Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

A subforum to discuss film culture and criticism both old and new, as well as memorializing public figures we've lost.
Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#276 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Oct 09, 2011 12:05 pm

DominoHarvey wrote:I think films like Friday the 13th, where we go into the killer's POV for what amounts to pornography capped with an ejaculation of blood, are doing exactly as Siskel and Ebert claim.
To be fair to Friday the 13th (which I do think is a bad movie, tho' not for reasons of violence), the only time it uses a POV shot for a murder scene is in the very first sequence; the rest are simply attempts to create tension, the killer watching from behind trees and so forth. I actually read a persuasive close reading of that opening sequence which argued that the effect of it was to give the killer an omnipresence, an unbounded sight that could take in everything, with the implication that the POV saw not only where everybody was spatially, but what everyone's faults were, too. It was a representation of the killer's all-consuming desire for vengeance. (It should also be pointed out that at bottom the POV shots were included because Halloween opened with a long POV sequence from the killer's perspective and Friday is copying the pattern). Friday the 13th not a good movie, but I don't think there's anything immoral about it either. I think the pornography label is unhelpful, too, since what the lable ends up indicting isn't the blood but the very structure of suspense: tension followed by release. If Friday the 13th is pornographic then so is Halloween, Hitchcock, and what-have-you.
dominoharvey wrote:but then they lose me with the very dangerous suggestion that aesthetics can help differentiate between a "right" and "wrong" slasher film
I'd agree that the idea that a well-made film somehow has a greater share of morality for being well-made is a specious idea, but at the same time, aesthetic decisions concerning certain techniques can prevent them from being immoral. Take the POV shot in the slasher movie, for instance. The popularity of this technique comes primarily out of Dario Argento's films, but where most slashers or giallos use this technique unthinkingly, because it's a genre trope, Argento is always using his shots from the killer's perspective to advance very specifically designed themes. For example, using a sexually heightened POV gaze only to reveal later that the subject of this gaze could not actually have any genuine or normal sexual feeling, and that the entire sexuality of that gaze has mislead us even as it has offered clues that we are being mislead. If the audience begins to share the sexual feeling behind that gaze, it is later alienated from it when the movie reveals that much of the sexual meaning had been supplied by audience assumption as much as anything.

The presence of a conscious design in Argento's aesthetics prevents them from being "wrong" slasher films in ways that those movies which unthinkingly pick up his techniques miss.


What a lot of people, Domino included, like to disapprove of is the link between sex and death in these movies. Yet I never see any acknowledgement of the fact that this is an old and likely inescapable link. It used to be thought that every orgasm you had brought you slightly closer to death, which lead to its being called le petite mort. That horror movies also find it difficult to extract eros from thanatos is fascinating and deserves more than swift condemnation. The link between them is a lot more complex and a lot less prurient than I think is being assumed. Some movies deal with this link more consciously and with more intelligence than others (I think of the beautiful film Cemetary Man, whose Italian title, Dellamorte Dellamore means literally "Of Death, Of Love," and which explores these two concepts in all of their range and ambiguity), and some use it to dip freely into hateful emotions (New York Ripper). But I do not believe the link in and of itself deserves dismissal. What it needs is intelligent unpacking.

User avatar
colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#277 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Oct 09, 2011 1:33 pm

The other thing that the point of view shot does in a horror film is obscure the identity of a killer. Friday the 13th uses the POV shot once I can remember in the main film itself, when the (male) camp counsellor returns in the middle of the storm and has one of those "Oh, its you! What are you doing here?...What's that you're holding...No, not that!! AAARGGHH!" conversations directly into the camera. Which is similar to the way that Halloween uses the point of view to obscure the fact that a ten year old boy is doing the killings in the prologue.

But there are other ways horror films use the point of view shot, such as Evil Dead using it to portray an invisible supernatural force zooming through the forest (turning the movie camera into a terroriser of the actors!) Or to obscure the big reveal of the monster for the first few murders, either to create suspense or (if we are being uncharitable) to hide lacklustre special effects. One that I particularly remember liking was the solarised werewolf point of view shots of Wolfen - I've often wondered if they had any influence on Predator's POVs.

