Left Header Right Header
Header 3a   Header Right End A Header Right End B Space
Header Left 3b
Movie Reviews Movie Trivia
FREE Membership MatchFlick Friday - Win Free DVDs

Member Login  [help]
Member Trends
 Top 10 List
 Exclusive Interviews
 Horror Club
 Zombie Club
Movie News
 Current News
 News Archives
Message Board
 Go To The Forum
Cool Statistics
 Member Stats
 Trivia Stats
Columns   [more]
 Have You Been Sp...
 But Can She Act?...
 They're Not The ...
 Time Does Fly Wh...
 Column Archives
Popular Movies  [more]
 World War Z
 Mission Impossible 4
 Twilight Breaking Dawn
Popular People  [more]
 Leonardo DiCaprio
 Megan Fox
 Tom Cruise
 Join for FREE
 About MatchFlick
 Privacy Policy
 Guess That Scene
 RSS Feeds
The Scariest Movie I've Ever Seen
by Nathan Reece

Subscribe to MatchFlick Movie Columns through RSS
email this column to a friend

One of the posters for the movie's limited theatrical release.

One of the posters for the movie's limited theatrical release.
I love horror movies. Everybody that knows me knows that. And I'm not discriminating about the genre either. I like ghost stories, slasher movies, monster movies, you name it. And what better time to watch horror movies than October, the month of Halloween, which is my favorite holiday?

To that end, for the past few years, I've made it a point - on Halloween day itself - to assemble a collection of horror movies and go through them. The first time I did that, it was mostly ones I'd already seen. Eventually I modified it to where it was all movies I hadn't seen. I just figured that would be a great way to kill a few birds with one stone: see several new movies, broaden my horror horizons even further and - of course - have a lot fun.

But I learned a lesson last year. That lesson is this: you should find out about certain kinds of "horror" movies, and if there are warnings accompanied with them, take them seriously. The movies may turn out not to be a lot of fun, and could severely take away from the fun you can potentially have.

Nothing bothers me more than reality-based horror. It's a genre unto itself, and I don't even restrict it to the horror genre. Many dramas I've seen fit the bill as well. If a movie shows events that could really happen, and creates a feeling of terror in me, then it's the kind of movie I'm talking about. Movies like THE DEER HUNTER, FRANCES, SLEEPERS or REQUIEM FOR A DREAM aren't labeled as "horror" movies, but they sure have a lot of horror in them. I've even heard REQUIEM described by a few people as a horror movie, including the director himself.

There are other movies that are actually labeled horror movies that fall into the same category. The earliest I know of is PEEPING TOM, a movie that bothered people so much when it was released that it was actually banned for many years, even though the subject matter is similar to PSYCHO (which was released the same year) and the movie itself doesn't include that much graphic content. The second, to my knowledge, is the original THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, which actually made people vomit in the theater upon release, and which was edited by theater managers and projectionists themselves because it was considered so offensive (to the point where chunks of it no longer exist, from what I've gathered). There have been many others along the way.

And I've seen maaaaaaaany of these movies. My brother has compared it to hot sauce endurance. When I hear about a movie being really disturbing, it makes me compelled to see it that much more. So I consider myself a pretty hardened viewer of such things.

But never before have I been affected by a movie the way I was with a movie I added to my Halloween day list last year.

Most of the movies I was watching that day were ones I'd had on my Netflix Instant Watching queue for awhile. I just grouped them together on the queue and made them my Halloween playlist. I was familiar with a few of them, and I wasn't with others. One of the latter was a movie I'd had in the queue for awhile, which was called JACK KETCHUM'S THE GIRL NEXT DOOR.

I'd never even heard of this movie before I saw it in Netflix's Instant Watching horror section, but I could instantly identify it as a very strong dose. The image on the DVD cover/Netflix picture is of a young girl in a blindfold. Frankly, the girl looked Asian to me, and I thought it was one of those brutal Asian horror movies. I'd seen those before, so "bring it on," as they say.

