‘Spiral’ signals the death of ‘torture porn’ — good riddance!


I found myself in a strange place Wednesday night — at a movie theater watching the ninth film in the “Saw” franchise. Generally speaking, after the fourth or fifth entry in an appalling, disgusting, empty-headed horror series, there is no point in reviewing them anymore.

You saw one, you saw ’em all.

But the new film, called “Spiral,” was intriguing. It stars funnyman Chris Rock and actor Samuel L. Jackson. And director Darren Lynn Bousman said in an interview that “this film will be less focused on violence and gore.” How is that possible? In “Saw III,” a man was drowned in liquified rotted pig carcasses. 

Where George A. Romero was trying to reflect social ills in “Night of the Living Dead,” “Saw” was putting Porky in a blender.

However, save for some on-brand icky scenes (a dude’s tongue is ripped out before he’s hit by a subway), “Spiral” is indeed more restrained and considerate than previous installments. It comes off as a police procedural drama rather than the same-old nauseating mutilation fest. 

Does that mean the so-called torture porn movie genre is near death? I hope so. Let’s strap it in a chair and torment it a bit!

Back in 2004, the movie “Saw” took the gory splatter genre, amped up the gruesome imagery and turned it into box-office gold, earning $103 million worldwide. That abomination ushered in a string of copycat crap. 2005 gave us “Hostel” (woman’s eyes get blowtorched) and “The Devil’s Rejects” (man sexually humiliates a woman and spoons with a corpse). “The Human Centipede” (I dare not describe it) followed in 2009.

Close up of a woman's face in "The Human Centipede."
The plot of “The Human Centipede,” not for the squeamish, involves captives who are put in an unimaginably gross situation.
©IFC Films/Courtesy Everett Col

That same year, Danish provocateur Lars von Trier attempted to make torture porn into art with the despicable “Antichrist” (male anatomy meets a couple blocks of wood), starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. When it premiered at Cannes, four audience members reportedly fainted — and not because their bow ties were too tight.

Fans of these films — whom I so look forward to hearing from! — are depraved lunatics who should not be allowed near animals or most other living things. Their arguments in favor of the genre’s most egregious titles — they harness the beauty in the grotesque; they expose the animalistic underbelly of humanity — are total BS.

These so-called movies are completely and utterly worthless and barely deserve to exist on the periphery of cinema.

Thank God filmmakers appear to be easing up with them. The horror genre has become much smarter in the past decade, with films such as Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” earning Oscar nominations and having a strong point of view beyond that of a murderous psychopath with a bucket of needles. Hollywood has also been remaking old films — “It,” “Halloween,” “Candyman” — and infusing them with modern energy and relevance.

Daniel Kaluuya in 2017's "Get Out."
The film “Get Out,” starring Daniel Kaluuya, brought newfound wit and relevant social commentary to the horror genre.
Universal Pictures/Everett Collection

They’re making more money than “Saw” ever did. “It” made $700 million worldwide, “Get Out” made $255 million and “A Quiet Place” took in $340 million. Huh. Maybe that’s because nobody’s spinal cord was severed by a razor blade in those.

It just goes to show you that viewers will no longer tolerate hours of unbearable cruelty with no aim other than sickening its audience.

Now we have social media for that.



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