No matter how fanatical someone is about a particular interest, there's usually one dark alley they refuse to walk. When you're a horror fan, that means ignoring either certain films or certain kinds of films. Maybe you just aren't entertained by them, or maybe you find them so disturbing that it's not any fun to watch. In my case, there are two sub-genres that I won't touch with a bloody ten-foot pole. If you like them, great, more power to you. As far as I'm concerned, you can keep them. The first of these is the fad popularly known as torture porn, or gore-nography.
Best exemplified by Hostel and the Saw franchise, torture porn is so named for the way these films make a show of gratuitous violence, to the point that it seems glorified and celebrated. If we were watching a zombie flick, this wouldn't be a problem. But in torture porn, the victims and their killers are human beings like ourselves. Everything is about excruciating pain and sick challenges, forcing characters to do horrible things to survive. This enough is repellant, but the movie also desires to torture the audience by not holding back. Every cut tendon, every cracked bone, every exit wound is up on the screen. With a good slasher film, the violence is leavened with style, humor, and the old adage that less is more. Torture porn is telling us that more is not enough. These films are not frightening, though they are incredibly disturbing. I'm not the kind of person who gets excited watching other people die; even in a horror film I like, the death scenes only get a pass because they're usually punctuated by a joke or a message. Torture porn is gore for gore's sake, and that leaves me cold. Also, a lot of these films have sound mixing that has literally made me ill, since the effects of breaking bones and knife-stabbings are painfully exaggerated, with the volume amped up to a ridiculous degree. I especially feel that the Saw series of films is a wasted opportunity, as I find Jigsaw to be a fascinating character with a tragic and reasonable motive. Even his methods are interesting to me. I just wish that I didn't see them played out in sickening detail. There are plenty of other entries that I could elaborate on, especially movies that fit in the "body horror" group, but I don't feel like vomiting tonight.
The other subgenre I'm wary of concerns supernatural thrillers. I'm a big fan of ghost stories and haunted houses, as I'm sure most of our readers know by now. However, I cannot deal with movies that feature demons or hellish creatures very well. This is tougher to categorize than the torture porn films, because it could be argued that any movie about life beyond the grave would deal with such elements. And to a point that's true. Still, I don't think anyone could mistake Ghostbusters for Dante's Inferno. No, it's films like The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, Paranormal Activity, Hellraiser, and others of their kind that turn me off. Partly it's because of my spiritual beliefs -I am a Christian and since I believe such things are real, I want to avoid them as much as possible- but mostly because, to be honest, those are really scary movies to me. I like a good fright, but I don't need to lose a week's worth of sleep due to Clive Barker's nightmares, thanks. There's a handful of movies where the characters fight demons (or maybe they are demons), but I still watch them because they're way too silly to upset me. Evil Dead or Hellboy? Sure, I'll make the popcorn. The Exorcism of Emily Rose? You go ahead, I'm on my way to church.
Again, these movies have plenty of fans, and while I'm not about to watch either kind anytime soon, I do think there's more to be said artistically for demon possession flicks than anything labeled torture porn. But personally, I'm going to stick with my horror-comedies, zombie apocalypse, and classic monster films.
Besides, any subgenre that gives Eli Roth a career shouldn't be allowed.