The plotline Netflix gave said it was based on a true story and was about a young girl who goes - with her sister - to live with their "sadistic aunt" and is tortured by her. Well I went through the "torture porn" genre as a big fan - never missed one Saw movie at the theater - and this sounded like something sufficiently twisted and creepy. Plus there was a quote on the DVD cover/Netflix picture by Stephen King, calling it "the first authentically shocking American film I've seen since HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER nearly twenty years ago." I thought, hmm, pretty juicy. I should've taken that warning more seriously.

I made the movie my late night entry in the Halloween day list. I wanted something I hadn't seen before - amidst the other, more tame flicks like the 1920s PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and THE CHANGELING - that would really knock me out.

So I started watching this movie, and I was filled with extreme curiosity. What could possibly make this so horrible? Halfway through the movie, I still didn't know. Infact I wasn't even sure why it was considered a horror movie. Then things started to change.

The movie's strategy is to start off by painting a very glowing picture of 1950s life, offering little evidence that there's horror to come, and then become increasingly more and more dark to the point that it's bordering on snuff.

The film basically opens with a man in modern times, who looks to be in his late forties or fifties. He saves a man who's been hit by a car, as other people just stand by and watch. His narration tells us that he's never really been able to move on with his life since...

Then we flash back to the 1950s. There's a meeting between a boy and girl, the boy about eleven and the girl fourteen. They obviously like each other, and it could be first love for both of them.

We learn the young girl, whose name is Meg, and her younger sister (who's a paraplegic) have moved in with their aunt after their parents died in a car accident. The aunt is already taking care of several boys, having been apparently abandoned by their father. And many other neighborhood boys, including the main character, whose name is David, come to her house and hang out. She even lets them drink beer. When they're not at the house, the boys like to play a game where they blindfold a kid and do something terrible. For instance, we see one trick where they torture Meg by holding a live snake in front of her.

This young boy thinks everything about the place is heavenly, and that Ruth is just great. Then one day he notices an ugly bruise, or burn, or something, on Meg's arm. A few days later, Meg begs David for a bite of his cheeseburger, because she hasn't been allowed to eat for two days. She tells David that Ruth hates her, along with everyone else that inhabits the house, except for her sister.

David just can't believe it. "That doesn't sound like the Ruth I know." She says that since they moved in with Ruth, she doesn't paint anymore. She used to paint all the time. David says he'd love to see one of her paintings.

Meg shyly shows up on David and his parents' doorstep with a picture she's painted of David, lying in front of the creek they met at and watching the water. Then she runs off, a smitten little girl.

David is at Ruth's house later, and - in an incredibly painful scene - tries to give Ruth the painting, telling her that Meg did it for her. Meg looks at him as he does so, shaking her head and waving her hands as if to say "Don't do it." Ruth, drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette, tells David in front
This is Sylvia Likens.

This is Sylvia Likens.
of the boys in the house, as well as Meg and her sister, that it's obviously for him. Then she begins to accuse Meg of being a slut, while explaining to the room what a slut is: someone who spreads her legs for anyone. Men will take advantage, she says. David's father, for example, has screwed every woman in town, including Ruth. David, looking at the painting he's still holding and looking to be on the verge of tears, backs away. And Ruth rises, walks over to Meg, and - circling her - tells her that if she gets evidence of slutty behavior from her, "Your ass is grass and Auntie Ruth is the lawnmower."

And that's about where my heart started to sink. It was clear to me that I had walked into this movie like a fighter who had not properly trained for a match. But did I stop watching it? No, I was going to see it through.

However, I still wasn't exactly sure why it was supposed to be a horror movie, since it seemed to be shaping up to be more of a painful drama.

