Gore Movies, Why Do we Watch them?


Politicians love to hate these types of films.  In turn, we love to hate ignorant politicians who don't even watch the films they dismiss as "repulsive" and "the reason for the declination of our society".  But the box office numbers would disagree with the politicians showing that a large number of people are flooding the theatres. That leaves us with a question:  why do these films even exist?  As rational and sane human beings, why do we watch films that we know are filled with disgusting acts of violence?  Not only do we watch them, but we love them.  We flock to the theatre to see the next installment of Saw for the sole purpose of seeing complete strangers undergo torture that is virtually inconceivable and after we almost lose our lunch, we leave the theatre wanting more.  More blood, more effects, more head explosions, it's so rarely enough.  But what makes these films so alluring? Why do we even bother to watch them? 

Looking at some of the popular films that showcase gore, it becomes clear to me that the gore on the screen isn't even see as violence or terror but rather is a symbolic representation of destruction and rebirth.  It isn't even about realism anymore.  It hasn't been about the realism of a particular effect in a long time.  Any movie released today with a decent FX budget can pretty much kill a person any way they could possibly think of and make it look good.  It's no surprise, we all know going in that the crazy gore we see on screen will be pretty close to the real thing. 

Therefore the gore itself isn't the issue anymore.  It's about seeing and witnessing a transformation occurring right in front of your eyes at the most basic and primal level.  In these new torture films, gore represents the absolute destruction of what was, not only in the physical sense, but also in a spiritual way.  It's like destroying absolutely everything in order to deal with it and subsequently move on.  This pertains to the thought that the ideals, norms, and feelings of the previous generation have successfully muddled up everything in our lives to the point where nothing can be saved.  It has to be removed with force, leaving in its wake the chosen few.  Changed forever and ready to take on a future they couldn't have possibly imagined before any of these events occurred

What exactly do I mean by that?  I will use the film Hostel as an example.  Throughout the course of the film we see nameless actors get filleted on screen and never in our mind does the idea of "realism" of the on screen deaths ever come into play.  We all know its fake, we see the actors eventually in other projects down the road, so we are clear in our conscience when we want to see them die up on the screen.  Not only that, but throw in the fear of the absolute unknown (a foreign country, where us ignorant North Americans will never be able to afford to go to), and you have a recipe for a land where all this mayhem is suddenly conceivable.  So we need to "buy" the fact that the location is real, and the events could really happen, but yet the events that do happen are obviously not real?  Ok then, so what gets destroyed you ask?  It's the thought and idea of ignorance in our current society.  It's the character's ability to think that by traveling to this remote part of Slovakia, they will engage in random acts of drug use and debaucherous sex that rivals only the wrap party of Caligula. 

The idea in the film that gets destroyed is the idea that you can take what ever you want and get away with it without consequence.  The main characters are ignorant frat boys, with very little redeeming qualities, so when they get killed off, we don't really care about them.  The people who go to the country to kill others for money are exactly the same.  They think that they can take a life without it ever coming back to haunt them.  We want to see the clash, two tiers of society fighting in a ring where everyone things that they deserve everything = chaos.  How do we fix this?  By having Jay Hernandez kill everyone responsible for his capture.  We wanted to see it happen anyway.  And we wanted it to happen big.  Lots of gore, lots of pain, and a ton of blood.  We got it in spades didn't we?  So we saw it, been there done that, why do we keep coming back though?  After we set the world on fire, why else would we come back to see what's in the ashes?

This is the second reason these gore films exist. It's all entertainment.  It's a release.  It's so radically different than anything that we encounter in our boring day to day lives.  It gives us that visceral need to see something spectacular and out of the ordinary.  To mix up the pot, to take a glimpse into a world we would never have seen before (and probably don't want to be a part of).  That doesn't mean we don't want to take a gander at that world from the safety of a crowed theatre, or the comfort of our couch.  No one wants to see this torture in real life.  No one wants to be walking down the street and see someone head explode in front of them.  No one wants to walk through a bombed out building, stepping over pieces of what used to be a person.  It isn't even about "realism" of the events unfolding anymore.  It's about seeing and witnessing an event of pure destruction and watching it from the ground level in safety.  Sometimes this party of extreme violence and gore on the screen even falls into the realm of genre self parody (see Dead Alive).  And that's fun as hell to watch too.

So let me ask you this.  Do you enjoy a good gore film?  More importantly, why do you watch gore films?  I'm not talking about films that happen to have gore in them like Jaws does, but rather the particularly nasty ones.  Are you more like a carnival goer, peeking in at the freak show?  Or is it that you just want to see what the insides of people look like?  Either way count me in till the last bit of blood or demon goo dries on the pavement.

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