Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pure Torture

I don’t mind the odd bit of torture. I have been watching Doctor Who after all. But seriously... Like the actress popping her top off because it’s “integral to the plot,” the odd torture scene doesn’t go amiss as long as it serves precisely the same function: upping the ante, heightening the hero’s jeopardy, and conclusively proving that the villains are utterly rum coves who deserve everything coming to them.

One kind of torture or another seems to be par for the course for most TV action heroes now. Without it seasons of 24 would probably only last seven-and-three- quarter hours. While poor old Jack has the tar beaten out of him on a daily basis, perhaps one of the best character-defining moments was when President Palmer personally had one of his aides tied to a chair, electrodes attached and his bare feet in a bowl of water.

Then there’s the torture scene from the pilot of Alias, which proved to be so uncomfortable for Channel 4 when the episode was broadcast it ran forty minutes including ad breaks after they had taken the censor scissors to it. Ignoring their apparent nervousness, scenes like these are okay for a hero who will eventually break free and give their tormentors an arse-kicking the won’t forget in a hurry. But what happens when the character on the receiving end is simply designated a victim? And I don’t mean the likes of Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket whose physical and mental beatings turn him into exactly what the US Army wants.

The consensus is about (real life) serial killers is that they’re loners and losers, the kinds of donuts that couldn’t get a girlfriend or a date to the prom. They wanted to be liked and when that didn’t happen their synapses snapped and they took all the bottled up rage out on some poor unfortunates who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I wonder if the current crop of geek film directors, who certainly looked like they were picked on at school and hate women because of it, figured out that channelling their twisted revenge fantasies into movies was a lot better than looking forward to behind-bars beatings and sodomy starters before the inevitable electric chair entrée.

Judging from the buses passing back and forth, Captivity and Hostel II is about to descend on the UK. Whoopee for us! Torture as a small part of the big picture is probably acceptable, though it does have its detractors. When torture is the picture, that’s pretty abhorrent. One of the big problems I have with Tarantino films is the heartless sadistic glee. When the fucking jerk appears in interviews chuckling about the brutality and violence, I just want to set the wolves on him.

Given that Hostel II tanked spectacularly in the US, hopefully the audience has seen more than enough and now realise how grubby it’s making them feel. I suppose we have to wait until the next Saw film to see if the tide has turned. If it has then we can give the directors a McMurphy and stick them in a rubber room out of the way where they can’t do any more harm.

Most depressing of all is the fact that the director of Captivity was Roland Joffé. He directed The Killing Fields and The Mission for Chrissakes!! Could this be the punishment for sticking the worst John Lennon song ever over the final scenes of the Cambodian-based drama. Or should it be a lesson to directors about the consequences of making a Demi Moore movie?


At 11:34 pm, Blogger Jaded and Cynical said...

'Captivity' is so far off my radar I didn't know Roland Joffe directed it. He must cry himself to sleep at night.

I've always held to the once-mainstream theory that nothing shown on screen can match the power of the viewer's imagination; so anticipatiom of sex, or violence, or horror has more impact than any graphic display of it.

But hey, why deal in the subtle
build up of tension when you can show a guy hacking his leg off?

At 11:52 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Absolutely. I remember films that had me on the edge of my seat with tension or terror and there was absolutely nothing up on screen. It had just planted it all in my head.

Of course the new generation of chucklehead viewers probably haven't got any imagination between the lot of them.

Great excuse for these asshole fuckwads to take off the lens cap and play out their perverted snuff fantasies.

At 10:25 am, Blogger Jason Arnopp said...

Good lord, Mr Dog: all this anger!

Don't have a problem with the torture trend myself: it's just another horror subgenre which you either like or, uh, don't. It's also a good way in which to refresh horror, making it shocking and disturbing again. I haven't seen Hostel Part 2 yet, but Eli Roth has admitted that he finds the build-up to the unpleasantries much more fascinating than the squirty red-stuff, so perhaps it will crank up the agonising suspense more than its predecessor.