Then, there's a point in the movie that occurs after a few things have taken place: If I remember correctly, the boys (as David watches) have been rough-housing Meg when she hits one of them in defense. Ruth shows up and punishes Meg for it, by making her watch as she paddles her handicapped sister. Then she tears Meg's necklace - her deceased mother's wedding ring on a chain - off her neck and puts it around her own neck (she continues to wear it the rest of the movie). Meg tries to tell a neighborhood cop about it, but the cop does nothing.

One of the themes of the movie is that the 1950s in America was a time when it wasn't believable that people have dark secrets and are capable of violent behavior towards others. Repeatedly, people in this town are given reasons to think that something horrible is going on in Ruth's house, and ignore it.

"What were you thinking, Meg?" Ruth asks after the cop's shown up at her door and inquired about Meg's complaints.

Then comes the point I mentioned earlier, when David goes over to Ruth's house one day, walks down to the cellar, and finds Meg tied by her thumbs between two points in the darkened room, her arms stretched out in a Christ pose. She's blindfolded and standing on a stack of books, with Ruth and the other boys staring at her. Meg asks if David's there too. When Ruth says he is, she begins to cry. Ruth insists Meg confess her slutty actions, and Meg responds by saying there's nothing to confess. Ruth says that if she continues to remain silent about it, someone's going to be punished: if not her, then her sister. Meg cries harder. As Meg continues to stand by her statement that she's done nothing wrong (she hasn't), Ruth kicks a book from the pile, causing her to be stretched more. Eventually there won't be any books in the pile, and Meg will be completely nude as all of the boys stand around and stare at her, including David.

As the movie continues, as Ruth obviously goes more and more mad, as Meg cries and snot pours out of her nose, as the boys grow more sadistic by the second, and as it becomes clear that the filmmakers have very few - if any - reservations about what they're going to show us, David has to decide whether he wants to break the chains of peer pressure and help his friend. And why it's "supposed to be a horror movie" will no longer be in question.

I won't reveal anything else, but let me be clear about this to anyone reading, because I haven't put my feelings about this movie in writing since I saw it almost a year ago: I've seen 'em come and I've seen 'em go as far as disturbing movies. The last half hour or so of JACK KETCHUM'S THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is the most painful, disturbing material I've ever seen in anything. There is absolutely nothing that can prepare you for it. It goes further than you could ever imagine a movie going, and it all involves the torture of a child. Think Holocaust victims, and you might get an idea.

After it was over, I tried to come to terms with the trauma I had going on inside me. What the hell did I just see? Certainly not something that gave me the "Oh shit!" kind of kick I was hoping to get from the obscure movie I watched on Halloween night. I was deeply, deeply upset. And my Halloween fun night had gotten knocked on its ass.

I also needed to watch something funny right away. So I chose two movies that still sort of had the theme of the night going: JESUS CHRIST VAMPIRE HUNTER (which a recent movie ripped off, by the way) and ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, which I hadn't seen in years. Both of those movies were just what I needed, and I was still up watching STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER (which I was also watching some of today, coincidentally, and not because it's good in either case) when I saw sunlight, having refused to turn the lights off.

As the weeks went on after that, I could not get THE GIRL NEXT DOOR out of my head. There was a period of time when I would occasionally, as I slept, jump awake because I thought the bed was falling. I think it was because of that movie. And there were other times when I would wake up at night, think about that movie, and turn on my bedside lamp. It bothered me that much.

I've told people I know about the effect it's had on me, and two of them said the same thing: "If it had that effect on you, I'm glad I didn't see it!"

There are ways that the movie reminded me of a really fucked up ghost story, or Grimm's Fairy Tale, or something. But here's the thing. I quickly discovered, after I saw the movie, that the movie is infact very much based on a real-life incident.

In 1965, a sixteen year old girl named Sylvia Likens was held captive by her caretaker, Gertrude Baniszewski, the boyfriend of Baniszewski, and the boys that lived at the woman's house (as well as other boys from the neighborhood). Sylvia was a normal girl whose favorite group was The Beatles. And for reasons nobody knows, she was slowly murdered. She was kept in the cellar, tied up, for three months. She was kicked, punched, starved, burned with cigarettes and hot needles, made to think she was pregnant and had lost the baby, verbally abused, forced to take baths in scalding hot water, and made to do a few other things that I'll let you find out for yourself if you want. If nothing else, I'm glad I saw THE GIRL NEXT DOOR simply because I learned about her case. She deserves to have as many people know about it as possible.

