Friday, 27 June 2014

15 Second Review: Antisocial (2013)

Extracting elements from films such as [Rec] (2007) and Kairo (2001), Antisocial seeks to hack into both the dwindling zombie craze and a body of other Interwebz paranoia flicks (think The Net (1995)). Unfortunately for writer/director Cody Calahan, Antisocial has arrived on the horror scene a decade too late. In itself, that is not enough to condemn the film entirely: had the movie been well executed, its tired premise would have been perfectly acceptable (or at least forgivable). Unfortunately the film itself is as scary as a plastic dog turd, and its "commentary" on social media is as subtle as a real dog turd. In sum, Antisocial is the horror equivalent of the pamphlet-turned-"TV movie" Cyberbully (2011), and that is hardly a recommendation.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

15 Second Review: Vendetta

Danny Dyer has starred in some remarkably bad films, and his acting fluctuates wildly across his filmography. Usually, if Dyer is phoning it in, the film itself is appalling (NB: remember kids,  correlation does not equal causation). Vendetta is a strange combination insofar as Dyer is pretty dire, but the film itself is a fun ride. It is not a great movie in the "traditional" sense, but it is underpinned by an interesting - albeit unoriginal - set of ideas about the follies of retaliation. Outrageous in a fashion that reminded me of Nick Love's Outlaw (2007), Vendetta is fairly fast-paced and certainly kept me entertained.  For my money, it is easily the best Danny Dyer film I have seen: make of that what you will.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

15 Second Review: Super

After recommending Super to a colleague recently, I dug out my copy to watch the wonderful opening credits sequence (which I might devote an entire post to in the future). I did not mean to watch the entire movie again, but I was completely sucked in. On its release, Super received negative responses from reviewers regarding its uneven tone and pacing. In fairness, it is easy to see why Gunn's approach would irritate filmgoers who do not like confrontation. However, these criticisms are unfair inasmuch as the tonal shifts are clearly intentional. Gunn allows the audience to become swept up in the conventions of superhero storytelling, then pulls the rug, revealing the stark reality under the spandex (ewwww). This pattern repeats numerous times, and necessarily so: Gunn makes a running joke of (a) conventionality's power once normalised; (b) how willing audiences are to play along with genre cliches, and (c) how willing audiences are to cheer on heroes who commit violence in the name of justice, even if it means overlooking the evident signs of psychosis. Some - I hope many - filmgoers will laugh along at their own gullibility. Others will hate being made to feel foolish, or will bemoan that Super simply is not Kick Ass. All I can say is that those in the latter camp are missing out on a "super" movie. Shut up, criticism.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Mattie Do Still Needs Money

A couple of weeks ago I posted about Mattie Do's Indiegogo campaign to crowdfund her new film Nong Hak. There are 9 days left and she is currently at $17392 of her $30k fundraising bid.

Her latest bid to garner interest is ingenious: if she reaches $30k she will make all of the materials (all footage, sound files, subtitle files) to her previous film (Chanthaly) available so that fans can cut their own version of the movie

What a fantastic idea. Check out the trailer for Chanthaly below for a taste of what you can get your editing equipment around. If you want to contribute, here is a link to the campaign: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/nong-hak-dearest-sister-a-lao-horror-film

UPDATE: Mattie Do No Longer Needs Money - with 4 days left, she has now raised $36k

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Saturday, 21 June 2014

My Eyes Hurt, My Brain Hurts...

...OK Go must have released a new music video. If only these fellas spent half as much time crafting their songs as they do crafting the videos. Still, it is an awesome watch (as always)

Friday, 6 June 2014

"Emergency" Calls



Sincerely, this is one of the most terrifying compilations I've heard. On the West Midlands Police Sound Cloud, you can also hear a customer complain that a vendor hasn't put enough sprinkles on an ice cream, and a punter complain about a prostitute's appearance. 
Some of these people might even be able to drive. Imagine it. Gleaming death machines hurtling at 60, 70, maybe even 80 MPH with only these people behind the wheel. No wonder I don't leave the house.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The BBFC Passed WHAT uncut...?