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#278 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Oct 09, 2011 2:04 pm

colin wrote:The other thing that the point of view shot does in a horror film is obscure the identity of a killer. Friday the 13th uses the POV shot once I can remember in the main film itself, when the (male) camp counsellor returns in the middle of the storm and has one of those "Oh, its you! What are you doing here?...What's that you're holding...No, not that!! AAARGGHH!" conversations directly into the camera. Which is similar to the way that Halloween uses the point of view to obscure the fact that a ten year old boy is doing the killings in the prologue.
Oh yeah, I forgot about that one. Doesn't that one lead to one of the more improbable moments where, with impeccable timing, his body swings out of an open door-way just as the remaining characters attempt to walk through it? The fascination in the Friday films with having the murderer construct elaborate reveals of his own mayhem was always the strangest part of them, for me. Although I liked the way Soavi took that conceit one step further by having his killer in Stage Fright carefully assemble all of the dead actors into a tableaux on stage with him at the centre, and in the process accidentally turns on the stage fan, sending a continuous stream of feathers floating into the air that turns the setting into a real-life snow globe (a recurrent trope in Soavi's films) in which the lead girl is trapped.
colin wrote:But there are other ways horror films use the point of view shot, such as Evil Dead using it to portray an invisible supernatural force zooming through the forest (turning the movie camera into a terroriser of the actors!)
Argento did something like the same thing in Suspiria when the blind man is killed. The editing and camera movement is meant to suggest the presence of some intangible evil, and near the end, after cutting into a closeup of a grotesque sculpture on top of one of the buildings, the camera takes what seems to be the sculpture's POV before suddenly swooping down off the building towards the blind man almost as if it had come to life. It's one of the rare instances in movies of the camera being metaphorical (non-literal), suggesting a presence through I guess a visual analogy.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#279 Post by domino harvey » Sun Oct 09, 2011 2:08 pm

In all seriousness, I can tell we're going to have a lot of fun with the Horror List in a couple months

User avatar
colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#280 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Oct 09, 2011 2:14 pm

If Mr Sausage doesn't do it, Stagefright is going to be my swapsie (love the pointing out of the snowglobe metaphor!)

And domino, if you only watch one slasher film I'd probably recommend the excellent April Fool's Day from 1986 (which can be described as sort of having the self awareness of Scream crossed with the tricksiness of The Game!)

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#281 Post by knives » Sun Oct 09, 2011 2:21 pm

God, I don't think I could round things down to a swapsie. Maybe The Flesh and the Fiends, but that's fairly high profile ditto Witchfinder General.

As to Friday, as long as we're still talking about the first movie, it's really important in these discussions to remember who the killer isn't. The POV stuff was mostly used in the first two films and for the first the killer not being a man probably is an important thing to consider when talking about sexual politics and even audience identification (though I'm sure as Mr. Sausage will point out nearly every Argento movie does this twist better).

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#282 Post by domino harvey » Sun Oct 09, 2011 2:26 pm

colinr0380 wrote:And domino, if you only watch one slasher film I'd probably recommend the excellent April Fool's Day from 1986 (which can be described as sort of having the self awareness of Scream crossed with the tricksiness of The Game!)
Oh, as a 90s Kid who wandered the aisles of my local VHS Palace looking at all the graphic VHS covers of the post-Halloween sweepstakes flicks, I'm sure I'll be consuming oodles of slashers just to pique my latent curiosity. Now, whether any live up to these memories of only-imagined content is the real question

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#283 Post by knives » Sun Oct 09, 2011 2:28 pm

Don't forget Alice Sweet Alice which is just insane. That entire family makes pretty unique and reasonably deep horror films.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#284 Post by domino harvey » Sun Oct 09, 2011 2:36 pm

I think I've told stories about my mom and inappropriate films from my childhood. Well, though I remember very little about it, I know we watched this VHS double-feature together when I couldn't have been older than six or seven!

Image

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#285 Post by knives » Sun Oct 09, 2011 2:42 pm

It's the B film? Well that's terrible. If you don't remember anything about the film it has a catholic subtext in the way Godzilla has a nuclear one. It's really the first film to make me look at religion and question dogma. It's no Bergman in that sense, but it still goes surprisingly far. I'm pretty sure Hulu has it up. Also check out his cousin's (I think) Horror which is unfairly maligned.