The poor girl had done nothing to any of these people, and when asked why they did what they did, Baniszewski later said "I don't know." After Sylvia died, her younger sister told a visiting police officer "Get me out of here and I'll tell you everything." The worst part is that Baniszewski wasn't even given a life sentence, and the other culprits weren't punished to the extent they should've been either.

Any movie made about this story would be horrifying. (There was another film, AN AMERICAN CRIME, starring Ellen Page and Catherine Kenner, that was released the same year, is supposedly more true to the real story and quite disturbing too, and
This is nothing compared to what happens later.

This is nothing compared to what happens later.
that for some reason got bad reviews when THE GIRL NEXT DOOR got good ones). And some critics whose reviews I've read, as well as Blythe Auffarth, the actress that plays Meg, believe that the real Sylvia Likens got it worse.

But I don't know if I feel that way. THE GIRL NEXT DOOR makes the character two years younger and adds atrocities that didn't even happen in the real-life case, including the coup de grace, which is the worst thing I've ever seen on screen and which left me, quite simply, astounded. I still can not get the scene out of my head, and I probably never will.

I've never felt as sorry for a human being in a film as I did for Megan Loflin in THE GIRL NEXT DOOR. Sara Goldfarb in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM was a similar kind of sympathy, but this movie topped that one for me in the pain department. The poor girl.

And I've seen very few movies that left me as conflicted as this one did. I may have never seen another movie that has. I was angry at the movie after I saw it. I was angry at the people who made it. And I was angry at Jack Ketchum, the man who wrote the novel it was based on. I was angry at Stephen King. How dare he praise such a movie? How dare Ketchum take a real life case and turn it into fiction? How dare the filmmakers sensationalize it by adding things that didn't even happen? HOW DARE THEY?!?

Then I thought about my moviegoing history. Don't I go looking for things like this? In the past however many years, I've gone through the most despicable, ugly, condemned movies that there are. Yet this one, which is not that graphic (but doesn't need to be either), fucked me up. Should someone who hunts wild, dangerous animals complain when he gets bit?

I wanted to go on the movie's Netflix Instant Watching page and leave a comment downgrading the movie and warning people about it. Many other people already had. Infact some people even called for the movie to be banned from Instant Watching. I finally decided, before I wrote this column, to at least write something on the page warning people about the movie, if I didn't feel I had the right to condemn it. I think a warning is fair. But when I finally decided to do that, the movie had finally been taken off Instant Watching. I wonder if it was just time to rotate it out for other movies, or if Netflix listened to the amount of user complaints.

The truth is that even though the movie filled me with pain and disgust, I've never flat-out said it's a bad movie. I don't know if it is or not.

I'm the guy that saw WOLF CREEK three times at the theater and had one of my friends say I'm a masochist because of it. Looking back now, I don't know why I saw that movie so many times at the theater, other than that Fangoria magazine called it the "Scariest Movie of the Year," and I pride myself on being a true horror fan. But now would I go see it three times? No. However, I did then, plus I went to see all the Saw movies at least once, as well as both Hostels. I went to the LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT remake, and even requested online that the I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE remake come to Greensboro when I was living there. I've embraced the most brutal of horror movies, torture movies etc.

But here was a movie that showed what that process would really be like, as it happened to a completely innocent, beautiful person, who was smart and talented, filled with love, and who happened to be fourteen years old in the movie. She's completely destroyed right in front of our eyes, and it complicates the pain by having us see it through the eyes of a person who's come to love her.