I appear to have something terribly wrong with my vision: I keep blinking, but it still looks like the BBFC have passed Nekromantik uncut...

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

15 Second Review: The Sarah Silverman Program (Seasons 1-3)

Sarah Silverman is simply one of the most fearless comedians of her generation. Given that her persona is such a central part of her act, the decision to explore the character in the sitcom form was inspired. The series is strictly a "love it or hate it" affair, as Silverman's comedy is more generally. Many of the jokes fly in the face of decorum; most are patently offensive. Consequently, not every joke lands. However it is certainly not the case that the show is a one-dimensional shockfest. The series offends with purpose, placing pressure on topics that the majority of people will have a charged opinion about, but that most people will not have spent much time reflecting on. The first couple of series are stronger in that respect since the episodes so explicitly seek to dissect the intersection between taste, politics and ethics. By series three, much more focus is placed on the characters (rather than the situations) , presumably because the characters and relationships are more fully formed by that point. Nevertheless, Silverman fans (Silverfans?) will have a blast. Some viewers will turn off five minutes into the first episode. Others will be torn; to whit, at the end of the first season, my partner turned to me and shook her head; "I get it, but... [the character] is such a horrible person...". Silverman pokes fun at our propensity to be offended and to reject out-of-hand that which we find distasteful. Whether one chooses to turn away or takes up Silverman's challenge to reflect on provocative issues - and our reactions to those topics - is up to the individual. Viewers who are willing to get their hands dirty sifting through the series' disarming "doodie" jokes will find The Sarah Silverman Program as rewarding as it is uncomfortable.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

15 Second Review: Blue Ruin (2013)

Having won the FIPRESCI prize at Cannes, Blue Ruin has been over-hyped by numerous critics. As long as one lowers their expectations from the gushing praise the film has received, one will find much to recommend about Jeremy Saulnier's tale of revenge. Unlike revenge flicks such as Robocop (in which a noob cop turns into cyborg-Christ), The Punisher (in which a super badass turns into an ultra-hard vigilante) or Death Sentence (in which an average guy turns into a reasonably hard vigilante), Blue Ruin features a mundane guy who remains almost tediously normal. Consequently his revenge is mediocre, and the film is all the better for it. For all the blood that is shed during its run-time, Blue Ruin is a quiet affair. Although not as bleak, stony or powerful as 7 DaysBlue Ruin's tone turns a plot that is as average as its protagonist into a film that feels fairly fresh.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

AVN Awards: Porn Pun Titles (NSFW)


Never has the word “clever” been more dubiously used than in the Adult Video News awards category “Clever Title of the Year”.

The category’s inherent irony is that “Clever Title of the Year” is itself a really stupid title: take a look at the nominee lists below and you will understand why. “Ridiculous Title of the Year”, “Most Staggering Title of the Year”, “Title That Makes It Apparent That Far Too Much Porn is Produced Every Year”, or even “AVN Workers’ Favourite Category in the AVN Awards” would all be more accurate.

Check out the 2011 list, many of which simply beggar belief:

Asian Noodle Slurpers [Third World Media]
Beggin’ for a Peggin’ [Reality Blue/Vouyer]
Bust a Nut or Die Tryin’ [B. Pumper/Freaky Empire]
Faces Loaded [Brandon Iron/JM Productions]
His Booty Is My Duty [Exquisite Multimedia]
I Can’t Believe I F**ked a Zombie [Rodnievision/Exquisite]
I Want You to Make My Mouth Pregnant [JM Productions]
 It Ain’t Gonna Suck Itself! [Loaded Digital/Metro]

Japanese Fur Burgers [Third World Media]
Load Almighty [Mike John/Jules Jordan]
My Ex Girlfriend Is a Slut: Here’s Proof [DreamGirls]
Roll Me a Fatty [Third World Media 
● Say Hi to Your Mother for Me [Zero Tolerance Entertainment]
Sweaty College Girl Butt Stinky Panties [B. Pumper/Freaky Empire]
A View to a Gape [Omar Galanti/Evil Angel] 

If these are the “clever” titles, imagine what the other 5000 titles were. 