I also think that Hostel was an amazing idea for a film, exploring the darkest, grim recesses of human nature. While it's a total exploitation flick at heart, I'd say it's unfair to say it's purely about torture. If you want to see an utterly gratuitous and genuinely repellent torture movie, examine something like August Underground. It's vile, but strangely accomplished, in the sense that it makes you feel wholly nauseous...

At 10:52 am, Blogger Good Dog said...

Came across a piece in the Evening Standard. Apparently Roth was interviewed on BBC Radio 4 and claimed

everybody loves the gore, "the gruelling violence in those moments that go overboard and are a little bit fun" and proudly announced that he himself calls the moment in the first Hostel film in which a terribly burned girl has her protruding eyeball sliced off as "the eyegasm."

It's just sick fantasies of nasty little twats who couldn't get laid.

At 4:58 pm, Blogger Oli said...

Agreeing on Eli Roth. Horrible man. Joss Whedon has some very sound stuff to say about the whole tortue-porn genre here.

Suprised that everyone is horrified to find Roland Joffe directing Captivity though. He directed The Killing Fields. Big whoop. It's not like he wrote it - give any director the script for The Killing Fields, they would of made something disturbing, angry and sad. And they probably wouldn't have put fucking Imagine over the end of it.

Roland Joffe is a hack. Look at his career. Soaps. The Scarlet Letter. Super fucking Mario Brothers. Hack, hack, hack.

At 8:02 pm, Blogger Jason Arnopp said...

Blimey O'Reilley on a bike, fellas! I'd hate to see the kind of scorn you'd reserve for those who, like, actually torture people. :)

At 8:49 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Hadn't actually seen Oli's post. I'm afraid I've got to defend Joffé here.

The BBC's Play For Today strand produced some stunning drama that we don't see enough of nowadays.

David Puttnam certainly saw talent there to let him take the reins of The Killing Fields and The Mission, which are both magnificent movies.

Fat Man and Little Boy is a pretty decent film, although Bruce Robinson would certainly say otherwise. The events at Los Alamos are certainly ripe for drama.

And Super Mario Bros was down to Annabel and Rocky. Joffé may have become involved as a producer as a trade off of doing one for the studio, one for himself - which would have been bringing Hawthorne to the screen. Mario and The Scarlet Letter shared the same production companies after all.

Both Oscar and BAFTA nominated on more than one occasion, "hack" is not a term the man deserves.

At 1:06 pm, Blogger Oli said...

Sticking to my guns here. The Mission is dull, overblown and obvious. He's also directing the upcoming fictionalised biopic of Russian fake lesbians t.a.t.u, which will no doubt be thinly disguised pornography, but without the acid showers this time.

He's a hack, made a couple of lucky choices in the 80's. Play for Today was just a place to start out back then, for writers and directors, like Doctors today.

As for the actual torturers, I'm a member of Amnesty International, so my money's where my mouth is. Rant over.

At 2:46 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Because I'm looking to have a nice relaxing afternoon reading a play a pal is currently finishing off, I'll just say this...

Given that you weren't even born when Play for Today was came on air, to compare it to Doctors shows an absolutely staggering level of idiocy.

I'm happy for people to leave harsh comments here as long as they have informed opinion, which yours are lacking.

So take whatever guns you want to stick to, wherever you've stuck them, and take your rants elsewhere, where they'll be tolerated.

And having had to recently deal with one of the ass clowns that works there, you don't even want to get me started about Amnesty-fucking-International.

At 8:26 pm, Blogger Oli said...

I don't believe I said that Doctors was similar in quality to Play for Today. I understand that they were indeed rather good. I believe I said that it was a starting point. Many new directors and writers started off there, and it was a place where you could do that. He would have started wherever he could.

The man's CV has all the hallmarks of a man with less career direction than Joey Tribiani. If I paid him enough to direct my wedding video, he would. Play For Today just happened to be there.


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