This Catch 22 between me, hardcore horror movies from my past, and the effect this particular film had on me...is not going to make me stop liking other brutal horror movies or disturbing movies because they're fun to watch, the same way hardcore action movies are fun to watch or hardcore music is fun to listen to. But it also doesn't make me feel comfortable condemning this movie. If I was a critic, I don't know how I'd rate it. I can only describe it and say that it made me feel like absolute shit. But I'm "Mr. Horror." I've made them, I've watched them, I've read about them, I've worshipped them. Here's a movie that did what it's theoretically supposed to do. I can't condemn a movie for being as scary as it can possibly be. And I actually have a certain respect for a movie that kicked my ass the way this one did. The length of this article (even for me) should be indicative of the power it had over me.

In other words, what I wondered is this: Did I deserve this movie?

I'm still not sure I know the answer to that. But as far as dilemnas concerning this and horror history, another way I caught myself mentally is this: The movie concerns a little girl being brutalized for much of its running time. But so did THE EXORCIST, which was also deemed pornographic by people upon its release, and still is. Actually, so do most slasher movies. You never really think about it, but it's mostly teenaged girls getting killed. It's just never as real and painful as it would be in real life. So it seems like for every way JACK KETCHUM'S THE GIRL NEXT DOOR makes me angry, and every way that I want to villify it, there's a hangup that leaves me kind of bewildered.

There are things about the movie that add to its creepiness, which I still don't understand. One strange aspect of the movie which I question is this: Why are the boys who stand around watching Meg so often without their shirts? Because that's what young boys do? I don't know, it just adds to the sick, borderline pornographic vibe of the whole thing.

As some viewers have asked on Netflix and IMDb, what parents let their children (and some of the children cursing and doing vile things in this movie are obviously really that young) appear in a movie like this?

Why did Ketchum and the screenwriters, as vile as the movie already is, feel the need to include a story told by the younger sister, in which she reveals that Ruth has molested her? ICK!!! And did the parents of the girls have to have died? In real life, Sylvia Likens' parents gave her to the new caretaker because they were travelling carnival workers. The parents' death just makes it even more tragic and emotionally damaging.

And why does the character of David continue to watch the events unfold, only late in the game deciding to try and stop them? I think the movie wants you to think that David is too afraid to do anything about it, but it's still hard to believe that he wouldn't be compelled to tell his parents, despite the movie's opinion that no one would have believed him (then again, I'll be damned if people supposedly didn't believe anything was happening right under their noses in the Sylvia Likens case, so there's some truth to that idea I suppose). It was also impossible for me - for much of the movie - to not think he's in some way turned on by it, which makes it even more disturbing.

I was on both sides of the bullying thing when I was the age that David is in the movie, around 11 or 12. I was harassed, and I
Take the warnings seriously.

Take the warnings seriously.
did harass because I thought it made me cool. Eventually I had that latter temptation beaten out of me. But maybe it really bothered me on a deep level that something like this could happen with kids at that age. Maybe it bothered me that I'm not sure - at that age - that I wouldn't have been as torn about what to do as David is.

Here's something else: my brother's girlfriend (who's pretty much like my sister) had a handicapped sister. It was impossible for me not to think about that when I watched the movie. There was a point about a month later when she wanted to watch it with him, and he called me for advice. I was pretty direct: DON'T. It's not to be taken lightly.

So the movie affected me, apparently, on some very personal levels.

Jack Ketchum is an author unfamiliar to me before this movie. But I've read articles about him and interviews with him since then. He seems like a disturbed man. Then again, I suppose a horror writer would be, particularly one Stephen King has said is something of a hero to other horror writers, the guy who will go way beyond the point other storytellers would've stopped. You'll learn that's true with THE GIRL NEXT DOOR.

I looked up the book online and saw the original cover. It looked just like a normal horror novel of the time, all spooky and such. When readers opened it and began reading it they discovered it was a different kind of "scary" altogether. The movie has the same kind of effect. The book came out in the late eighties, and the movie in 2007. Ketchum has said he never thought the book would be filmed. And the movie, by all accounts, is pretty faithful to the book, which others also seemed to believe was impossible.