The 2009 list is just as astounding:

America’s Next Top Tranny [Goodfellas/Devil's Film] 
Bareback Mount Him [Combat Zone] 
Charlie Wilson’s Whore [Back End Productions] 
Daddy! Please Stop F**king My Friends! [Hustler Video] 
Granny Is F**king Grampa’s Fanny [X-Traordinary/Legend] 
Hairy Movie [Zero Tolerance Entertainment] 
I Was 18 50 Years Ago [White Ghetto Films] 
Leave It in Her Beaver [Platinum Media] 
Get That Black P***y, You Big D**k White Bastard Mutha F**ka [Powersville/JM] 
Love Squirts [Adam & Eve Pictures] 
My Daughter Went Black and Never Came Back [Dirty Laundry/Juicy] 
Oh No! There’s a Negro in My Mom! [Chatsworth/JM] 
Sasha Grey’s Anatomy [Teravision/Vivid ] 
Show Me Where It Squirts [XCartel] 
Strollin’ in the Colon [Hustler Video] 

Is it any wonder that the porn DVD market has dried up? There are surely few sex-based pun-titles left to use. The good news is that the more pitiful these titles get, the more gob-smacking they become. I’m not sure any mentioned above have toppled my past favourite titles, which include: Oklahomo, The Great Muppet Raper, C**k Asian, and the crowning majesty of My Big Fat Greek C**k, which is particularly superb because it doesn’t even come close to working as a play-on-words.

As it transpires, the 2013 awards list is quite lacklustre, so I haven’t include them all. Of note (the cream of the cream of the crop)  are:

Ass Cream Sandwich [Third Degree Films]
My Wife Caught Me Assf***ing Her Mother [Devil's Film]
Nice Shoes, Wanna F**k? [Electric/Hustler]
She Plays a Mean Rusty Trombone! [Lethal Hardcore/Pulse]
Show Me Your S***hole [B. Pumper/Freaky Empire]
The Spit and the Speculum [Mike Adriano/Evil Angel]
Subtle Fragrance of Her Private Parts [Swank/Pure Play]

I’m calling it: romance is officially dead.


**UPDATE**: November 2014. More offensive titles this year: for example, 12 Inches a Slave has been nominated. Other offensive candidates include fellow nominees 1 in the Slit 1 in the Shit and (the rather boring) Pregnant and Pounded. 

There are the usual batch of parody titles, which do verge on being witty:

  • Dawn of the Planet of the Gapes
  • The Little Spermaid
  • Trans Formers

We have also been treated to some titles that don't really work, including Two Chicks at the Same Time, Man!Romancing Her Rectum and I’m Not 50, I’m 5 Perfect 10’s


Since this is all quite dizzying, let's pause for a reality-check:

Clever (klɛvə), adj.

  1. quick to understand, learn, and devise or apply ideas; intelligent. (antonym: stupid)
  2. skilled at doing or achieving something; talented.
  3. showing skill and originality; ingenious.
  4. (informal) sensible; well advised.

Draw your own conclusions about how these titles measure up.


Over the last few years, my favourites have been those titles that are so long and cumbersome that they don't come close to working. The industry did not let me down this year, offering My Black Stepdaddy Disciplined Me Now My Pussy Is Sore! and She Divorced Me So I Fucked Her Hot Slutty Attorney. Surely the latter already has the "Clever Title" trophy in the bag.


**UPDATE**: November 2015. Ah yes dear reader, here we are again. Another year has passed, and another batch of 'Clever Title' nominations is here.

This year, the category is chock full of duds, including
  • Bush Supporter [Hustler Video] – which would have been more overtly topical ten years ago when George Dubya was still president (I'm taking it for granted that Jeb is an irrelevancy)
  • Dark Side of Her Moon [Dogfart] – which would have been more topical in 1973, when Pink Floyd were still a going concern, and
  • Less Talking More Sucking [Fantasy Massage] –  which has never been topical.

