In defense of the sadistic new horror movies

92337__slither_lWith the opening today of Slither (pictured), you’d expect another round of hand-wringing over the current wave of horror movies that seem to have taken gore and violence to new extremes of gruesomeness. But some film critics are stepping up to defend these films on their merits. One is EW’s own Lisa Schwarzbaum, who gives Slither a B+ in her review in the new issue, saying, ”So sue me, sometimes after a day of enjoying Belgian film-festival prizewinners, I like to relax with copious servings of horror-flick slime and a good visual joke involving squids, girls in bathtubs, and overhead cameras.”

Another is Christopher Kelly of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Via Movie City News comes this link to Kelly’s lengthy essay  insisting that many critics have failed to see the virtues of such recent horror-exploitation flicks as Saw and Saw II, Wolf Creek, Hostel, and The Hills Have Eyes. To Kelly, those virtues include an ”often-astonishing level of craft” and a pessimistic outlook that captures the post-9/11 zeitgeist, a sense that inexplicable evil could inflict a horrible demise on any of us at any time. Sure, the movies seem sadistic, but he says teen viewers who are their target audience identify and empathize with the victims and not their tormenters, as slightly older viewers did when they watched the Freddy/Jason/Michael Myers sagas.

I’m not sure whether the new splatter filmmakers are trying to make serious allegories or whether they’re simply one-upping their influences (the previous generation of horror films, violent videogames, manga, Takashi Miike movies) with the new technologies available to them (digital cameras, CGI, state-of-the-art makeup). Still, they’ve managed to create a new aesthetic experience for moviegoers, one that feels like being pummeled mercilessly for 90 minutes but is still cathartic. I’m glad that some critics are willing to take these movies seriously as objects of study. Of course, I won’t be one of those critics; I’m too grossed out. Y’all enjoy Slither, but I’ll be across the hall watching something harmless like Ice Age 2.

addCredit(“Slither: Chris Helcermanas-Benge”)

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Comments (12 total) Add your comment
  • nathan

    To me, it doesn’t matter how scary or sadistic a movie is or isn’t. As long as it’s GOOD. No matter how extreme they get though, I still haven’t seen anything as truly horrific as the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

  • Josh

    I have a problem. I can’t stand to look at disgusting things. It was with reluctance that I saw movies like ‘Dawn of the Dead,’ ‘Saw,’ and ‘The Grudge.’ But, I simply can’t see ‘Slither’ and wish they weren’t allowed to advertise certain images. Why? Because gross images get stuck in my mind. I’m the first to step up for free speech rights and artistic expression, but I’ve already had trouble falling asleep this week simply from the previews of slithery slugs and disgustingly ugly zombies. I’m fine with viewing blood and violence in general, with viewing kinky sex, I’m fine with a lot of things — but some things I just can’t watch. And it’s not just horror movies, certain comedies have done the gross-out route. If it’s just here and there, I’ll deal, close my eyes, whatever. But a whole movie with slugs and zombies? Even if it’s meant to be funny, the images are already stuck, haunting me, in a way that I wish they weren’t.

  • mike

    I’m with Josh. My squirm level is too low to stand current horror movies. I am a big fan of horror television though. The ick factor is less.

  • Tim

    From some of the reviews I’ve read, sounds like Slither pays homage to some of the 50s creature from outer space flicks. I’m a big fan of those, so I do want to check it out.

  • JW Colwell

    I saw it last night at our managers screening. I work for an independent movie theatre. The film is very gory but also incredibly funny. It pays homage to a lot of the horror sci-fi movies of the past like Carpenter’s Thing, Night of the Creeps and Alien. One business in the small town at the beginning is named RJ Macready Hardware or something like that. Gunn paying ample homage to one of the truly great Sci-fi remakes THE THING. It is Kurt Russell’s character name in the film. It is basically what Scream was to slasher films. It is a heck of ride with very good visual effects, very funny dialogue and a really great concept behind the creature. The slugs and Rooker changing aren’t even the half of it. If the trailers bother you now. The film is far gorier than anything you have seen. It is definitely not for the faint of heart. If you are a fan of horror sci-fi where the characters are decently drawn for a b-movie—-YOU WILL HAVE A GRETA TIME I KNOW I DID!
    JW

  • JW Colwell

    I saw it last night at our managers screening. I work for an independent movie theatre. The film is very gory but also incredibly funny. It pays homage to a lot of the horror sci-fi movies of the past like Carpenter’s Thing, Night of the Creeps and Alien. One business in the small town at the beginning is named RJ Macready Hardware or something like that. Gunn paying ample homage to one of the truly great Sci-fi remakes THE THING. It is Kurt Russell’s character name in the film. It is basically what Scream was to slasher films. It is a heck of ride with very good visual effects, very funny dialogue and a really great concept behind the creature. The slugs and Rooker changing aren’t even the half of it. If the trailers bother you now. The film is far gorier than anything you have seen. It is definitely not for the faint of heart. If you are a fan of horror sci-fi where the characters are decently drawn for a b-movie—-YOU WILL HAVE A GREAT TIME I KNOW I DID!
    JW

  • Ep Sato

    Horror has always been one of film’s best genres. While the genre has gone through more changes than some sort of morphing sci fi monster, spooky movies have always been a good way to separate movie goers from their $$$. What is more, whenever the genre gets lame, old or overplayed, someone like Sam Raimi, Simon Pegg, the guy who made all them scary Japanese movies, or some new super director comes around and reminds us why horror movies are so cool.
    The genre is reaching a critical mass right now for this generation of horror movies, and the zombie flicks have gone from fun to overkill, which means that we are due for a new super director or direction change.

  • dma69

    I’ll take a chance, only to find out what that round thingamawhatsit is. It’s creeps me out every time I see the commercials for Slither.

  • Brennon

    Even though horror has been taken to new violent extremes, I think it’s headed in a good direction. I’m not one for excessive gore, but if an emotional Ooophf lies behind the proceedings, and audiences are beginning the care about the victims and not the villains, perhaps there’s something to be said for the untapped empathetic vein in the genre. Perhaps — and this is a big perhaps — if horror directors made us care about the victims and truly witness in gory, frightening detail the level of depravity in the victimizers, a loose sense of morality will install itself in the films. That would be good for the detractors and the fans of horror.

  • Tim L

    Horror movies have become to North American popculture what Film Noir (not a genre, a style) was to post world war 2 America. They both encapsulate a feeling that evil is reaching up through society, converting the good, and spreading the bad and they both exhibit a deep cynicism about American culture as well. Ther law and good struggling to contain those things that threaten our way of life (well, yours, I’m Canadian).

  • Carrie

    I caught SLiTHER yesterday afternoon, and was very impressed, actually. Even if I did only check it out in the first place thanks to Jenna Fischer. It’s sort of a pessimistic “Shaun of the Dead”-esque thriller, with a great tonal balance. I don’t believe it falls in the same category with “Saw” or “Hostel,” self-indulgent gross-out fests with teenage audiences in mind. I don’t have a big problem with the sadistic trend, I just miss horror movies with some brain power added in. Go see SLiTHER, no disappointments here!

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