I saw another movie based on one of his works recently, THE WOMAN, which caused an angry viewer to launch a tirade against its makers at last year's Sundance Film Festival, where it had a midnight showing. You can see this tirade on Youtube. I found THE WOMAN a better time than THE GIRL NEXT DOOR when I saw it. Then again, I had read everything that happens in that one and I watched it drunk. I wandered into THE GIRL NEXT DOOR a sober visitor in a dangerous land, and I was met with its consequences. THE WOMAN also involved a woman tied up in a cellar, held in a Christ pose, and brutalised. And it also concerned the head of a family who had covered up his dark secrets. I thought to myself, I'm starting to see a pattern here.

What bothers me even more is that, in an interview with him I read which concerned this film, even though he said he based the novel THE GIRL NEXT DOOR on the Likens case because it really bothered him, he called Gertrude Baniszewski "Gert," said he felt Baniszewski was "a victim," and stated that he wrote the book imagining his own basement as Ruth's.

Like IRREVERSIBLE, MIDNIGHT EXPRESS and REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, a strong case can be made for JACK KETCHUM'S THE GIRL NEXT DOOR being a well made film. And infact, it's gotten mostly good reviews, judging by Rotten Tomatoes, the movie review site. Many user comments on Netflix and IMDb praise it. I haven't figured out yet if I think it's defensible on moral grounds, or if it's any more affective as a movie than a particularly well made snuff film would be. But I will say: The cinematography is good. The acting is good. The writing is deeper and better than you'll find in your typical "horror" movie. There are actors in it you might recognize. William Atherton, from GHOSTBUSTERS and REAL GENIUS, plays the adult David. Catherine Mary Stewart, who I hadn't seen in anything since she played the girlfriend in WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S, plays David's mom. Blanche Baker, who was in SIXTEEN CANDLES, plays Ruth.

But like IRREVERSIBLE, MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, and REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, the overall point of the movie seems to be the creation of severe emotional pain in the viewer. And like REQUIEM in particular, it will scar you. It's a battering ram. I don't know if that makes them good movies or bad ones, but they're certainly affective. REQUIEM is technically considered a drama, but kind of is a horror movie. THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is considered a horror movie, but is really more of a drama. They're both almost unendurable, because of the events in them and because of the crushing emotional content they contain.

I love horror movies. But going back to a question I posed earlier, what exactly is a horror movie? And how far should we go with it? This millenium saw the arrival of the torture porn genre of horror, which opened up new terrain as far as what could or should be shown in a horror movie. THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was scandalous when it came out. But several movies released since the 2000s began have either tried to stand beside its legacy, or otherwise outdo it.

My brother has an interesting theory that kids of the 80s, who held Jason, Michael Myers and Freddy as heroes, have become filmmakers who also want to use the dramatic and realistic violence of some 70s horror classics to their advantage. The result is a sick product where the most vile of bad guys are often the good guys and are not properly punished.

Sometimes, for my tastes, the product is great: The SAW movies are no worse than those FRIDAY THE 13TH movies were. But then there's something like WOLF CREEK (which again, I'm not off the hook about), which was also based on real events and documented its horror in a very believable way, and where the torturer walked off at the end like a cowboy in an old western. Or JACK KETCHUM'S THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, where the evil aunt - who's been called a great villain in some reviews I've read - commits realistic atrocities the entire movie and - at the end - basically gets a slap on the wrist.

For awhile the torture porn genre was the standard for horror, and you still see sporadic examples, but for the most part it's now been replaced by supernatural horror. And it's probably just. I'm not even as much of a fan of torture movies as I was a few years back, because I'm not the same person. I'll still watch the SAWs, but that's about it.

