Here we go then with the third instalment of our horror feature and this time we'll have a look at:
The Nastiness Factor
This isn't about whether a film was on the most prestigious Nasties list which elevated films to a must-see status (some rightly so, others, well... maybe not, Zombie Creeping Flesh anyone?). No, this third part of our Death of Horror feature is all about films that, when the credits roll, leave a nasty taste in the mouth.
I was rewatching Big Bad Wolves last night and it struck me how light-hearted a film about torturing a potential paedophile can be. The tone is spot on throughout and despite numerous scenes of rough torture it is always balanced by very dark touches of humour. Because it is not clear until the end whether the poor fellow is a paedophile or not, the viewer is never put in a position where there are being asked to enjoy the torture. For the majority of the film I was asking the question, but what if he's not guilty? It's a great example of a possibly nasty film ending up as an enjoyable slice of horror.
Other films that walk the fine line between nastiness and entertaining are Martyrs (some may say it falls on the nasty side but I think that it manages not to... just), I Spit on your Grave (2010) and The Woman (although the guy in the clip below may disagree). So there are fine examples of modern films that get the fact that horror films should be entertaining and leave the viewer satisfied, even if it's in a bleak, devastated way (The Mist, we're looking at you).
I seem to have watched quite a few horrors over recent years that fall foul of the nastiness factor. The Hills Have Eyes (2006) was gruesome and upsetting but was entirely watchable. The sequel meanwhile was generally unpleasant and completely got the tone wrong, especially towards the end. It's a grubby little film that I'd like to forget.
As with the above example it's the bad treatment of women (or animals) that can lead to this nastiness. (I know, the three films mentioned earlier as shining examples all contain the mistreatment of women, but they all are constructed to get the viewer firmly on the side of the women, hence the reason why they're shining examples.) Big Tits Zombie (do I need to say any more?) is a cynical and dirty grubby little film that revels in its portrayal of women as sex objects. Surprisingly it has made it into the top ten posts on this very blog. I don't know why I bother writing all this stuff, maybe I should just post pictures of semi-clad ladies being worried by badly made-up zombies and have done with it.
There are other examples such as Snowtown, the dire Saw, Donkey Punch (possibly more of a thriller than a horror but nasty nonetheless) and Bare Behind Bars, but the worst surely has to be Zombie 108. The role of the female actors is to walk around in hot pants and be abused. Their lack of character means that the viewer isn't being asked by the film-makers to be empathetic. In fact, it feels more as if the director wants you to enjoy it. Filthy sweaty dirty grubby unsanitary little film.
So why do they make films like this. I think that it's a combination of lack of budget, imagination and talent. It's hard to make a well crafted horror film that covers all of the bases I'm writing about in these features, so I think that some film-makers substitute quality horror for being as nasty as they can with a cynical eye on the money making potential of these products. Also, you have to wonder about what sort of person would make a film like Zombie 108. A filthy sweaty dirty grubby unsanitary little person, possibly?
Film-makers, I want to enjoy your films, I really do. I want to see film after film that entertain me, make me laugh, or maybe even horrify me. Just don't send me away wanting to scrub my mind with some industrial strength vintage Jif.
Related Reading:Review - Zombie Creeping Flesh
Review - Big Bad Wolves
Review - Martyrs (Doccortex review)
Review - Martyrs (My review)
Review - I Spit on your Grave
Review - The Woman
Review - The Mist
Review - Big Tits Zombie
Review - Snowtown
Review - Donkey Punch
Review - Bare Behind Bars
Review - Zombie 108