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#286 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Oct 09, 2011 2:43 pm

domino harvey wrote:
colinr0380 wrote:And domino, if you only watch one slasher film I'd probably recommend the excellent April Fool's Day from 1986 (which can be described as sort of having the self awareness of Scream crossed with the tricksiness of The Game!)
Oh, as a 90s Kid who wandered the aisles of my local VHS Palace looking at all the graphic VHS covers of the post-Halloween sweepstakes flicks, I'm sure I'll be consuming oodles of slashers just to pique my latent curiosity. Now, whether any live up to these memories of only-imagined content is the real question
As someone who did the same thing as kid and subsequently watched most of those movies as an adult, I can tell you that they really don't. I don't know what it says about me, but R-rated horror movies almost never lived up to what my kid self always imagined went on from looking at the cover art.
colin wrote:If Mr Sausage doesn't do it, Stagefright is going to be my swapsie (love the pointing out of the snowglobe metaphor!)
It's all yours. I think my swapsies will be Horror Hotel (aka City of the Dead) and Nightmare.

Speaking of Soavi and snowglobes, I'm fascinated by the way he develops that metaphor throughout his short career. From making it a metaphor of the lead character's literal entrapment in Stage Fright, to using, in the interesting failure, The Sect, ubiquitous floating particles in the outdoor scenes and recurrent shots of the lead character's treasured snowglobe to suggest that destiny is a world closed in on itself, that the lead girl had become trapped in her own personal snowglobe by a cult who had organized and arranged her whole life for her (tho' the symbolic imagery borrowed from Lewis Carroll suggests a way out). This of course culminates in Cemetary Man with the final shot that suggests that the recurrent patterns of human affairs--love, sex, death--can trap us, reduce us to a perpetually revolving but always static existence. Such a shame he only got to make four films; I would've loved to have seen him continue to develop this motif.

User avatar
Murdoch
Joined: Sun Apr 20, 2008 11:59 pm
Location: Upstate NY

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#287 Post by Murdoch » Sun Oct 09, 2011 2:44 pm

colinr0380 wrote:And domino, if you only watch one slasher film I'd probably recommend the excellent April Fool's Day from 1986 (which can be described as sort of having the self awareness of Scream crossed with the tricksiness of The Game!)
Seconded, one of the very few 80s slashers that I often revisit this time of year. Lately, the only two I don't mind popping in are April Fool's Day and the Stepfather, although Cutting Class and Chopping Mall are campy/awful fun.

User avatar
colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#288 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Oct 09, 2011 2:56 pm

knives wrote:God, I don't think I could round things down to a swapsie. Maybe The Flesh and the Fiends, but that's fairly high profile ditto Witchfinder General.
If not The Flesh and the Fiends, how about The Doctor and the Devils, one of the last films that Freddie Francis directed?

And for Michael Reeves if Witchfinder General is too obvious, there's no shame in recommending the extremely 60s, but still excellent, film The Sorcerors!

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#289 Post by knives » Sun Oct 09, 2011 3:02 pm

Haven't seen either of those unfortunately though they sound right what I like.

User avatar
colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#290 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Oct 09, 2011 3:18 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
colin wrote:The other thing that the point of view shot does in a horror film is obscure the identity of a killer. Friday the 13th uses the POV shot once I can remember in the main film itself, when the (male) camp counsellor returns in the middle of the storm and has one of those "Oh, its you! What are you doing here?...What's that you're holding...No, not that!! AAARGGHH!" conversations directly into the camera. Which is similar to the way that Halloween uses the point of view to obscure the fact that a ten year old boy is doing the killings in the prologue.
Oh yeah, I forgot about that one. Doesn't that one lead to one of the more improbable moments where, with impeccable timing, his body swings out of an open door-way just as the remaining characters attempt to walk through it? The fascination in the Friday films with having the murderer construct elaborate reveals of his own mayhem was always the strangest part of them, for me.
Perhaps this shows up Friday the 13th as being particularly uninspired but I always like the scene in one of the films where the girl is finding all the bodies of her friends and then the final body just ends up being lazily chucked through the window at her, as if to say "And here's that other person you might remember"! (I don't even think that this happened in the 3D one either, so it wasn't to maximise that effect!)

I guess that this is another instance of Friday the 13th copying Halloween in the sequence where Curtis stumbles across all of her friends when she crosses the street to look for them. One of the fascinating things about the Friday the 13th series (which I would not argue too strongly about the quality of, though I like the fourth one the best!) is the way that the sheer relentless cycle of one film every year codified the films into just being minor variations on a tried and tested formula, carried off with more or less success. So there always has to be a scene of the final girl, after everyone has been individually killed without any of the rest of the gang noticing (and therefore banding together against the threat in some way), running around the previously spookily deserted house and stumbling across her various friends, as if the film is afraid that if she and the audience are not provided with the proof of the bodies, the murders don't count or the friends could somehow come back!

