Sunday, July 29, 2007

Tortureporn and a Barrel of Laughs

What do the above three hotties have in common? Maybe more than you think. I recently saw the term "Tortureporn" in an issue of Entertainment Weekly. It refers to the Hostels and Saws of the world. Then, a friend dropped the term in conversation and assured me that yes, this is the hot new word that the kids are using to describe that genre of film -- so in demand these days -- of really bad s#%t happening to trapped people.

Are people actually getting off on it? I hope not. Those ain't folks I want to know. But the inclusion of the word "porn" may not be far from the mark. It reminded me of a paper I wrote in college. I wrote about Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy, focusing on Evil Dead II as a synthesis of film genre -- as the perfect "horror comedy."

It was far more intellectual than I usually get, and I certainly don't give much credence to genre studies in general (labels are for squares, man!), but my paper led me to the conclusion that horror and comedy are basically the same thing. At least, they work with nearly identical devices. Comedy creates tension, playing off expectations to elicit physical relief (laughter). Horror creates tension, playing off suspense to elicit physical relief (screams or jumps). Evil Dead is unique in how well it does these simultaneously.

So horror and comedy, I decided, were definable as genres by virtue of the audiences' physical reactions to them. And think of all those people who just laugh during scary horror movies. But there's one more genre that fits the "defined by physical reaction" bill. Pornography creates tension, playing off arousal to elicit physical relief (I think you get this one). And think of all those people who just laugh during porn. Some even scream and can't watch. Bottom line: horror, comedy, and porn are the same thing. They toy with audiences in the same way, and it's why Hung Wankenstein is probably the ultimate film. It's a fine line between a laugh, a scream, and an orgasm. Come on, tell the truth... haven't you ever done all three at the same time?

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