Tuesday, February 24, 2009

NSFW::Is Rape Ever Okay In Horror?

After watching Cannibal Holocaust for the first time, I was waiting to be incredibly disturbed. I found the film extremely off-putting. Don't get me wrong, the film is something I believe that every horror freak should watch once in their lives, but it isn't a film I care to ever see again. I did some research on it, and the only things that kept showing up were the animal killings. I came across over 43 different websites that discussed how awful the filmmakers were for killing animals. I do agree that killing live animals as part of entertainment is horrible, but I saw maybe only a handful of sites that discussed the full-fledged rape scenes in the film.

I went on the handy-dandy bloody-disgusting.com forums to see if anyone else had an uneasy feeling about rape scenes in horror films. There was one thread still existing about the topic. A viewer was looking for "films with rape scenes". A good amount of people reluctantly rambled off film titles and explained what happened in them, another amount of them bashed on the starter of the thread as being "sick" for wanting to know this information, and a few sarcastic ones who exclaimed their love for watching rape on film.

Sad as it seems, rape is a horrific reality that someone experiences every two minutes (RAINN). So we see films like Cannibal Holocaust, The Hills Have Eyes, and the film that this blog is named after, Day Of The Woman (I Spit On Your Grave). These are just a few horror films that feature all out rape scenes on screen. Some films are even laughed at for their rape scenes like the "tree raping girl" scene in Evil Dead or the girl being raped in the face by a monster in Feast. The same people in the forumwho were calling the starter of the thread "sick", were the same people laughing about "the girl getting a mouthful of monster jizz".

Day of the Woman features a graphic gang-rape scene last lasts nearly 1/3 of the entire film. While it disturbs me mentally to watch the scenes, I slowly forgot about what has happened to her once she begins hacking off her assailants. I don't understand that. You go from completely mortified for this poor girl one minute, and then it's as if the rapes never occured once she chops off Johnny's....little Johnny. It isn't until she repeats the line "Suck it, bitch" to her last victim that I remember he said the same thing to her when he forced her to perform fellatio on him. I will admit that without the gang-rape scenes in this film, it wouldn't be able to set up for the revenge, and ultimately wouldn't have become the powerhouse and classic film that it has become. Yet, for some reason, rape has become an acceptable image as far as the horror genre is concerned. Films like Sleepaway Camp imply a young girl being sexually harassed, we empower her for boiling the tormentor! Then when it is discovered she is a man, we suddenly don't remember the harassment. However, in the cult classic American History X, Edward Norton is held down in a prison shower and sodomized, and yet because the ending is much nicer, and because the victim is a man, no one says a word. Or my television obsession of Law & Order: SVU. The show is completely centered around sexually based crimes, but because the tormentors are put in prison at the end of the day, it's okay to show on cable? So why is it that rape is completely acceptable as long as the victim kills their tormentors? Or if the tormentors are raped right back? Or if the tormentors are monsters and it can't be real? Or if the victim is a man?

Speaking as a woman, who has known many people who have experienced such a tragedy, I believe that it is sad, but true that rape is something that occurs in our daily lives. What makes it so horrifying to see a rape on film, is because it's one of those instances where we know, it could happen to us. The scariest movies aren't the ones where mutant monsters come and create a gore-fest, it's the ones that are real, and could happen to anybody. Should films include rape, just to include rape? Not a chance. But is rape something that needs to be brought to our attention? Absolutely.

I must actually thank the horror creators who have had the guts to include rape scenes into their horror films. It gives victims someone to relate to. Sugarcoating the terrors that happen every single day won't help people understand how life can really be. It reminds us that rape isn't like a bank robbery. It may occur everyday, but rape is ugly, evil, and needs to be prevented. We can't prevent a mutant monster from coming and attacking our city out of nowhere, but we can try to prevent rape-the real horror.

6 comment(s):

CRwM said...

Now this is food for thought. I must admit that I'm one of those many reviewers that focused on the deaths of the animals in Cannibal Holocaust while neglecting to mention the rape scene.

You've made me wonder about me own critical stance regarding the subject. Did I miss something? Have I grown jaded?

Thanks for the thought provoking post.

BJ-C said...

You're very welcome! I guess because I knew ahead of time that there were going to be animal killings, it didn't catch me as off-guard as when I saw them capture the girl and gang rape her.

Anonymous said...

Obviously using rape as a starting point for revenge in a horror film is an easy way to go, which may explain why it's used in the first place. It's a horrible thing to happen to someone and it's something everyone can understand. It's going to put you behind the character that it's happened to and you'll want to see them exact their revenge.

I think that the most disgusting use of rape I've seen happens in the August Underground series of films. While actively seeking the single most disturbing movie I could watch I came across these films. Don't get me wrong, I'm no looney, but after seeing so many horror movies I wondered if anything could shock me. These movies did it.

While the average movie will allow the person who has been violated to get their revenge, August Undergrounds flicks don't allow this. Instead you're the one being violated by watching and I know I'll never watch them ever again.

I'm always bothered by rape scenes in movies and I have to assume that was the intention to begin with. Nothing can bring more fear than the reality of life.

Phantom of Pulp said...

I think the question is a little misleading.

Rape is an horrific act, as are murder, dismemberment, torture, and watching Tyra Banks.

So are they OK films? Yes.

As a filmmaker myself who has directed several rape scenes, I don't like rape scenes that are sanitized for TV. That's not honest.

On the other hand, Japanese pink films focus on the erotic aspect of rape, so it's being treated from a fantasy perspective rather than a real one.

I like your discussion on this subject.

Anonymous said...

I usually can't stand to watch a horror film that includes a rape. I guess it is my worst fear. Hence, I have put off watching Last House on the Left lo these many years. But strangely I did enjoy the original Shutter. And the rape scene in The Haunted was so ridiculous I actually just posted it on my blog. So I guess I'm wishy-washy. You do make a good point as to why the rape scenes should be included in horror.

hhhell said...

Nearly five years after you published this, I am commenting to thank you for writing such an insightful post. I never particularly liked I Spit On Your Grave, namely because of its gratuitous depiction of rape. But I understand its longstanding cultural appeal in the horror genre. As for films in general that use rape as a plot device or other narrative technique, I am somewhat on the fence. But I agree with you that they can perhaps provide rape survivors with a narrative with which they can relate; and also, at the very least, expose the horrors of rape.

Your article inspired me to write one of my own about whether rape-revenge narratives are "really" empowering. I hope you don't mind that I quoted you (and gave credit where credit was needed)!

Cheers! x

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