in depth and groundbreaking interview that would be worth picking up the issue for alone. Mr Ettinger has developed his skills as an interviewer to an art form that mirrors the days of the old SECONDS magazine. Topping this one for him will be difficult. But I look forward for him to try. Also of immense worth is the interview with indie/cult director Eric Stanze by Ally Melling. Eric has been interviewed a lot by the underground zine press so getting info out of him that is new and fresh is not an easy feat but Ally has done so. She also manages a solid interview that covers his history without being the type of talk that degenerates into questions of "you've made some crazy disturbing movies, do you love gore?" that would belittle his intelligent work. She takes the high road showing she really gets what he is doing, thus bringing out good intelligent answers. It is a great piece that counter balances the other pieces on classic genre/exploitation by celebrating a true indie visionary. Her work as an interviewer is exemplary as well. Lest be it for me to let you believe that only the interviews are worthwhile. Heather Drain's piece on BLITZKRIEG: ESCAPE FROM STALAG 69 is an exceptionally well written piece that not only spotlights the intense dedication it takes to make an independent film in this day and age (especially one that is part of a genre that has laid dormant for 25 years!) but also explores that very genre and how it works. If you weren't interested in this movie before this article, you will be after it as she really explores the characters and their roots, the actors playing them and how they chose to perform those roles. It is an intriguing piece. (Now I just wish i had the time to sit down with the movie which is sitting on my work table right now!).

To say all of this stuff is great, even when there is an excellent interview with my favorite filmmaker of all time Alexandro Jodorowsky in this issue just goes to show the high level of excellence on display here. Plus there is a shit-ton more, and plenty of reviews to! So get on this train and pick this up. It should be hitting stands soon (if not already). Grab a copy today!

Ultra Violent Magazine

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

But who will police the gore who there is no more gore to police?


Yoshihiro Nishimura
Fever Dreams
Ent. / Media Blasters


This is probably the goriest movie to come out since Peter Jackson stopped working in the splatter genre. I've heard people laud it's freaky grue splattered approach, deride it for being so over the top that they found it stupid, or even dismiss it entirely for being so outrageous that they found it boring. As one of my friends I watched this with said when it was over, "there was enough here for at least two or three movies!" And that my friends is no lie. In a lot of ways Tokyo Gore Police is the splatter film of the technologically impaired ADD generation with limbs flying, heads splitting, torsos erupting etc. every few minutes as to never allow the audience a chance to catch their breath, much less get bored. Blood literally splatters the camera lens so much that the lens cleaning mop boy should have gotten top billing.

But if this was all this movie had to offer it would have pretty much just kinda of sucked. I was one of the few who strongly disliked MACHINE GIRL on those grounds as it was all noise, thunder and spraying blood, with nothing underneath. That film was a teenage gore monger's version of what a Japanese gore film "should" be like. I was afraid this was going to be more of the same. But thankfully it is anything but.

The schizophrenic plot starts off with a young girl watching her policeman father being brutally killed while on duty guarding some officials. A man just walks up and shoots him in the head (causing an amazing, total head explosion that sets the mood for the film to come). Cut to present and we meet Ruka (Eihi Shiina) who witnessed this as a child. she is now an adult and working for the police force just like her dad. But unlike when she was a little girl, the police have changed drastically. They are now privately controlled and funded, no longer run by the state or Government. Ruka is what is called an "Engineer Hunter" because she hunts down a mutant strain of criminal called an Engineer" that has a tumor inside of them that causes any wounds on their body to morph into a new mutated body part. So say they have had fingers cut off. Then the tumor would cause those fingers to become new, super strong, snake like appendages. These Engineers are a new breed of super Criminals that are taking over the Tokyo underground. Ruka is one of the elite team who is able to stop them. she understands you have to cut the tumor in half to get the job done. But soon she will realize there is much, much more of a connection to her past, the engineers, the privatization of the police force and the murder of her father than she could ever dream of. And mucho blood will be shed along the way. And you will see sights you have never seen in a film. Guaranteed.

Don't believe me? How about the fake commercials for a start. yes we've seen them in Paul Verhoven's work with ROBOCOP and STARSHIP TROOPERS, but here they take an even darker tone with pro suicide commercials, an anti-seppuku spot and a spot for "cute" razors for cutting yourself just like the Emo Kids in America! yay! Or what about the Mutant Engineers themselves? with each one suffering different injuries they all come back with stronger, weirder new body parts that would make David Cronenberg proud. Like the leader whose eyes have been replaced by small flesh cannons that shoot wads of tumors. Or the unfortunate fellow who had his dick bit off, so now it has grown back four feet long and works like a 44 magnum. Or my favorite the girl whose legs are now a giant alligator mouth who scoots across the floor biting the shit out of everyone she sees! Then there is the sidekick of the Chief of Police that I'm not even sure is a mutant, but just some unfortunate woman he has tortured himself. A quadruple amputee that he leads around on a lease like a dog, in full S+M gear including a gas mask, who in the final reel is armed with blades on all her stumps and sent in to fight. I also should say there is something mighty sexy about this limbless gal. I'll just leave it at that. Or that moment of moments where one dude visits a freak bar for fetishists where Engineers are the main course and sees a parade of Mutants ending with a female human chair(!) that pisses on the audience!