It also works I suppose to provide another, longer pay off to the murder sequence which often happens very fast before cutting away to something else. If we think of the Friday films as milking every murder for all they are worth then you have the long build up when the character is unaware, then the build up when the character is aware of the danger but is trying to hide, then the usually brief murder, then the 'find the body' jump at the end, which somehow can be seen to act to fortify the lead character into fighting back, since there is nobody else left - so four scares per character bumped off!

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#291 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Oct 09, 2011 3:53 pm

colin wrote:Perhaps this shows up Friday the 13th as being particularly uninspired but I always like the scene in one of the films where the girl is finding all the bodies of her friends and then the final body just ends up being lazily chucked through the window at her, as if to say "And here's that other person you might remember"! (I don't even think that this happened in the 3D one either, so it wasn't to maximise that effect!)
Hah! I remember that. It was from the first one. They didn't have a stunt man so they just put Tom Savini in a housecoat and wig and had him go through the window. Considering who the killer ends up being, it's quite a feat that she's hurling bodies through windows and tying them to ceilings. But then again, this is a movie that pulls out the lame device of having the killer not actually be a part of the main cast, so they very well could've written most of the script and even started filming before they'd decided who it would turn out to be!

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#292 Post by domino harvey » Sun Oct 09, 2011 4:25 pm

Murdoch wrote:Chopping Mall
Just watched this on YouTube, which is I think a perfectly acceptable venue for such a pic. And yes, it was everything I ever wanted out of a killer robots blowing up teenagers in a mall film!

User avatar
Murdoch
Joined: Sun Apr 20, 2008 11:59 pm
Location: Upstate NY

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#293 Post by Murdoch » Sun Oct 09, 2011 4:42 pm

If there was ever a movie to watch in chopped up ten minute segments that's it, and it's actually quite fitting!

User avatar
antnield
Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2005 1:59 pm
Location: Cheltenham, England

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#294 Post by antnield » Wed Oct 12, 2011 8:06 am


User avatar
Finch
Joined: Mon Jul 07, 2008 5:09 pm
Location: Edinburgh, UK

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#295 Post by Finch » Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:09 am

Is this a record? I can't remember the last time the BBFC have refused a certification for more than one film in a given year.

User avatar
mfunk9786
Under Chris' Protection
Joined: Fri May 16, 2008 4:43 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#296 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Oct 13, 2011 10:28 am

I'm sort of surprised by this one. Everything I read about the film suggests that it doesn't really.have anything sexually arousing about it. Doesn't this say more about the censor than what's been censored?

User avatar
Bill Thompson
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2011 4:58 pm
Location: Sycamore, IL
Contact:

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#297 Post by Bill Thompson » Thu Oct 13, 2011 6:14 pm

I believe that violence needs to serve a purpose, at least I think I do. I don't like much of what people would label as torture porn because it is in my eyes just gore for the sake of gore. The problem is that I do like slasher flicks, and I like a movie like Final Destination because of how inventive it is in how it kills people. It's a fine line to thread, and in the end I fall in line with the line of thinking that says all violence is justified, but I'm not going to like all of it.

User avatar
mfunk9786
Under Chris' Protection
Joined: Fri May 16, 2008 4:43 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#298 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Oct 13, 2011 7:24 pm

Welcome to the forum.

User avatar
MichaelB
Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2006 6:20 pm
Location: Worthing
Contact:

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#299 Post by MichaelB » Fri Oct 14, 2011 5:09 am

Finch wrote:Is this a record? I can't remember the last time the BBFC have refused a certification for more than one film in a given year.
I suppose it depends on how you define 'film' - they've actually rejected 26 film and video titles since 1 January 2001 (i.e. the first full year post-liberalisation), which averages out at 2.6 a year.

But a closer look at the titles reveals that these include instructional videos with titles like High-Yield Hydroponic Systems and Introduction to Indoor Growing (hmmm, I wonder what kind of indoor growing needs a high-yield hydroponic system?), and of course a lot of R18 stuff that will be off most people's radar.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Cinematic Violence: Can Anything Be Justified?

#300 Post by domino harvey » Fri Oct 21, 2011 8:49 am

Image

Post Reply