Dissection by Kelly
Currently Listening to The Damp Chill of Life by None
In this edition of Taboo Terrors, I decided to write about gore in horror inspired by the work of the Gore-met, Andrew Bailes. He was a writer for Rue Morgue magazine for many years and loved metal, horror, practical effects, indie cinema, and entrails. I attended his panels at the old Festival of Fear during Fan Expo and I remember vividly when he asked the audience what the craziest moment in a movie we had seen was, and I yelled “newborn porn!”. Everyone laughed, including him. Unfortunately, Andrew died recently and it had a strong impact on me; I spent the evening crying which caught me off guard. I realized that he had had more of an influence on me than previously thought. So, Andrew, this is for you.
Taboo Terrors is based upon the extreme and forbidden; dedicated to those movies and directors that go beyond the normal horrific expression to things truly prohibited. We all have our limits when it comes to what we will voluntarily watch, and mine is real animal cruelty for the sake of film making. The rest? Well, it’s fair game. For many, it’s extreme violence and gore that makes them turn away, shielding their eyes from the carnage. This is actually a sub genre of horror that Mikita Brottman (Offensive films: Toward an Anthropology of Cinema Vomitif) defined as cinema vomitif. These are films that want to arouse “strong sensations in the lower body- nausea, repulsion, weakness, faintness, and a loosening of the bowel or bladder control - normally by way of graphic scenes featuring the by-products of bodily detritus: vomit, excrement, viscera. brain tissue, and so on”. They rely heavily on sight and sound to produce deeply physical encounters. Brottman said that, for movies like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, there is a “lack of distance between the real and the textual”. In TCM we can imagine the stickiness from the summer heat and when the one teenager falls into the room of horrors, we picture the dirt and grime under our fingernails, while also smell the decay. The audience can truly feel these movies; they can get under our skin, make us gag and feel shaken to the core.
It is known that watching horror movies is a full-body experience; our breathing quickens, our heart races, and the hair on the back of our necks stand up. Horror cinema is a thrill ride which is why it has been my favourite genre for 25 years. It has the capability to leave an everlasting impression. I know I will never forget the first time I watched Laugier’s Martyrs or Buttgereit’s Nekromantik. If you have seen them, you’ll understand. Besides being fascinating films, they show uncomfortable scenes of violence and perversion. From graphic beatings and torture to fucking a steel rod on a slimy corpse, these are at the top of my list if someone is looking for a film that is a little more extraordinary, and off the beaten path.
When it comes down to it, I want my horror to be realistic, authentic; the violence to show what it truly does to the human body. Bloodless injury and death aren’t why I am here. Dario Argento (Suspiria, Tenebre, Opera) has said that “some films need gore, some films not. I use gore to follow my inspiration.” Jorg Buttgereit (Nekromantik, Schramm) shares my feelings regarding gore and violence: “Gore is part of being honest to the violence on screen….it’s kind of necessary to show the results if you have violence in your movies because otherwise, it's kind of glorifying the whole thing.” I think that gratuitous violence and gore for the sake of being “extreme” is another form of art. Some will disagree. Some of these films may lack narrative or subliminal themes, which can be tedious. I can understand where these people are coming from but as a form of pure, unadulterated entertainment? Sign me up.
Tom Savini, a huge name in the practical effects world, thinks gore is art and not exploitation. His work on Day of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Maniac was game-changing. Lucio Fulci (Zombie 2, The City of the Living Dead) was once quoted to have said that “violence is Italian art.” Fulci's work on his Gates of Hell trilogy would earn him the title of the 'Godfather of Gore', even though Herschell Gordon Lewis (Blood Feast, The Gore Gore Girls) was originally given this nickname in the 60s. Blood and guts are international. From Australia to Korea and back to Canada, even though we have many cultural differences, one thing we can all relate to is that we are made of blood, flesh, and bone.
The act of revulsion or repulsion is to feel a sense of disgust or distaste. These feelings make you want to look and pull away, physically, from what you are seeing. But I don’t turn away, I get closer. My eyes widen to take it all in. The horrors of the human body can make us feel nauseous and emotionally disturbed while the horrors of the human mind can keep us up at night with the lights on. Sometimes we are so physically disgusted with the film that, as per Julian Hanich (Dis/liking disgust: the revulsion experience at the movies), our body pulls itself so far away that it turns inside out, meaning, we vomit and that is “the ultimate breaking out of the lived body...that promises the relief of bodily expansion and distance.”
I revel in the challenge of what these Taboo Terrors will potentially make me feel and maybe, just maybe, one day you will take the plunge. Consider jumping headfirst into the bowels of the profane, swim in the entrails of the perverse, and gargle the muck of the abyss. I’ll see you there.
RIP Andrew Bailes, you will be missed.