The attempts to “play on words” are not much better: Hair Supply [Third Degree Films], Pornado [Adult Source Media], and Gingeracial [Third Degree Films] are all barely functional. The best of these is Teenage Mutant Ninja Titties [Hot Mess/Exile]… in this case, “best” is hardly a complement.

At least titles such as Old Dumb and Begging to Cum [Tug Zone/Black Market] and That Rapper Destroyed My Crapper [Lethal Hardcore] have a rhythm that suggests someone has made a tokenistic effort, which is more than can be said for My Tits, My Story [Score/Pure Play]: I mean, seriously, how did this warrant a nomination?


Charting this category over the last few years, it is hard not to notice a rapid decline in effort, and to extrapolate from that a narrative about the deterioration of the US porn industry. If these are the “Cleverest Titles” generated in the last 12 months, they tell a woeful tale of a withering business, drained of creativity and verging on expiration. 

If anyone had told me in 2009 that Bareback Mount Him would amount to a "golden era classic", I'd have scoffed. In 2015, I'd settle for a Steve (Blow)jobs, The Hunger-Gaymes: Mocking Gay, or Mad Maxxx: Furry Load (whatever the hell that might mean)...



**UPDATE**: November 2016. Another washout in this category. The lowest number of amusing titles to-date. Even worse, the only real contender - Ten Inch Mutant Ninja Turtles - was nominated for various awards, but not for its title. Time for some kind of intervention in the nomination system, for sure.

On the  Virtues of Pseudo-Plotting


In my review of Das Komabrutale Duell, I made a case against the film’s lack of a defined story-structure, which was an uncharacteristic move for me. The problem with Das Komabrutale Duell, as I see it, is its lack of directional movement and thematic coherence.

That is not to say that narratives have to spoon-feed the viewer. Labouring the plot can kill a film. Expository speeches such as Lance Hendrikson’s in Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005) or Sarah Michelle Gellar’s in The Grudge (2004) are inexcusably clumsy and outright patronising, for example.

Unnecessary digs aside, the phenomenon I am here to address pseudo-plotting. Consider City of the Living Dead (1980), by way of illustration. One of the reasons I enjoy the film so much is that its narrative is an elaborate con. At any point during the run-time, the movie appears to have a perfectly normal, logic narrative structure. When the end credits roll, I realise how little sense the events made. I can only liken the experience of watching City of the Living Dead to having a conversation with someone, then five minutes later realising that they’ve picked my pocket.

Strange things happen throughout City of the Living Dead. A window gusts open, spraying maggots over the protagonists. A dead priest appears and a young woman vomits out her intestines. Mere hours before the gates of Hell are about to open, one of the only people in a position to prevent the oncoming apocalypse suggests that they should stop for lunch because she is peckish. None of the film’s events are singularly enough to derail the film. In fact, they add to City of the Living Dead‘s general atmosphere of supernatural uneasiness. Anything could happen, and sometimes anything does happen.

Each part obfuscates the whole that those elements combine to create. The whole remains ungraspable. In the final shot, what should be a happy ending is consumed by a shrill scream, and the shot shatters. It is at this point that Fulci ultimately pulls the rug.

The expectations that typically shape our interpretations are denuded, exposed as falsities. City of the Living Dead does not abandon narrative, but rather continually makes narrativisation strange, throwing into relief how much we habitually rely on those conventions.

[BOOM - eat that Wes Craven. Deconstruction? ... so 1980]
In fact, Fulci continually adopts unexpected camera angles and techniques. His penchant for crash-zooms notwithstanding, the séance sequence’s pivoting extreme close-ups establish his unnerving formal agenda from the outset.

