Brent Bozell

It's been a bad year at the box office for horror movies, but that's not due to a reluctance to display gore. Due to their low cost and potentially high reward, Hollywood studios are churning out the horror product, 42 movies this year compared to last year's 23. Why aren't they working? Even scary-movie producers acknowledge that there's virtually nothing you can do to a human being onscreen that is taboo any more. The audiences have become desensitized, numb -- bored.

Which is why these horror manufacturers have now drilled even deeper into the dark side of the human psyche. Self-proclaimed lifelong horror-movie fan Don Kaye wrote a piece for suggesting the current ocean of gore on screen has even drawn its own name: "torture porn." It doesn't necessarily involve sex or nudity, although it can. "Instead, it expresses the idea that its viewers are intensely, pruriently aroused by the sight of human bodies -- usually young, nubile ones, and quite often female -- getting torn into bloody chunks in the most awful ways imaginable."

Exhibit A in this new genre is the forthcoming film "Captivity," starring blonde beauty Elisha Cuthbert. In another case of over-enthusiastic publicity, studio executives were forced to withdraw promotional posters in New York and Los Angeles that showed graphic images of the abduction, torture and death of Cuthbert's character on billboards and taxicabs.

Kaye argued that the current tide of blood-splattered "torture porn" causes viewers to feel disgust, not hair-raising fear. The characters are never developed enough to make the audience feel any emotion about them. They're simply straw men and women, there to be sliced and diced. Filmmakers are trying to help audiences enjoy a smackdown of pain and death.

But is this what audiences really want? The current downturn in the horror-movie assembly line could suggest a real disgust with the new trends, or it could simply be an oversaturated market. Or perhaps the horror movie manufacturers will decide that not even "torture porn" is enough and it's time to go deeper still.

What then?

Brent Bozell

Founder and President of the Media Research Center, Brent Bozell runs the largest media watchdog organization in America.
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