Will the Virginia Tech massacre finally make us squeamish about extreme gore in movies? The New York Times seems to think so, judging by this article that suggests the upcoming Hostel: Part II (featuring Lauren German, pictured) may suffer at the box office because it may be too soon to enjoy a movie about the indiscriminate slaughter of college students. In fact, the article hints, such revulsion may spell the end of the whole torture-porn horror sub-genre.
To which I say, whoa, not so fast. My guess is that Hostel: Part II should do just fine when it opens June 8. Face it: you already knew whether or not you wanted to see it, even before Virginia Tech. The gorehounds’ appetite for destruction hasn’t gone anywhere; if anything, they may find Hostel cathartic after the trauma of inexplicable real-life mayhem. Remember after 9/11, when the studios had a sudden fit of good taste and decided to shelve any upcoming movie that might remind viewers of the tragedy? So everyone went to Blockbuster and rented Die Hard, in which the foreign-terrorists-in-a-skyscraper scenario had a more satisfying ending. (Meanwhile, the studios’ period of cautious discretion lasted about six months, and then it was back to business as usual.)
addCredit(“Hostel Part II: Rico Torres”)
The Times could be correct in guessing that the torture-pornvogue that began three years ago with Saw could well be over, butthat’s because horror sub-genres tend to run in cycles. (Remember allthe J-horror remakes we got in the wake of The Ring? Not seeing too many of those anymore.) Taking the long view is horror vet John Carpenter, who suggests in this interviewthat what we’re seeing now is part of an endlessly recurring pattern,in which horror filmmakers try to push the envelope, a backlash arisesamong tastemakers and self-appointed censors, and the fans (whenthey’re ready) move onto the next scary thrill. At any rate, weshouldn’t expect Hollywood to react and change too quickly. Not justbecause of the lag time between greenlight and release (if the studiosdecided to stop making torture-porn horror tomorrow, we’d still beseeing all the Hostel knockoffs currently in the pipeline trickle out for another18 months), but also because, for better or worse, this is the businessHollywood is in — and has been in for a long time. Grindhouse may not have been a hit, but as EW’s Owen Gleiberman pointed out recently, the studios are nonetheless in the grindhouse business, not the good-taste business.
I’ll let you decide, PopWatchers, whether that’s a good or a bad thing. Show of hands: Plan to see the Hostel sequel? Has Virginia Tech affected your viewing choices? Does the current torture-porn wave represent a new extreme, or is it the same old gore with more realistic special effects? And is that wave still building, or has it crested?