Fulci didn’t always balance those elements so successfully. The Beyond (1981) moves too far towards unhinged incidents, while The House by the Cemetery (1981) opts for fairly standard plotting without enough oddity for my tastes. City of the Living Dead was Fulci’s opus, at least with regard to pseudo-plotting. Very few films manage to capture the balance that he achieved in this film, which is too frequently dismissed as splatter nonsense.

Halcali’s Twinkle Star

Halcali’s new studio album no Okawari (ハルカリノオカワリ) was released today. Split into two CDs, it is a painful reminder of how far Halca and Yucali have strayed from their earlier J-hop greatness (CD1) into J-pop mediocrity (CD2). For anyone unfamiliar with their work, I cannot recommend their first album (Halcali Bacon) highly enough. 8-bit infused bubblegum J-hop at its finest.

One of their crowning moments came in the form of the song “Twinkle Star”, the lead single from their third album Cyborg Oretachi (サイボーグ俺達). Not only is it immensely fun, the song displays how smart the band’s earlier material was. “Twinkle Star” is very consciously a transnational product, and its commentary on global cultural flow is worth contemplating.

Halcali have not received much commercial attention from Euro-American quarters because their lyrics are principally in Japanese. They have attracted some English speaking followers, particularly among audiences that have an established interest in Japanese popular culture, especially anime. That Halcali’s “Tip Taps Tip” was used as a credit theme for the series Eureka Seven greatly facilitated that connection. Consequently Halcali’s music videos have been subject to the same kind of fan-subbing that is common practice among English speaking anime fans.

The fansubbing movement has facilitated international flow of such cultural products, resisting against the notion that the language barrier and the particular conventions of J-pop are enough to render Halcali entirely unsellable on the US market.

Halcali’s early approach was much more noticably idiosyncratic than their rather more successful female J-hop counterparts Heartsdales, who directly mimicked the conventions and stylistic codes of contemporary American R&B (and were generally “too cool for skool”). As the Heartsdales’ image and sound evinces, American

R&B has had some impact on J-hop. That influence is reified in Heartsdales’ economic success. Halcali’s quirkier brand of J-hop took much longer to find an audience, and has been increasingly marketed as pop rather than rap, perhaps becuase they do not fit the US R&B style. That is not to say that Heartsdales’ appropriation of American R&B conventions/codes is evidence of cultural imperialism. They too have received little attention from the US marketplace. Japanese popular culture has also impacted on US R&B. Kayne West’s Akira influenced video for “Stronger” (which was shot in Japan) evinces that the cultural flow is not one-way.

“Twinkle Star” manifests that partially hidden international exchange. The song itself is founded on a series of samples culled from Elmer Bernstein’s score for The Magnificent Seven (1960). Being a Western, The Magnificent Seven may be mistaken for a quintessentially American text. Yet the narrative itself is set on the America-Mexico border. As such, it is infused with a sense of how simultaneously vague and yet significant geo-cultural boundaries are. The Magnificent Seven itself is a product of international cultural influence, being based on Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (Shichinin no Samurai) (1954). Moreover, both the Western and the Samurai film are myth-making products. Although they appear to represent dominant cultural histories in one sense, those histories are more accurately fantastical fictions. They are a priori histories that never were and never could have been. The signifiers of those histories are little more than genre conventions.

In the new context of J-hop, ”Twinkle Star’s” appropriation of The Magnificent Seven theme – de- and re-constructed via sampling – shatters and rebuilds that cross-cultural flow. It lays a claim to The Magnificent Seven‘s obscured Japanese origins, and explores those in a new cultural context (rap). This milieu is a trans-national hybrid form of its own (J-hop). Moreover, “Twinkle Star” exposes the the fraudulence of The Magnificent Seven and Seven Samurai‘s cultural histories. Halcali’s bubblegum rap is disposable mass-produced music. That perspective reverses both films’ apparently stable, authored versions of history. “Twinkle Star” epitomises the opposing values of timeliness and fleetingness. It is entirely of its moment, laying no claim to a broader temporal narrative.

