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Is it “Torture porn?” The panel discusses…

Is it "Torture porn?" The panel discusses...

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(‘Hostel Part II’ star Lauren German and Ain’t It Cool News editor Harry Knowles, at their “Panel of the Dead: Horror Films of Today” session during SXSW 2007. Photo by Michael Lerman, for indieWIRE.)

A few days ago, I blogged about Eli Roth’s upcoming Hostel Part II, as well as the controversy over the meaning of the film’s content, and whether it is fair to call it “torture porn.” That debate will continue to rage through this weekend, as America gets a chance to see the film in theaters finally. At SXSW 2007, though, we held a session called “Panel of the Dead: Horror Films of Today,” which featured various horr-thorities on the subject of today’s scare-flick landscape. It was moderated by Harry Knowles and featured folks like Cabin Fever and Borderland actor Rider Strong, Borderland director Zev Berman, online horror reporter Scott Weinberg, and more. Eli was originally scheduled for the panel, but had to back out at the very last minute due to illness. Instead, Hostel Part II star Lauren German took the reins and previewed a sneak of footage from the sequel.

But, besides that, there was plenty of discussion. Most of which is recapped by Jette Kernion on Cinematical. Jette’s notes from the discussion include:

Knowles started the session with a question about what he called “torture porn,” the type of horror movie that features people being tortured in horrible ways, instead of being slaughtered quickly with a sledgehammer, axe or chainsaw. Although Saw was mentioned as an example, Weinberg argued that the film’s attraction wasn’t simply from scenes of torture. “Saw taps into some primal questions. What affected me was that I put myself in those characters’ shoes.”

“Any type of gore element can become pornographic,” said Berman. “Any time you take violence or gore out of context, it becomes pornography. If you tell the right story where these images become meaningful, you can reach people, get into their heads in the right way.”

Strong said he feels that the media sometimes focuses strictly on the gore in a film and doesn’t see the context that Berman mentioned. For example, “Hostel was treated by the critics as gore porn and they missed a lot of the political context that he [Roth] created — he was commenting on American phobias, on the way we go to foreign countries and take advantage. What Borderland does is similar — yes, there’s torture, yes, there’s going to be an entertainment value to that torture, but the film is contextualizing it, creating more meaning.”

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