But even amongst the geysers (and I mean geysers) of blood and mutants, what makes this a good movie is that underneath all of this is a lot of meat for the brain to chew on. this is primarily a treatise on how privatization of any organization that serves the public interest is a terrible idea. How that will mutant into a situation controlled by lust and greed and ultimately destroy the very public it is supposed to serve. there are also several other through lines dealing with America's negative influence upon the Japanese culture going on as well. which is doubly interesting considering this was produced and financed by an American company.

Though over the top, and sometimes goofy, and certainly owing more than a nod to other films like THE EVIL DEAD, VIDEODROME and STARSHIP TROOPERS, this turned out to be a terrific little movie all its own and I highly recommend it to those looking for high octane splatter AND something with a brain to boot.

Andy Copp

CGI Claws do not amuse

20th Century fuck, uh I mean, FOX

Well the summer movie season has officially begun and I.Q. points could be felt dropping exponentially in the theater even before this movie began to roll. i could literally smell burning brain tissue from synapses dying while the abominable trailer for flickered on screen and the audience sat in raptures silence until the first of at least three dozen explosions appeared. Some how the crushing feeling of disappointment I felt while walking out of TRANSFORMERS 2X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE was not felt by the rest of these folks I bet. I'm sure they were more than happy with the mush brained twaddle they had just witnessed. I on the other hand would have liked something more. A lot more.

The movie starts off really strong with our hero as a little boy. A sickly little dude who witnesses a confusing mess of a situation where his adoptive dad is killed by his friend's father, who turns out to be his biological father. In the midst of it all the kid's anger is triggered and bony claws jet out of his hands and he kills the dude. He and his friend, now his brother (who is also a mutant) run into the Forrest away from the prying eyes of normal folks. Cut to then as adults and them fighting in the Civil war, then the First World War, and World War two and then Vietnam. These war sequences are the opening credits and serve to show how the two of them are basically indestructible and somehow immortal. It also shows how his his brother Victor Creed (Liev Shreiber who is very miscast, though tries really hard) aka Sabertooth has grown into loving the taste of blood and violence while James aka Logan and soon to be Wolverine has become a little more laid back and is the only one who can reign his brother in. They both end up killing some fellow soldiers are court marshaled and executed.

But they do not die and are recruited to work for a secret black ops team that is going around the world tracking "items of importance" such as special meteor fragments. But when Logan stops a Mai Lai style massacre and simply walks away (what?!) the team is abandoned and we cut to six years later with him now living in the woods of Canada with a beautiful woman, working as a lumberjack.

These domestic scenes are actually some of the films best moments, especially when he awakes from a nightmare with his claws fully ejected to find his girl already awake, completely calm, simply asking him if it was dreams about the wars again. When she asks him which one, he replies "All of them". he then notices that she is cut on her arm and she dismisses it as no big deal. it is a nice moment that shows what it would be like to live the life of Wolverine, one of the few humanizing moments the character gets. When I want to see an "origin" story, this is the kind of stuff I want to see.

But clearly the studio heads at fox don't agree because the movie is literally stuffed to gills with side characters. So many that it becomes hard to keep track of who they are and what their mutant abilities do. The black ops team Wolverine works for is entirely made up of mutants and just that alone would have made for an interesting movie. But that storyline gets abandoned after about five minutes. It really only exists to introduce us to Ryan Reynolds DeadPool character so they can spin him off into his own movie (which was just green lit as I write this).

Once the movie gets moving with Sabertooth, ugh sorry Victor, killing Logan's girl and tearing through the landscape it should just become a straight ahead revenge tale. But then it goes completely wrong and introduces the "weapon X" program, which has been seen in the other X-Men movies. The stuff where he is implanted with Adamantium into his bones as to become completely indestructible and now has metal claws. With this comes a whole new set of plot twists, new characters, more mutants, old mutants, characters from the other X-Men films, but younger and a plot that keeps folding in on itself just for the sake of doing so. Clearly this was written by committee where people sat around a table and went "Oooo I like that character, put him in!" "I think Wolverine should rescue the characters from the other films, lets do that!" and it is all stewed together with no cohesiveness at all. what you end up with is plot threads that dangle, revisionist history from the other films that doesn't match and the sense of mystery from the character being completely whipped away. I mean even Victor is never called Sabertooth in an attempt to fool the audience in to never noticing that he is the same character from the first X-men movie that we've already seen. The movie is filled with crap like this.

Unfortunately for Hugh Jackman his is completely game for the character doing his best with material that is beneath him and the character as well. More often than not when he is onscreen he almost saves this mess. the scenery (mostly shot in Australia) is gorgeous and the fight scenes are really well handled, save for the climactic battle which is horrible and feels like a video game outtake.

Which leads to another problem, the special effects. for a movie whose budget was nearly $200,000,000 this has some of the worse special effects I've seen in a major motion picture. the big set pieces are fine, but the incidental stuff like wolverine's claws or even people driving in cars, look like shit. Really embarrassing at the end of the day.

Now my comic book loving friends hated this movie even more than I did, because they said it screwed up not only the origins of Wolverine's character, but got wrong just about every detail of all the new characters they introduced as well. I can't comment on that, as I don't read the comics. All I know is that the script is a mess, totally dramatically unsound, the movie's best moments are either fight scenes, or the rare quiet aside, neither of which are enough to save it from total mediocrity.