Why is it that Billy Bob Thornton & Halle Berry can have nasty sex on camera for several minutes yet horror filmmakers are forced to pick and poke at their films only to remove sometimes just seconds of footage to obtain a suitable rating? There is an odd grey area in which it seems people morally stand when watching things on film. We see news of assassinations in other countries on the television and even JFK's death gets watched regularly as the internet becomes a greater influence on news media. When watching movies, most times stories that are fictional, people seem to feel that there is a greater need to subdue the material that's being presented; granted, I can acknowledge that horror films are for the most far more graphic and disturbing than the news but the fact is that it's still fiction. When teens get pregnant and have abortions you never hear people protesting about sex in movies, yet any time a teenager kills someone or a school shooting happens you can almost bet money on the fact that specific movies will be referenced (the taglines might as well be quoted). When did we draw a line in the sane deciding it's okay to show sex but violence which we already hear about every day on the news is a big no-no? When most recent statistics show teen pregnancy births in the USA at 494, 357 (for 2009) while murders in the country amounted to 16,204 in the same year, how can anyone viably argue that violence is what's influencing young minds the most? All questions and no answers. It's said that the media in all it's forms affects our youths the most yet in the statistics we clearly see where the problem lies - 16, 204 homicides is a terrible figure, proving itself to be menial when compared to teenage pregnancy births which is near 30 times higher. Murder is horrid and inexcusable, but what about the irresponsible creation of life? Putting more people on the planet than can be manageable in a roundabout way requires more people to die- for balance. When critics argue that horror movies poison the minds of our youth (and the population in general), I just feel that Jason's mother had it right- the ones who are drinking and fucking go first.
We can blame some of it on the fact that the ratings system didn't really kick into full gear until the mid to late 80s, but there are some films that should have been rated right alongside a lot of horrors. Gremlins & Raiders of the Lost Ark both helped Spielberg (who produced and directed respectively) give birth to the PG-13 rating due to some scenes that definitely classify as full on horror. Beetlejuice managed a PG even though he was a horny pervert who even uses the word "fuck" at one point in the uncut version, and also grabs his balls. Even Jaws only got a PG stamp originally- one of the defining horror movies of the 1970s, a classic and the birth of the true summer blockbuster. The Graduate, in particular I would like to mention, only received a PG rating. So, we don't want children watching an R movie about a man who isn't real that comes in your dreams and kills you, yet it's fine if they see a much older married woman committing adultery by seducing a much younger college kid into an affair? Believe me, I think it should ALL be allowed, under discretion- but why promote one and shun the other? Expose people to all or none of it, there should be no distinction between the two. On the subject of moral standing, don't they both seem to be amoral? Justifying one is justifying the other.
Times change it seems for most genres but some things just stay the same. Midnight Cowboy received the dreaded X rating although still winning Best Picture and 32 years later the previously mentioned Monster's Ball only got an R, winning Halle her Oscar. Even though the ratings loosened a little, both pictures garnered Academy Awards. Where are the Best Foreign Film awards, even nominations, for Dario Argento? Why didn't Hitchcock win for Psycho? Midnight Cowboy, a film which I own and love, is an exceptional production and deserved an Oscar nod but is it a film that deserved an Academy Award for Best Picture in the same world where Psycho did not win Alfred Hitchcock an Oscar for Best Director? It boggles my mind how a piece of work can be ignored solely due to the subject matter being that of horror. The Academy does not want a slasher to hold the gold. Now if your killer is a racist on Death Row- Oscar bait. If your film is about the Holocaust or another genocide, the Academy wants YOU. Did you play a role where you are beaten, raped and later murdered in a story about love against all odds? Start writing your Oscar speech. Where do we draw the line? Apparently sex is fine, even taboo stuff sometimes, as long as nobody gets killed- wait... people can get killed, but it has to be fashionable and make it sexy. It can't be too real, we wouldn't want to get too close to reality. As long as it looks less threatening, as long as there's some humanity in it- oh, like the humane scene in which Hilary Swank is brutally beaten and raped in the backseat of a car by two men? The role she won her first Oscar for. Good thing that rape isn't traumatizing like those nasty horror films...
Funny thing is nowadays it's like the sex is getting more violent, but regular violence is still pushed back to the darkest corners of cinema. It seems every second new "torture porn" or remake of a classic features a tediously long rape scene, single handedly proving that sex is predominate over all other appeals. Sure, people love to see a bunch of teens running around in the woods getting killed one by one- but they also love to see a good rape. It's disturbing. You can say the same thing that wanting to see murder on screen is sick and twisted but even if it seems funny to have such an ethical code when it comes to killing versus sexual assault, don't you think that enjoy watching rape is a little creepier? Sexual violence is a whole different form of depravity. There can be some of that in horror but that's when the genre becomes weak, the reason why the "torture porn" generation of films coming out as of late is a plague on the horror genre as a whole. Sexual violence becomes the main focus of these films and sucks life out of the story; rape and sexual assault is emotionally exhausting because it's not a natural part of life as much as people can argue for the case of instinct, whereas death is more natural (even if it is at the hands of some maniac killer but you get what I'm saying).
I understand fully that a nipple or a vagina is nowhere near being as disturbing as a decapitation, a chopped off hand or a mutilated penis; you'd have to be a serial killer to actually think that way. What I am saying is this: it's all fake, it's art. Too long have we assumed that death isn't in art, but then how do you explain someone like Francis Bacon? The grotesque and weird paintings he created are straight from something of horror. One of the paintings that inspired him greatly was The Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens which depicts a Biblical mass murder when Herod ordered to have all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity that were two years old and younger killed. Salvador Dali influenced generations of artists of every kind, and also made one of the strangest films of all-time: a sixteen minute short film, a dreamlike movie with no real plot and also some creepy eyeball mutilation. So why is it that a slasher film couldn't be considered art? I'm not saying that some of these terrible, low budget slasher movies should be looked at like a work of art, but I'm wondering why can't it be like that? If I made a serious and well scripted slasher film, why couldn't that be considered to be a masterpiece just as much as a work of drama or a thriller, or any other genre? People watch shows about crime scene forensics and programs about real, violent crimes because of a morbid fascination with death and murder. Truly, it's the fascinating concept of evil that intrigues us all. Yet people are so afraid of such obvious works of fiction. We want to see documentaries and shows about real life crime stories of murder, rape, terror, but we're so afraid of the fictional boogeyman. This proves that the general sheeplike public is afraid of what we ALL have inside us: imagination. And maybe that's why they're so afraid.
*Statistic shown on teenage pregnancy births and homicides in USA for 2009 all available on NationMaster.com*