Furthermore, its lyrics are intentionally nonsensical, being created via a word-chain game Shiritori (where each new noun must begin with the final syllable of the previous noun). The connections that arise are purely co-incidental. “Twinkle Star’s” juxtaposed elements create unexpected new meanings and collisions, much like the transnational to-and-fro of fictional histories that constitute its sonic backdrop. The gorilla suits, donuts, defecating cats, washing machines and flying cows that populate the video only add to that breakdown of meaning.

Do yourself a favour and play the video below: you will be rewarded with four and a half minutes of multi-layered joy. Hopefully no Okawari will allow Halcali to bridge back into their former glory. The first CD certainly hints towards a desire to do so.


Post-Torture Porn: DVD as Neo-Grindhouse Ghetto

Over the last couple of years, trends have emerged among moderate-to-low budget, violent, exploitation-influenced horror: an area previously monopolized by torture porn. Tarantino/Rodriguez’s Grindhouse project (2007) – the double-feature Death Proof and Planet Terror, both of which were dubbed “torture porn” – has spawned a host of neo-grindhouse movies that overtly flag their relationships to their generic forbearers. Machete (2010) and Hobo with a Shotgun (2011), for instance, are feature films based on Grindhouse’s mock film-trailer segments, and follow Grindhouse’s attempt to replicate 1970s/80s exploitation’s formal aesthetics. These films nostalgically replicate formal properties arising accidentally from their forbearers’ limited budgets and cheap film stock. Original grindhouse films were largely rejected as cultural trash. The film reels that contained these artefacts were thus neglected. The cultural status of grindhouse cinema manifested in physical properties such as scratched negatives and missing reels. These physical properties have become synonymous with exploitation films of the 1970s. Physical flaws manifest their cultural denigration, but that derogation equally inspires fan ownership over these neglected texts. Grindhouse co-opts those aesthetics, nostalgically remembering what original grindhouse films signified from an audience perspective. Grindhouse’s ‘missing reel’ sequence – in which the film’s sex sequence is glossed over by a caption reading ‘sorry for the inconvenience: theatre management’ – is one such example. Digital technology is used to purposefully replicate the original films’ faults, despite Grindhouse’s inflated budget ($53 million (IMDB.com)), and digital filmmaking’s propensity to overcome those technical, analogue issues.

Other neo-grindhouse films such as If a Tree Falls (2010), Run, Bitch Run! (2009) and No Moriere Sola (2008) have followed suit. Grainy, yellow-tinged footage and distorted synth music accompany rape-revenge plots. Thematically and aesthetically, these films feel like they have been dredged from a cultural mire. In these cases, and in contrast to Saw’s glossy contemporary look, the films embrace what grindhouse represented in budgetary terms, using nostalgic homage to excuse their own budgetary restrictions. For those of us who have fond memories of video shops rather than seedy Soho cinemas, there is Grindhouse’s direct descendant Hobo with a Shotgun, which is focused on 1980s rather than 1970s exploitation aesthetics. Despite referring to contemporary phenomena such as Bumfights (2002), Hobo with a Shotgun’s exaggerated fashion (the villainous brothers’ sunglasses and jock-jackets) and lighting (saturated, primary-colours) are reminiscent to films such as Savage Streets (1984), for instance. The presence of aging action-star Rutger Hauer, and the film’s end-credit theme – Lisa Loucheed’s “Run with Us”, which was written for the 1985 animated series The Racoons – further illustrate the extent to which 1980s nostalgia pervades Hobo. Although nothing will ever replace the unalloyed joy I feel whenever I see the opening sequence of Friday the 13th VI: Jason Lives (1986) or whenever I encounter the original VHS cover of Spookies (1986), there is something comforting in knowing that Eisner evidently shares some of that fondness.

