The Loneliest Jukebox

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Experimental starting line-up

Leicester City fans will be surprised by Nigel Pearson's expected line-up for the big game today: fielding nine players, with a returning Yuki Abe up front, according to the Southwark News. As Pepper Brooks would say, "It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for 'em."

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Monday, April 09, 2012

Video Nasties: Rewinding to 2005

Is there a statute of limitations, after which one should forgo replying to criticism? Probably, but this weekend I noticed a dig at me in print and worthy of comment. I know the standard procedure is to start these rebuttals by saying ‘it has been brought to my attention that…’, implying that I am too important to read Film Ireland but one of my many underlings summoned up the courage to break the news on this potentially indelicate matter. (In truth, I was trying to find this article on Questia* and stumbled across ‘Fresh Hells’ by Niall Kitson, normally behind a paywall or in print-only format. The vacancy for an underling remains unfilled.) Maybe it's a genuine mix-up, but the author makes me say the opposite of what I normally say on these matters.

Here’s my original article; here’s how it is summarized in Film Ireland:
The meeting of minds seem to come from top down as well as bottom up in the cultural hierarchy, but whether these films are appreciated in the same way is another matter entirely. As critic Graham Barnfield noted 'horror films preach to the converted and providing excess for hardcore fans is the name of the game, hence the reappearance of many video nasties, ironically touted as "classics"'. This argument implies that a reasonably-minded audience will be appalled by the rape scene in Irréversible (2002), by the killing of a child in Funny Games but for the unwashed horror audience these scenes amount to little more than stalk and slash set pieces. Similarly the ne plus ultra of rapid-cut New Brutalism - Requiem for a Dream (2000) - is to be read in certain quarters solely as an adrenaline ride straight into hell, and not as a harrowing cautionary tale about the evils of drug abuse. Such reasoning smacks of self-justification, but it does raise important issues for the future of the horror genre: In an era where the most frightening movies are no longer horror movies how do you keep your audience?
A key word here is ‘implies’, which can cover a multitude of sins. In 2005 I was probably too tentative about saying that Extreme Cinema was becoming a genre in its own right, where the fictional depraved acts set the pace, and the dialogue, typically reflecting on the futility of modern life, acted as the padding in between. In that respect, the comparison with There’s Something About Mary (1998) remains apt. (Bear in mind this was before the outbreak of full-on torture porn.) I don’t really say anything much about fans in my article, unwashed or otherwise, apart from my reflections on being a fan. But it is worth saying that the genre fan generally knows ‘the rules’, meaning s/he appreciates certain scenes that can seem gross and unpleasant to the uninitiated. Fans can also differentiate between the fun and depressing or upsetting forms of splatter, as a trip to FrightFest will confirm. (Niall Kitson is right that horror film audiences get appalled by certain scenes of nastiness, but he also seems to confuse horror fans with mainstream audiences who see the odd horror film from time to time.)

My point about art-house gore is how often it becomes a form of genre filmmaking in its own right; for instance, Baise Moi (2000) would be (now) seen as a lazy and clichéd if positioned as crime movie, while A Day of Violence (2010) – ‘you just killed seven people, you twat!’ – was marketed as Euro-giallo yet it had more in common with the last 15 years of crime Britflicks. My argument had nothing to do with whether or not audiences react against scenes of fictional rape and murder: it was about the lazy use of these scenes as a shortcut to a reputation for artfulness. If audiences fall for it, more fool them. Generally the horror fan – who is not the same as the casual moviegoer dropping into the latest Saw installment every Halloween – has more sense.** For the record, reading my argument as being about 'unwashed' horror fans doesn't add up. I am on record as opposing the double standard where gruesome foreign language movies can get past the BBFC uncut whereas equivalents films in English are to be quarantined from a mass audience. (Whether either type of movie deserves an audience is a story for another day.)

* Publication Information: Article Title: Fresh Hells. Contributors: Niall Kitson - author. Magazine Title: Film Ireland. Issue: 103. Publication Date: March/April 2005. Page Number: 36+. © 2005 Filmbase. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.

** One exception to this is A Serbian Film, buts that’s another story.

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