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Why I’m Defending So-Called ‘Torture Porn’

As a horror fan, I take issue with the term “torture porn” when it’s applied as a blanket statement to all genre: specifically James Wan’s 2004 film Saw, Eli Roth’s Hostel, and Alex Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes. These three guys were at the time dubbed “The Splat Pack.” But is it possible that there was more to the films that were assigned the moniker? Horror fans were getting what they paid for, but was there a reason to use torture as a scare tactic in the early-to-mid aughts? I say yes.

Granted, horror is not always particularly classy. Exploitation cinema has been around for, well, as long as there has been cinema, but to pretend that horror is the only genre guilty of poor judgement is a mistake. And yet, when comedy or action movies fall into exploitation territory they’re considered “crude” or “low-brow;” when it’s horror, it’s equated to pornography.

But really, the thing that frustrates me the most about the term “torture porn” is that it’s often applied to movies where the person using the phrase hasn’t even seen the film. That is not only unfair, it’s ignorant, and just one more way to undermine a genre. I would argue that Hostel and The Hills Have Eyes especially had a lot of important things to say.

My six minutes isn’t nearly enough to explore the nuances of a complicated issue. So, for more, here are pieces touching on Eli Roth’s HostelAlex Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes and James Wan’s Saw.

What are your thoughts on the phrase “torture porn?” Have you ever judged a book by its cover or a movie by its poster? Tell us in the comments!

Featured Image Credit: Lionsgate Entertainment

Clarke Wolfe writes Horror Happenings for Nerdist every Sunday. You can follow her on Twitter @clarkewolfe.

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