Neo-grindhouse’s veneration of past exploitation film is not only limited to aesthetic design. For instance, Gutterballs (2008) lifts its poster design from I Spit on Your Grave (1978); Seed’s (2007) genuine animal cruelty is reminiscent of Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and Faces of Death (1978); and Chaos (2005) takes its plot from Last House on the Left (1972). Neo-grindhouse couples torture porn’s emphases on human cruelty with a broader cinematic trend for remaking 1970s and 1980s films. Remakes such as Piranha (2010), for example, or the torture porn remakes of I Spit on Your Grave (2010) and Last House on the Left (2009) themselves manifest renewed interest in 1970s/80s exploitation horror. Neo-grindhouse has thus arisen organically at the nexus of several contemporary trends and its generic past. Neo-grindhouse draws together torture porn films (Deaden (2006), Manhunt (2008)) with hardcore horror (Blood and Sex Nightmare (2008), Diary of a Sex Offender (2010), Stockholm Syndrome (2008), The Taint (2010)). The resultant films – such as 100 Tears (2007), Dear God No (2011), Hanger (2009) and Revenge is Her Middle Name (2011) – straddle the boundaries between torture porn, hardcore horror and exploitation pastiche.

Critics have sought to define torture porn by referring to its exploitation ethos: a determination to “push the envelope”, or a desire to depict viscera in as much explicit detail as possible. Neo-grindhouse films resolve critics’ complaints that gory one-upmanship is limited by the counter-need to retain realism by being much more concerned with humorous or ironic representations of violence. Neo-grindhouse’s violence is often exaggerated and unrealistic. In Machete, the eponymous protagonist disembowels one adversary, then uses their intestines as an abseiling rope, for instance. Machete typifies the kind of overt overstatement permitted by the neo-grindhouse mode. Neo-grindhouses’ nostalgic aesthetic embellishments are matched by overtly distancing, hyperbolic violence. Many critics accused torture porn of depicting violence sardonically, yet those critiques are much more aptly allayed at subsequent neo-grindhouse films. However, because neo-grindhouse is primarily a DVD/online movement rather than a multiplex-based subgenre, those same critics have failed to attend these films.

The comparison between torture porn and neo-grindhouse throws the contextual issue into relief, then. Torture porn’s multiplex success marked the subgenre as distinctly different to grindhouse movies, since “grindhouse” refers to a specific locale: independent cinemas specialising in porn and exploitation film exhibition. The grindhouse was eventually replaced by the home-video market. This disparity between the idea of “grindhouse” exploitation and the multiplex success of Tarantino’s films is perhaps one of the reasons Grindhouse flopped at the box-office, and has found greater success on DVD (see Benson-Allott, 2008: 24). Neo-grindhouse befits its DVD ghettoization. The success of neo-grindhouse film on DVD parallels a renewed interest in 1970s and 1980s horror films in the same market. DVD labels such as Arrow and Shameless have recently re-released uncut versions of exploitation films such as Killer Nun (1978) and Night Train Murders (1976) that were previously banned in the UK. Since 2005, Nucleus Films have released three volumes of Grindhouse Trailer Classics and Synapse Films have release six DVD volumes of grindhouse film trailers in their 42nd Street Forever series. 42nd Street refers to a locale in Manhattan famed for being exploitation cinema’s epicenter. The title 42nd Street Forever aptly connotes that DVD has taken over that mantle.

Accordingly, DVD has also provided contemporary horror greater freedoms than offered by high-profile cinematic releasing. In the US, that freedom is exploited by releasing horror films in ‘Unrated’ or ‘Extreme’ versions on DVD, bypassing the MPAA. Hardcore horror is contingent on precisely the same loophole. Most torture porn films were also released unrated on DVD, yet “torture porn” arose primarily in reaction to the subgenre’s R-rated/18-certificated theatrical presence. Critics have paid less attention to neo-grindhouse or hardcore horror films, since, unlike torture porn, they at least “know their place”. DVD ghettoization signals torture porn’s relegation to the fringes of commercial filmmaking. While hardcore horror revels in such marginality and neo-grindhouse is a celebration of exploitation films’ cultural otherness, torture porn’s movement out of the multiplex is more specifically pronounced.

