Week 9: “Gore! Gore! Gore!”
If you’re a fan of horror then eventually someone will ask you your thoughts on gore films. These can include the infamous films of Lucio Fulci or even more recent film makers like Eli Roth and Tom Six (and if you don’t know any of these names then you are definitely missing out). Gore films, like other subgenres of horror, have their place and purpose in the horror genre and should not be summarily dismissed. There are, in fact, several that even the most placid fan should see for their own personal education if for nothing else.
What is a gore film?
Most people would determine this simply as a film with lots of blood and guts (and for the most part they are correct), but many include Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Tom Six’s The Human Centipede: First Sequence (2009) in this group and both of those have very little to no gore. A better definition would include films that make audiences so uneasy that they appear to be filled with gore and blood and guts whether they actually have it or not. Most torture porn films are included in this but there is very little gore in Captivity (2007). Saw (2004) is also included in this but this film also has very little to no gore (unlike the many sequels).
Films that go beyond being just a simply gore film are Braindead (1992), Tokyo Gore Police (2008), and Re-Animator (1985) which all revel in the gore but are so darkly comic that you kind of dismiss it. Comedy (especially in the films today) is used to off-set the copious amounts of blood and guts in a horror film which also changes the perspective of the genre.
Why is gore important?
Gore to horror films (or any genre of film) is important in that it off-sets our perspective on the events taking place in the film. Sometimes dealing with something so dramatic as death and murder cannot be sugar coated. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) and Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) are so polarizing in the content of the story that the gore is secondary which doesn’t diminish the reality of the story being told. In Dawn of the Dead (1978), director George A. Romero is presenting to audiences the most realistic zombie film ever made; he is erasing the memory of the placid White Zombie (1932), and presenting audiences with what would happen in a real zombie apocalypse.
Presenting events as they would be in reality is key to the success of a good gore film. One of the goriest scenes in modern day cinema is the opening battle of Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998), in which the film maker wanted to present war as it was in the most realistic way as possible. The darkly comic Cabin Fever (2002) uses gore to represent what it would be like if a group of friends were forced to deal with a flesh eating virus.
Real Gore Vs. Comedy Gore?
In this day and age, some of the most well remembered gore films and moments in gore films are surrounded in comedy. Day of the Dead (1985) has just as many gory moments as its predecessor and it is all presented in a realistic manner but in Shaun of the Dead (2004), which pays homage to that film, presents some of those same moments but mixed with comedy. Re-Animator and From Beyond (1986) have many gory moments but director Stuart Gordon is pitch perfect with the dark humor. There is nothing humorous in the infamous Cannibal Holocaust (1980) but Piranha 3-D (2010) has more gore in it than all the above films mentioned but it’s all played tongue firming in cheek.
Does horror and gore need comedy? There is no right or wrong answer to this because for every Martyrs (2008) there is a Bad Taste (1987) and for every Feast (2005) there is a Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979). Real gore has its place and directors like Pascal Laugier and Ruggero Deodato relate and present it differently than Edgar Wright or Peter Jackson whose films are drenched in comedy and blood.
Some of My Favorite Gore Films:
I enjoy gore films of all types. I believe there is a place for films like Sharknado (2013) just like there is for New York Ripper (1982) and Ichi the Killer (2001). I do prefer my realistic gore films to have more of a point and not just be cannon fodder. I love Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust and David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986) for the message that they say but I also love Bride of Re-Animator (1989) and Evil Dead II (1987), which if they have a message I’m not aware of it. I know I will probably never see Salo or Anthropophagus (1980) again but Hellraiser (1987) and Dead Snow (2009) are two of my all time favorites. Fulci’s A Cat in the Brain (1990) is just as disturbing as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer but I’ve only seen the latter more than once even though I love both equally. The entire Feast franchise is one of the most entertaining and fun whereas the Saw franchise has only a few standout entries.
I do tend to have more fun watching the gore films with comedy (because they are so easy to just pop in the DVD/BD player and go) but the more serious ones I tend to go back to when I need a good film that doesn’t talk down to the audience (hence my love of all the Romero zombie films and just about anything from Fulci and Dario Argento).
Is Gore Important?
Gore and gore films are important in that it allows us to view reality without the sugar coating. It informs us about the reality of death and murder and more importantly all things in life. In today’s climate gore is not only for horror but for all other genres as well. This Is the End (2013) and The Expendables (2010) and Hot Fuzz (2007) and Fury (2014) and The Raid 2 (2014) all have their gory moments to make them more realistic which is what audiences today crave. There is no doubt that sometimes gore can be excessive but where would we be if all the gore was stripped out of Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead (2014) or the original Robocop (1987) but a hollow by-the-numbers (and highly forgettable) film.