November 2, 2009

Episode 17: The Greatest Hits of the Marquis De Sade

This one was always going to be a tough show due to its inherent unpleasantness as well as its utter disregard for good taste. After all, while you may not agree with the derogatory term "torture porn" I am sure you can see where it comes from. What many fail to see, however, is that not only are these films simply the most recent trend in a long-lasting cultural tradition, they are also an apt comment of the times we're living in. The good horror film needs to hit a nerve i.e. a painful issue that people would rather sweep under the rug than face it in all its ugliness. Remember Abu Ghraib? Remember Joseph Fritzl? True events stemming from the heart of our so-called civilized society that for once we cannot mask - and which are the real subject of the often detested subgenre we're discussing here.

Of course, the "torture porn" flicks are pure exploitation and generally aim for our most basic fears and not our brains. There are exceptions, though: the first Saw film and Martyrs are far from mindless and the latter digs particularly deep with its game-changing finale. Let's go a bit further back: remember Misery - the book and the film? The torture there wasn't nearly as physical as it was psychological - but it was torture nonetheless, and at the time it had something to say about both our fascination with the imaginary world of the media and the facade of the peaceful God-fearing viewer behind which evil lurks.

None of the shtick about the shallowness or depth of these films matter, though, as they cut into the collective subconscious almost instinctively, recognizing the voyeur in each of us that we would never let out on the surface in different circumstances. People who are not simply passive observers but take part in the actions, on the other hand, receive public scorn based on moral (almost never ethical) principles particularly if they're caught (like that doomed libertarian Marquis De Sade). How these same moral principles allowed for the inqusition and public lynching is beyond me, but again, logic doesn't need to play into it. Torture is natural to human beings, and films about torture are just as natural - either as an aid to face the ugly truth or as a release valve - whatever you need, really.

This isn't to say you should watch these films - at the end of the day, most of them have week stories topped with bad finishing - but in case you do, don't disregard them just because you cannot stomach them. For instance, I couldn't stomach Visitor Q but I cannot deny that beneath all the filth lies an interesting commentary about the modern Japanese family unit.

Anyhoo, on with the show, which boasts many more conversation topics including readings of the classic Hansel & Gretel story and substantial info on the infamous marquis, along with some awesome music :)

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