Horror Porn: Can We Take It Seriously?


"Sex and violence have always gone very well together. It's like bacon and eggs.  If you look at the history of cinematic violence, there's always a sexual component in violence, and a violent component in sexuality.  To me, that's a natural thing to explore."  - David Cronenberg

And explore we have.  The Horror fan especially.  It’s our two basic food groups. Whether it be a handsome vampire sucking at the exposed flesh of a bared beauty or two teens making the two-backed beast when a real beast is lurking just outside the door; sex and violence are the salt and pepper on our reprobative rations.  More acutely, sex and death, when you suck it to the bone.  Unfortunately, standard convention seems to dictate that to have sex will invariably lead to dire consequence.  It's a theme revisited again and again, not only in Horror, but in all cinema.  As far as we've advanced socially it seems rather hypocritical to still operate under such a puritanical belief, but by and large we do.  Sex is a habitual taboo and accordingly, the portrayal of sex is routinely constrained.

Which brings me to my next expositional ejaculation.  In this age of all things real and extreme - unrated and uncensored - why is it we can't collectively wrap our heads around the concept of more graphic sex in our films?  The mainstream acceptance of pornography as popular entertainment cannot be denied and thanks to a quick click of the keys, access to it has never been easier.  Furthermore, we as Horror fans love to revel in the repugnant and reprehensible and constantly beg for more realism in its presentations.  So what is it then about some indubitable intercourse that seems to make so many of us uncomfortable?

It is no long stretch to assume that the average Horror fan likely finds something arousing to the senses in all the escapism the genre offers.  Whether it be a great jump scare, a brief cathartic rush, or some tits and ass and a few cool head explosions to ogle after.  Stimulation, on one level or another, is the name of the game up here in Spooksville.  So why aren't more filmmakers and viewers willing to go all the way?

The submissive Seventies came the closest to coupling horror and pornography to any persuasive degree, but even those offerings tend to poke more toward one conception or the other.  Adult films like Through The Looking Glass, Forced Entry, Sex Wish, Unwilling Lovers and Hardgore would occasionally transcend their coital confines to become genuinely provocative by other parameters, but the instances are few.  It was also common for producers and distributors to insert hardcore footage into various genre films for more permissive markets; often without a director's consent or knowledge.  Typically badly edited, these films were the least flattering of the lot to reveal themselves.  You also had opportunists like Jess Franco and Joe D'Amato voluntarily lensing alternative sex scenes for different cuts of their Horror films.  One of the more concise of these, Franco's Female Vampire, is an enjoyable marriage of untrimmed flesh and foul.  Then you have something like D'Amato's Erotic Nights Of The Living Dead, which is as seductive as watching paint dry.

Japanese film In The Realm Of The Senses would attract controversy in 1976 for its stark blending of sex and sadism; here the explicitness is integral to the theme and not glamorized, so it never comes off as gratuitous.  Too bad the same could not be said for Tinto Brass's big budget extravaganza Caligula in 1979.  The director and highly esteemed cast all agreed upon involvement knowing the producer would augment the film with explicit material before release.  It suffers from over indulgence, but gives you a good example of how lines were blurring.  As the decade petered out directors like Stanley Kubrick and Brian DePalma expressed an interest in diddling with porn, but concerns over censorship hindered these projects from reaching fruition.

It is interesting to note that in years to follow the majority of films to include explicit sex into their narratives are normally framed within a dramatic context; rarely ever spliced with comparable depictions of violence.  Aggressive films like Baise-Moi and Scrapbook being your rare exceptions.  Most recently, retro-sleazer Gutterballs let it all hang out for a few moments on the small screen, while Lars von Trier's Antichrist recently pushed buttons at Cannes.  I nakedly applaud these bold endeavors, although the sensationalism that inevitably surrounds them can easily overshadow their artistic merit.

Now admittedly, graphic sex isn't the most cinematically yielding device to exploit; but then again you wouldn't think a mass of gooey entrails would be worthy of sustained tracking shots, either.  If a story is especially absorbing or filled with tension, then one might find a prolonged sex scene intrusive, sure.  One might dismiss the narrative if the characters aren't desirable enough.  Not only intellectually, but physically, too.  On the other sticky palm: if we get too carried away in sexual stimuli, our focus could entirely shift, removing us from the rest of the film.  It happens.  However, I would extend that these arguments can be made of any film depending on the subject matter and your own unique levels of perversity.

Is the average viewer really only capable of being engaged by a compelling story or compelling sex, and never the two shall meat?  Do our delicate minds get too fondled for rational thought after these types of escapades, or is there a way to amicably bridge this genital gap?

Now keep in mind I'm not advocating the use of extended orgy scenes at every conceivable turn, or anything like that.  Sorry, Ron Jeremy.  But it would be refreshing to occasionally see more realistic presentations of sex within the genre.  How many superfluous and simulated scenes have we had to suffer through as a collective already?  Will witnessing an erect penis or some actual penetration during those moments ultimately effect the way I identify with the rest of the story?  If balanced correctly, I don't think it should.  Consider classic Horror films with strong erotic subtexts like 1973's Don't Look Now or 1979's Dracula; would they really suffer any if we had caught a brief glimpse of Sutherland's slimjim or Langella's lance in action?

At the very least, I'm surprised this gaping hole in experimentation still remains largely untapped.  For a genre known for pushing so many boundaries, it still treats sex too conservatively in both a thematic and visual sense.  These trends can severely undermine the effectiveness of a film when it subscribes to such predictable moral tones.  If morality and inhibition must have a place in Horror, I firmly believe it should be at the corner of Loose Ethics and Abnormal Thoughts.

Kindly expose your own thoughts on this touchy subject in the forum.

blog comments powered by Disqus