Wednesday 22 July 2009

Scary Stuff This Sex

The drill is his penis, get it?

Now I’m no prude, but I can’t help but feel that a lot of, indeed maybe too many modern horror movies are based in sex. It should come as no surprise that I blame the postmodern horror movement of the 80s and 90s for that one. Constant referrals to premarital sex in horror movies have inspired a generation of filmmakers to produce what essentially amounts to soft-core splatter porn. I fully acknowledge that sex sells and a good part of the horror industry is driven by this one simple fact, but there’s a whole other side to sex which I think is woefully under-exploited in modern, mainstream slashers: gender.

What I find most interesting is the fact that slashers in particular focus heavily on sex, while other genre films deal with sex and gender issues. Fatal Attraction, though it belongs to the nebulous suspense/thriller category, is about the fallout from a one night stand. Love Doll and Spiral are both about a man’s unrealized sexual desire for a female friend. And Teeth deals with repressed sexuality and uses sex as a weapon to defend against sexual predators. In these examples, sex helps to move the story forward, but gender is also addressed; men have a weakness for women, and women are fearful as the Other.

Wanted to plug this book. It's excellent.

Modern slashers have little to offer other than an eyeful of fake tits. Admittedly I don’t watch these movies for intellectual stimulation, but the sheer amount of nudity in the new Friday the 13th actually detracted from the film. Also the film’s treatment of the naked women was borderline offensive: recall Jason stabbing a topless woman and pulling her body from the water giving us one last look at her breasts before he disposed of her corpse. The original Friday the 13th gave nakedness the same blasé treatment it gave smoking pot—as a matter of course. If modern films could somehow find a way to embrace the naturalness of nudity and sex, then their stories wouldn’t stall while characters abscond to the bedroom or the woods.

I’m not asking for anything intellectual or highfalutin. Indeed, all I want from a horror movie is for it not to be completely stupid and for it to have good effects. For me, everything takes a back seat to story, and unnecessary or crappy effects just piss me off. I’m not suggesting people cut the sex entirely from their movies, but if people would muse a bit less on tits and ass and a bit more on gender roles and gender differences, and sex as story element, then maybe we can see a move away from tawdry remakes like Rob Zombie’s Halloween, and a move toward more original fare like Cherry Falls.

The worst offender.


William Malmborg said...

I agree. Many modern horror movies are trying too hard to impress us with the amount of breasts they show and less on the scares, which is the reason fans like me go. If I want nudity I don't have to pay twenty bucks to see it, I can just go online, but finding a movie that is scary, well, that isn't so easy and is much more appreciated.

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