For the torture porn genre, actions had to become uglier, content got more graphic, and standards on what kinds of things shouldn't be shown got much lower. For other dramas made in the past twelve years, like REQUIEM and IRREVERSIBLE, the filmmakers seemed to be intent on going beyond what movies had been willing to show before, in an effort to pretty much traumatize the viewer. Reality became displayed in its ugly entirety in some cases, and even expanded on for exploitation purposes in others.

When is enough enough?

JACK KETCHUM'S THE GIRL NEXT DOOR was both of these extreme styles - torture porn and the drama of real life horror - at the same time, with child abuse thrown in for good measure. I love horror movies. But this movie is like a document of a puppy being kicked to death for an hour as it tries to crawl away. It's painful to watch. It's painful to remember. And no movie has ever made me ask the above question more.

This year I'll research my Halloween day movies more carefully.

email this column to a friend

Comment on this Column:

Sorry, you must be a member to add comments to columns.

Join or Login.

Oct 14, 2012 12:53 PM
[X] delete
Oh God. I read the book, when I was... fifteen maybe? Mostly because Stephen King recommends it. And, yeah, super f*cked up, but also well-written. There's a scene near the beginning where Ruth sets fire to a nest of caterpillars (or some other kind of insects. Whatever it is that makes big ol' webby nests in trees), and the way Jack Ketchum writes it, it's incredibly disturbing and a perfect foreshadow of all the nastiness ahead. It's one of the those books that I've only read once, but it sneaks back into my consciousness seemingly without reason and those scenes just get stuck in my head.

You ask a lot of good questions about horror. I am in a strange predicament where I can't even watch mildly gorey movies without feeling physically ill (same thing happens with war movies. Ugh.). There are some exceptions. I can stomach Lars von Trier's Antichrist because the gross scenes are very brief. But anything that involve extended scenes of bodily maiming is bad news. The last time I tried to watch something of that sort was when the new House of Wax came on HBO, and I was fine for a while until the scene when one of the waxed characters gets his face ripped off. I had to turn off the TV and go for a really, really long walk and even now, writing about it, I feel nauseous.

Despite this, I am fascinated by horror films. I know I can't stomach them, though, so I usually end up reading plot synopses on Wikipedia. Why do I do this? I don't know. I think maybe I am curious about how far people will go and what they're willing to put on screen. It makes me interesting psychological and sociological questions. What, if anything, can we infer about someone who enjoys watching torture porn? I know enough horror movie buffs to know that by all appearances they seem fairly normal. They just enjoy watching people getting killed for some reason. Does the enjoyment of the films stem from the film itself or the conquering of our fears by watching them on the screen? Is someone who feels compelled to make the Human Centipede necessarily mentally ill? (I avoided looking up that one on Wikipedia for quite a while because it freaked me out so much, until one night I got particularly drunk and went for it, soon after which I declared to the friend I was drinking with, "Oh God, why did the f*ck did I do that? Those images are never getting out of my head!"

(I've been cut off by a word limit. More to come in a sec!)
Oct 14, 2012 1:00 PM
[X] delete
So because I can't stomach torture porn, I usually watch horror films that become significantly less scary after the first viewing, like the Blair Witch Project. I am fond of some J-horror. I think because the special effects in J-horror tend to be less realistic, I can stomach it better. There's particularly creepy one called Noroi that I adore, and I liked Suicide Club. Jacob's Ladder is one of my favorite horror films ever (though it's less scary more just weird and creepy), and while I despise the movie adaptation, I love the Silent Hill video games series. I wish there was some way to transfer that kind of horror into a film, but I have yet to find it.

Also, f*ck Requiem for Dream. Aronofsky's a genius and it's incredibly well-made, but I can't even begin to describe all the nasty feelings I got from that movie. I had to cleanse my brain with Wallace and Gromit after that disturb fest.

