Shock, shock, horror, horror

Bob - shockingly he's very intelligent for a zombie

One of the sure fire ways to create interest in a film is to use shock tactics. Shocking an audience will get them talking, and get them talking about your film. Often it doesn’t even need to be good, only to shock.

The idea of shocking visual stimuli has been about for decades. Un Chien Andalou had an eye being slit open using a razor blade. While it may seem a little tame compared to some of the stuff coming out now, it is still actually quite shocking.

“But who would want to go see something like that?” I hear you ask. Well, there’s plenty of market for it. It’s part of the reason exploitation films in the 70’s were so big (you know, stuff like the grindhouse films and blaxploitation flicks). To the makers, it’s a dare to go that much further. To the audience, it’s the majestic appeal of the spectacle. A bit like when there’s been an accident and our morbid interest gets the better of us.

It’s the good ol’ fashioned physical shock, such as the eye slitting above and even to an extent the zombie films – especially things like Night of the Living Dead when the zombies are tearing bodies apart and devouring raw flesh. On a side note: there’s a blog specifically about zombies.

Eyes are one of the more sensitive body parts - I know people would get freaked out by watching me put my contact lenses in

Another vivid example of shocking cinema was A Clockwork Orange. You can read a more in-depth analysis here: Visual Memory: The Clockwork Controversy. Littered with violence and rape, it’s a visceral and compelling watch. It’s also a classic that was later banned in the UK, until after Kubrick’s death.

I used to think that it was the solution that people had a problem with – the reprogramming or conditioning of the human mind – taking away free will as it were, that was the ban-worthy thing. But the moral outrage was more about the depiction of rape and ultra-violence in a film, a medium designed to entertain. It was supposedly to stop the effect of the film on society. If films were so potent, as presented in the dated syringe model of media effects (the audiences just soak up information as passive, rather than negotiated) why is it that after An Inconvenient Truth, there’s still not as much green reform as there needs to be? Surely we need to look at media effects theories in new ways to discover how people are influenced by media texts?

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2 Comments on “Shock, shock, horror, horror”

  1. Emily says:

    Despite the morbid interest I may have in films built on spectacle… I am continuing to avoid the Saw films.

    • It’s not like I’m actively avoiding them, but I’ve never seen any of them either (Hey, you can’t watch EVERY film in the world!)

      Though still looking forward to stuff like Machete, when it comes down in price a bit (and I actually have money).


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