Gorno – genre for a digital age

2004 was the year Peter Jackson concluded his epic Oscar winning streak with Lord of The Rings: Return of the King, Finding Nemo was bringing families together and the unconventional love of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanssan in Lost in Translation took box offices by storm. 2004 also saw the birth of cinema’s most controversial genre, torture porn or Gorno (gore & porno). James Wan’s Saw was disgustingly brutal, exploitatively violent  Saw revelled in close ups of human bodies being put through totally barbaric and unimaginable torture. And it was called entertainment. Audiences flocked to see it, to see exactly what the big fuss was about. At least with Saw there was a clever plot holding together the scenes of fierce brutality, a murderer playing ‘games’ with his victims, forcing them to make choices, forcing them to confront their fears and push their limits of ability. Normally horror films have maybe one scene of graphic violence, Saw was an interesting plot strung together by sheer cruelty. This was followed in 2005’s Hostel, a film purely focused on this idea of ‘torture for excitement’ idea. In Amsterdam you can pay to torture someone. The minds behind this sickening business kidnapped travellers and then forced them into being tortured. In a sick twist, Americans have a higher torture price.

Hostel - Torture, gore, pain all for a very reasonable cost

Hostel – Torture, gore, pain all for a very reasonable cost

So what caused these films to be made? Not since the 1980s has cinema caused such a moral panic. Sadistic cinema is now commonplace, with the continuation of the Saw franchise and films like the Human Centipede, Eden Lake, Wolf Creek, Donkey Punch and even Antichrist has garnered the torture porn label. Despite the content of these films, torture porn has proved to be exceptionally profitable. It has moved to a be predominantly dvd orientated genre. It’s true exploitation genre, putting a monetary value on watching people get stitched together or cut off their own limbs. Many have criticised torture porn films for lacking in thematic or moral compasses. Nothing is ever condemned and nothing is ever too graphic, too unimaginable. It is slightly worrying that such violence and inhumanity is glorified and admired. Gore is an art form and needs to look as impressive and horrifying as possible. The worrying element of torture porn is how easily accessible it is by teenagers. But, equally Twitter can fill up with graphic imagery in the wake of disasters. The Boston Marathon bombings produced some of the most horrific pictures I have seen of human injury and these were instantly accessible and broadcast across the world to everyone of all ages.

So have we become immune to depictions of human devastation? Even more, have we now accepted it as a form of entertainment? The torture porn genre is unique in that it’s a very small demographic that it appeals to, yet still is financially viable as a genre. But how far is too far? Recently Human Centipede 2 was banned by in Britain by the BBFC, which arguably only increased the desire to see it. I cant comment on the content, I haven’t seen the film, but what I do know is that there is a desire for these types of films, and banning them wont stop people from seeing them, seeking them out.

Lars Von Trier's sexually explicit, horrifically graphic and deeply disturbing tale of a couple's grief. But how much is too much?

Lars Von Trier’s sexually explicit, horrifically graphic and deeply disturbing tale of a couple’s grief. But how much is too much?

However, despite what I’ve written, in part condemnation of these films, they are the essence of horror cinema. Without pushing boundaries of taste then horror becomes stagnant. And despite the lack of moral themes or tones, they do propose to the audience, what would you do in this situation? And ultimately that’s probably the scariest element of these films. Would you cut off your own hand to save yourself? 127 Hours explored similar themes, in a non-horror setting. Torture porn revolves around pushing physical boundaries. I guess the attraction behind torture porn is the scariest situations, what would you do if your morals and beliefs counted for nothing? It’s an interesting, if hard to stomach recently explored genre and it’ll be interesting to see just how far it will go.

2 thoughts on “Gorno – genre for a digital age

  1. Pingback: Sinister | FlikGeek Film

  2. Pingback: I Spit on Your Grave 2 (2013) | Movie2Backup

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