Oct 18, 2012 2:51 PM
[X] delete
Finally I've encountered someone who's actually familiar with this story. So you do know how f*cked up it is! I've actually read that the book is worse, and it certainly would have a tremendous effect on a fifteen year old, particular a fifteen year-old girl. Wow. I'm not surprised you can still recall some of it now. I have no doubt that Ketchum's a really good writer, and I admire the lengths he'll seemingly go, the way I admire the lengths the movie went. But it doesn't make it any more pleasant an experience. It's truly an ugly movie. And from what I've gathered, the aunt character doesn't even get it as bad as she does in the book as far as her death. Which puts me in the position of advocating that a character's death should've been more harsh, while complaining about the graphic nature of another character's death. But I just felt that...if you're going to make a movie like this, even if it's based on a true story, at the end, the villain needs to get it. Pure and simple. Otherwise you've kind of gipped the audience.

I understand the difference that you're talking about with horror movies and movies that are just people getting torn apart. In something like Antichrist, the graphic stuff is pretty over the top. But watching people get physically dismembered is not everybody's thing, and it doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with horror in general. There are different kinds of horror.

I feel like - for the most point - I'm past the point of testing the foul waters of violent movies, but I'll always be a horror fan. Honestly, at least with Human Centipede, the idea was pretty original, and I would say unlikely. It's so over the top that it isn't really plausible, but not that this makes it noble. Despite all of this, I do have Human Centipede 2 on my instant queue, and I have to give the guy credit for the idea: somebody is so inspired by watching the first movie that they create an even bigger centipede. I still don't know if I'll bring myself to watch it though, because the first one was majorly disgusting.

Overall, I think there's a distinction to be made between the notion that horror is meant to offend and disturb people's senses, and the idea that a viewer should leave the movie feeling saddened and filled with pity.

Oct 18, 2012 2:57 PM
[X] delete
Been cut off again, word-wise. Anyway, I think movies should develop characters well, but sometimes they can be so well developed - and so innocent - that the viewers come to care too much about them to deserve watching their brutal downfall, without any reprive or justification. With movies like this or Requiem, what's shown may not be nearly as graphic as Jason or Saw movies, but in those types of movies, you don't really know the characters at all. They're just fresh meat, basically. Whereas watching someone's body and spirit be destroyed that you've grown to like and root for, that's much more difficult. And I don't know if either's more justified than the other, but there's a difference between horror movies and another class of movies that could be called "trauma" movies, where you don't even enjoy the simple act of remembering the experience of seeing it or anything in it. I don't know, I guess there'll always be movies where it's like, "Can you sit through this?", and it's something to tell other people you've seen (and talk to others who have) but I often wonder how much some of these filmmakers simply want to punish the audience. In any case, I can't imagine what could be released that'll take things further than they've already gone, but I am sure I'll continue to be amazed.

Subscribe to MatchFlick Movie Reviews through RSS

Every other Friday

This is an outlet granted to me by the makers, in which I will espouse grand words, unleashing in written form the very movie-related praise and outrage I'm probably thinking about and/or discussing at the time anyway.

Other Columns
Other columns by Nathan Reece:

Led Zeppelin's Reunion Show Movie

The Night He Came Home

And the best use of 3D in recent years is...

20 Albums That Play Like Movies

You're not The Joker, you fucking moron

All Columns

Nathan Reece
I was born in a log cabin that was built in a sewer. After serving during wartime, I woke up from this vicious dream and learned to tapdance.
It's a commendable trade, but not a recommendable one. As I've said many a time, on one hand, I have five fingers. Yet on the other hand, I have
five fingers. Sometimes I sleep. I would probably watch more sumo wrestling if it was on TV more often. The first movie I saw at the theater was Superman
II...the last was The Terror, and this much is true. Far be it from me to call myself stupid, but if I did so (and believe me, I would), I'd say it behind
my back. Then I would figure out how I did it. Sometimes I sleep. Love, Nate.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Nathan Reece by clicking here.

Digg This Column

  Terms of Use | Press | Contact Us
Partnership and Advertising Opportunities | Movie Database | Merchandise

©2004-2017 MatchFlick®. All rights reserved.

Web Analytics