Neo-grindhouse is a significant movement in horror then, inasmuch as it flags something vital about the relations between horror, criticism, and consumption-context. First, critics are primarily focused on what occurs in the cultural centre. Critics commonly anoint themselves guardian of culture. The critic’s punitive role aims to police taste boundaries, especially by pushing genres such as horror and porn away from the mainstream setting. This is precisely what happened with torture porn. Yet without a grasp on what is occurring on the fringes of film-culture, those critics are blinkered. The result is that films such as Hostel (2005) were inappropriately dubbed ‘porn’, and A Serbian Film (2010) was admonished as the “most extreme film ever made” (which it certainly is not). Second, being aware of the commonplace cultural gentrification multiplex torture porn suffered problematizes how we might interpret neo-grindhouse. Given those cultural shifts, the nostalgia fostered by these films is disquieting. Drawing on and validating the grindhouse’s sordid history risks corroborating critics’ complaints that horror belongs on the margins of film-culture. That feeling of nostalgic recognition that Tarantino/Rodriguez’s Grindhouse actively fostered is akin to the snobbery that some fans propagate when they refer to economically successful horror of “selling out” simply because of its mainstream presence. Both mechanisms verify that horror is a culturally disparaged genre. In turn, horror fans – be they film-makers of consumers – risk writing their own cultural vilification.

I/0: Binarism and Infra-Dichotomism

Videogames are a natural home for violent content. The essential logic of videogames is frequently eradicative. To complete objectives, the player must remove whatever stands in their way. Interaction is commonly a process of erasure. This is not to argue that every game involves gunning down enemies in riotous bloodshed. For example, Mario jumps, Mario lands on an enemy’s head, *bing*, they vanish. Pacman runs over a white dot and “eats” it. It disappears. The eponymous Barbarian cuts off his opponent’s head, the body is dragged away and never seen again. Splinter Cell may be rather more sophisticated looking, but at its heart, it follows the same reasoning. Enemy enters sights, enemy is shot, move on.


It is hardly surprising that this logic is foundational in gaming since the language of computation – binary code – follows the same blunt philosophy. Comprised of 1s and 0s, binary is a vernacular comprised of ‘on’ or ‘off’. It is only to be expected that numerous early games manifested that underlying ethos in its ‘present’ or ‘absent’ interactions. Dichotomism is not only written into the programs themselves: it is the language of programming. Digital computation is delimited by a dialect of existence and non-existence.

The brutal simplicity of binary is disquieting, but only because it embodies the most fundamental and inexorable of sensibilities. We are here or not, alive or dead, ‘in’ or ‘out’ of existence. When I use “violence” here I am not referring to graphic or graphical representations physical bloodshed in gaming exclusively, but to that logic of deletion that undergirds all digital technologies. In order to make that distinction, it may be useful to forcefully interject binary into “violence”: vI/0lence.

Such vI/0lence is not just about a single forceful eruption or one incident. VI/0lence is, as gaming illustrates, a process of constant reification. The single binary incident – the switch from ‘I’ to ‘0’ or vice versa – is itself meaningless unless repeated. VI/Olence begets VI/Olence as the adage (almost) has it. In games, each removal is followed by yet more eliminations. This process is never finished.

This unfinishedness exposes something about binary oppositions more generally. Every dichotomy presented as a discreet opposition is an illusory attempt to quell a tide of similarities. Every opposition reveals sameness. ‘South’ and ‘north’ are both directions on a vertical axis. They can never be truly opposite because they have their vertical axis in common. That commonality means that ‘north’ and ‘south’ are never finished as values. There is always a point that is “more” south than another, meaning ultimate south is never locatable. There is also always a point “less” south (closer to north), which speaks of the grey areas between the two. South and north are imminently closer than the language of dichotomy suggests.

As such, each binary opposition implicitly suggests all states in-between and beyond that illusory dichotomy. Each binary opposition cannot exist as a stable form, being doomed to collapse onto itself into micro-differentiations that are no longer useful as shorthand approximations (generalised ways to understand the world).