Guesthole #3, Alex Krueger was working on a blog about violence in film. He asked me (being apparently qualified as a "pop culture guru", his words, not mine) If I would share my thoughts on the matter.
And much like Alan Cross, Alex discovered when you give me an inch, you get 5 miles. Instead of just a couple of sound bites (which is what he asked for), Alex got a rather big and decent letter about my thoughts on gore and violence in film and horror.
The blog can be found here
My letter is underneath in bold.
The rise of gore in horror movies is a pretty interesting phenomenon because it did sort of a weird cycle.Let's take Friday the 13th as an example.
If you start with the first Friday the 13th movie, it's fairly realistic. A little over the top maybe but an arrow in the head is an arrow in the head. Chopping someone's head off is brutal in real life and film (terrorist home videos have proven that). As the films went on, the gore got more excessive and the kills more interesting (the trademark of the films was more inventive ways that Jason would murder people...keep that in mind)
But by the time you get to the last stand alone Friday the 13th (Jason X) film, the violence has gone from gory and realistic to so far whacked out that it's no different then a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Bloodier yes, believable, no.
And then gore disappeared.
Sure there was a little bit during the 90's but not a lot. There are three main reasons behind this.
1) The core audience had disappeared. While Jason and Freddy and Micheal didn't get older, their audience did. For the most part, these films are geared towards teenagers. Those teens had grown up and moved away from the films.
2) Parents groups. As you mention Alex, your mom didn't allow you to watch this stuff. She wasn't the only one. A movement to erase violence from film (not just horror but everywhere) became huge during the very late 80's and early 90's. Hollywood appeased these groups by getting rid of violence. Horror was not the only group that got hit. Take a gander at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and then TMNT 2. Notice how much the Turtles use their ninja weapons? That is due in part to parent groups of various sorts campaigning against the turtles use of violence.
3) PG-13/A demographic. During the mid 90's, the PG-13/A demographic became highly desired by film companies for whatever reason. Hence we get a lot more suspense filled teen horror then actual gore. Movies like Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer are prime examples of this. A lot of suspense and scares but not a lot of gore. Scream is probably the goriest of the bunch and while we see bodies and deaths, there isn't a whole lot of blood, especially in comparisons to similar films from a decade earlier.
But much like Jason himself, gore returned from the dead.
Guys like me who were in the younger age bracket when the original films came out, discovered them on home video. If you look at the guys behind this new wave of gore, they are all in their 30's. James Wan who directed and co-wrote the first Saw film (and a great action/revenge film called Death Sentence which also has some rather vicious violence) was born in 77. Eli Roth who is behind Cabin Fever and Hostel was born in 72. In fact the oldest "member" of the so-called Splat Pack is Neil Marshall (director of Dog Soldiers, The Descent and Doomsday) was born in 1970.
Now Alex, you also posed the question of why, despite the fact that I love violent films and my parents let me watch them at a very young age (for the record I remember seeing the original My Bloody Valentine on video with my cousin Julie when she babysat my sister and I. I was probably 7), why I didn't turn out to being a murderous psychopath or have social issues.
Once again a multipart answer.
1) Parents. I had parents who loved me, cared for me and took an interest in what I read, listened to and watched. When my grandmother got me into Terminator 2 while it was in theaters (I was just under the age mark at that point), my parents knew about it. I also grew up with a number of people who had guns and other hunting implements. I was raised to know that violence with a gun or a machete can do serious harm to someone. I was raised to know how to properly handle weapons or that punching someone in the face is not an acceptable form of behavior. I was also raised with the idea that movies are not real. They are fantasy. Real life, you suffer many more consequences for your actions.
2) The gore and the violence. I am a true believer in the fact that violence in film should be realistic and gory. Why? Because even though it can be cartoony and ridiculous at the very least when some one gets stabbed, they should bleed. Let's take X-Men 2 as an example. There are tons of moments where Wolverine is running around and stabbing people with his claws but there is no blood and gore. For all intents and purposes, when those army guys hit the ground, they might as well be sleeping, because that's all a kid's going to see. You can make that connection in your mind with blood. You know when you're bleeding, 9 times out of 10, you are hurt, probably in some form of pain. When there isn't blood, it's harder to make that connection. Same with gunshots. Gunshots are not pretty, they are not cute little goreless holes. You get hit with a 12 gauge shotgun at close range it will damn near cut you in half. But you see guys in a movie get shot but yet they stand up and they're not even bleeding it's as if there are no consequences to shooting someone.
That's why I like gore.