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Rants and Raves: A Note About Horror

Guest Blogger Considers Why We Put Ourselves Through the Grinder

Credit: IFC

Above: "The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence" screens at midnight October 14 at Landmark's Ken Cinema.

Miguel Rodrigeuz contributes occasional book reviews to Cinema Junkie. He's also a horror podcaster at Monster Island Resort, and festival director for Horrible Imaginings Film Festival. He recently wrote a note on horror on FaceBook that I asked him to repost here.

I just read Beth Accomando's review of "The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence" (which gets additional plays this weekend at Landmark's Ken Cinema). One thing that always struck me was a review of the first film (I think maybe New York Times) where it was claimed that the film was made for "cochrophiliacs and fetishists." It wasn't a bad review, but it points out how acutely the horror genre is misunderstood. The problem with that statement is that it makes the assumption that these films are to be enjoyed the way one would enjoy a Sno-Cone on a hot summer day or, as that review would have us think, a pleasant sexual encounter. It's always been the problem with people's criticisms of horror and of the people who appreciate the genre.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Roxie Releasing

"Man Bites Dog" (1992)

Beth mentioned some really excellent comparisons in her review -- "Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer," "Man Bites Dog," and "Irreversible." Truly disturbing content like these films contain (though, I admit the first "Human Centipede" was mostly silly fun) is meant to make the audience feel upset, horrified, or ill.

And that serves a purpose. As Beth said in her review, we put ourselves through the grinder to experience the absolute limits of what darkness human beings are capable of. It's often a painful experience, but it's one that has cathartic benefits. When the film is over, one's problems can seem minuscule in comparison. And the adrenaline rush of having to squeeze the arms of your seat in fear or revulsion cannot be overlooked either.

It's the roller coaster ride, the survival experience -- one that makes the reality of the ride home from the theater, the regular day job, and the roof over one's head something one can appreciate that much more completely. And when that experience is shared with friends, it can create real bonds among people. Experiencing the worst, even through art, can make even the droll parts of our lives seem a little more bearable.

Now, I do understand that this doesn't work for everyone, and I certainly wouldn't insist that everybody subject themselves to "The Human Centipede 2" if they can't handle it. My point is that we don't watch disturbing things because we condone, advocate, or are made happy by acts of true horror. We watch them because we feel that experiencing the dark can help us fully appreciate the wholeness of the human condition, and we thrive on the catharsis that good horror can offer. It's no fun to have to defend that all the time.

--Miguel Rodriguez is the founder and director of the upcoming Horrible Imaginings Film Festival (on November 4 and 5 at the Tenth Avenue Theater) and runs the blog/podcast Monster Island Resort.

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