(Originally published on The Rec)
The movie poster on the left is for the Andy Warhol produced “Chelsea Girls,” an exploitation movie released in 1966. Enlarge it for a better look – I dare you.
This poster, like many of the posters for exploitation films, is gratuitous, scandalous, and titillating. Its whole purpose, like the film itself, is to present extreme material in order to quickly sell movie tickets over the course of one or two weeks. Many producers became rich men over several decades by exploiting human curiosity.
So it seems an odd thing when outrage erupts over the movie poster of an exploitation flick. In 2007.
I am no fan of the torture porn industry that has blossomed since the first “Saw” movie premiered (and yes, I do realize that there were many graphic torture porn movies prior to that, but not by major studios). In general, the makers of these shitty movies mistake torture and graphic violence for horror, which in my mind is much more potent.
Eli Roth’s first “Hostel” movie is nothing more than a torture porn exploitation flick, designed to have an opening weekend gross of around $20 million and then leave town. However, the film made three times that amount, which is a profit percentage that sleazy exploitation filmmakers like Roth cannot resist, so … here comes the sequel.
“Hostel 2″ opens in June, but already the slop merchants in their publicity department have whipped up a frenzy over their poster for the sequel. Here it is (click to enlarge):
Most theaters have refused to display this advertisement due to it’s sensational nature, and the ones that do receive enormous amounts of complaints about it.
Which is just what they wanted all along.
My question is this: Is this poster really any worse than the one for “Chelsea Girls,” or any other explotation flick of the sixties and seventies?
Sure, it’s gross. Yes, it is probably offensive, especially in its use of a dead woman as the victim (aren’t they always??). But is it really worse than anything we have seen before??
And we are guaranteed to see more of the same in the future. Given the success of films like “Saw” and “Hostel,” a host of imitators are following the formula to the letter. The new torture porn movie “Captivity” has hit the publicity goldmine with a billboard prominently displayed in Los Angeles and New York. Take a look:
The public outrage over this poster, which depicts a woman being tortured and killed, has reached epic proportions this week. The promotional department of Lions Gate – the Twentieth Century Fox of “high class” smut – has been forced to discontinue their campaign, but not before millions of people were exposed to the film’s images and subsequent backlash. Score one for Lion’s Gate, and nothing for film lovers everywhere.
But the question remains: Is it worse than anything we have seen in the past? I personally think not. Rather, the reactionary, politically-”correct” climate in the United States blinds the people who complain. Despite all of the new definitions in the ratings sytem in the last twenty-five years, despite all of the censorship, and despite all of the neutral terminology, the United States has become more violent, more sexualized, and less tolerant. Movies like these would have barely made noise in the sixties and seventies, where their advertising would have been the norm for these types of pictures, and people were much less apt to fly into religiously-fueled outrage.
In the end, the people who complain about these types of films – and especially their advertising – only fall right into the game plan of these sleazy lowlifes. Eli Roth doesn’t care one bit about artistic merit or the values of a percentage of the population. His entire machine runs on the promise of grossing people out for one weekend, and walking away a rich man.
If you don’t like it, then stay away from it. But if people do support it (through buying tickets, for instance), then shut the hell up and deal instead with the fact that it’s society’s fault.
When you open your mouth in protest, you’re being exploited by an exploitation flick.