Tuesday 24 November 2015

Money Off Digital Horror Book

As I posted a couple of weeks ago, I have a chapter in the new collection Digital Horror: Haunted Technologies, Network Panic and the Found Footage Phenomenon, edited by Linnie Blake and Xavier Aldana Reyes, which is published by I.B. Tauris
If you order the book from I.B. Tauris before 30th April 2016 using the discount code AN2, you can get the book for the discounted price of £41.65.

Sunday 22 November 2015

Amazon Recommends...

This week, Amazon recommends that I buy these movies, each of which makes an original contribution to the genre.

Thursday 5 November 2015

15 Second Review: American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore (2014)

With American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore, Unearthed Films' founder Stephen Biro has created a faux-snuff film that looks authentically amateur. I don't mean that it looks like footage shot by killers. Rather, it looks like the kind of film schoolkids would make if they were given some prosthetics, a few cameras, and no training. No matter how one feels about the 1980s Guinea Pig series Biro is emulating, Flowers of Flesh and Blood at least boasted some undeniably fantastic effects work. American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore disappoints on that front: no amount of shaking the camera and adding coloured filters in post-production can mask how unconvincing the effects are. The core failure however, is allowing the cast to speak. Films like this do not require Academy Award winning performers, but neither do they require dialogue per se. Indeed, my only recommendation here is that if you really must watch American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore, do so on mute: it is a much more unsettling experience. Anyone lucky enough to buy the three-disc version can indulge in hours of extra material. What exactly that consists of, I will never know: sitting through the 73 minute film - with its pathetic attempts to shock, its annoying insistence on framing everything in extreme close-up, and its atmosphere-sucking extra-diegetic white noise soundtrack - was more than enough torture for me. I hear that the second film in the series (Bloodshock) is currently in post-production. I can only hope that Biro et al put more effort into the sequel than they did this damp squib. 

Tuesday 3 November 2015

New Chapter: Torture Pornopticon: (In)security Cameras, Self-Governance and Autonomy

I have a chapter in the new collection Digital Horror: Haunted Technologies, Network Panic and the Found Footage Phenomenon, edited by Linnie Blake and Xavier Aldana Reyes, which has just been published by I.B. Tauris.

More info about the book is available here.

To read a draft, click here.

Abstract: ‘Torture porn’ films centre on themes of abduction, imprisonment and suffering. Within the subgenre, protagonists are typically placed under relentless surveillance by their captors. CCTV features in more than 45 contemporary torture-themed films (including Captivity, Hunger, and Torture Room). Security cameras signify a bridging point between the captors’ ability to observe and to control their prey. Founded on power-imbalance, torture porn’s prison-spaces are panoptical. Despite failing to encapsulate contemporary surveillance’s complexities (see Haggerty, 2011), the panopticon remains a dominant paradigm within surveillance studies because it captures essential truths about the psychologies of self-governance and interdependency. This chapter will use torture porn’s panoptical spaces and captor-captive relationships as a springboard into examining those broader philosophical issues regarding selfhood. In the torture-space, cameras signify the control to which captives must submit. Since they are threatened with death, the surveillance dynamic appears to entirely subjugate these prisoners. However, the captive must undertake some agency in the oppression. Much of the captor’s implied threat is enacted by the captives, who brutalise one another to save themselves. The captor’s apparent omniscience is translated into omnipotence only because the captives forsake self-control – opting to engage in violent, contra-social behaviours – out of fear. Thus, it is implied that self-ownership is the bedrock of stable, interdependent sociality. To inspire horror, the opposite is depicted: fractured groups comprised of paranoid, self-invested individuals. By submitting to external pressure, these “weak” individuals empower their tormentor. Captives are not only encouraged to enact their own suppression, but also to internalise culpability for the suffering they undergo. Despite being threatened with erasure, torture porn’s protagonists are spotlighted in these films. Abductees dominate the screen-time, and their suffering drives the narrative forward. Torturers are often motivated solely by their victims’ agony. In many cases, torture is designed specifically for each hyper-individualised captive. These forms of emphasis imply that captives are the stimulus for their own victimisation. The captor’s exaggerated interest in the prisoners is perversely flattering: captives are implied to be worthy of the captor’s maniacal attention, which is reified by the CCTV cameras. In torture porn’s scenarios, it is not immediately clear who has greater control over the individual: the captor or the captive themselves. By dissecting how self-preservation, self-governance, and self-centredness manifest in torture porn, this chapter seeks to examine the dialectical qualities of liberty, interdependency and autonomy.