Thursday, 22 November 2012

The horror on my television

If you are of a sensitive disposition don’t read on.
Last night I had a very late TV dinner. Flicking through the channels I came across the following scene:
A gagged naked woman is hanging from chains around her ankles. She is absolutely terrified, spluttering her screams through the ball tied in her mouth. She is hanging over a tiled bath. The two men who have obviously tied her there are about to leave the darkened chamber in which this is taking place. As they do so, one of them plants a kiss on her mouth.
A few moments after they exit, another woman enters the chamber. She is wearing only a robe, which she removes. She lies naked in the bath, takes a scythe and begins to run it over the bound woman body. By now the latter is drenched in sweat and spluttering in terror. The second woman uses the scythe to cut away the gag, and the first woman’s screams now fill the room.
I slightly missed the next bit, but when I clicked back, the bound woman had clearly been repeatedly stabbed and was unconscious. The woman in the bath was washing herself in her blood. Then she reached up with the scythe and slashed the victims throat which sprayed blood in all directions.
Later, there was a similar scene of terror as a man threatened another bound and gagged woman with an angle grinder. I didn’t watch how that turned out.
But why, you may ask, did I watch at all? And why am I telling you this?
The answer is because, thank God, I was horrified. But I would be lying if I didn’t add that I was also strangely drawn to watch — and horrified that I could feel that impulse. That is my first reason — the horror.
The second is that this was on mainstream television. It wasn’t even particularly late (about 11pm as I recall). And the third reason is that his film was called Hostel II. That’s right, there was a Hostel I. (Look them up, if you want, I am not prepared to give a link here.)
In other words, there is a market for this stuff out there.
Of course, horror films are as old as the cinema itself. In the 1970s I used to enjoy watching the late-night Hammer films. And yes, they had screaming ladies as well. But Hostel II is in a totally different league. The acting, it has to be said, was superb. Here was total, snot running, eye staring terror, right before your very eyes. It was entirely believable.
And there is the problem. Watching a bosomy maiden succumb to Dracula’s kiss is one thing. Watching a human being in apparent paroxysms of fear and agony is another. This is the entertainment of the Roman arena, not Bram Stoker.
At this point, two questions are going round my head, which is why I am writing this. The first is, whatever happened to our society, that could move from Mary Whitehouse and the Festival of Light in the 1960s and ‘70s to this. For the problem with the likes of Hostel II is not that it is trash, but that it is actually convincing and compelling.
And that brings me to my second question which is what impact such material has on those who watch it for entertainment. The ‘Saw’ series, which has I believe a similar motif, has run to seven versions.
But get this: Thorpe Park has a Saw theme ride. So whilst children may not be allowed to watch the film, but they are familiarized with the concept of ‘torture as entertainment’.
As many of us know, the problem with some experiences in life is that once in our heads, we can’t get them out. I well remember a Malaysian female student of my acquaintance who had become a Christian saying it was very easy to learn English swear words, but very hard to stop saying them.
What, then, if you filled your head last night with images of beautiful tortured women (and they are invariably beautiful women — as one producer of such films said, given the choice people would rather watch a beautiful woman being killed than an ugly one)? And what if you did this for entertainment? What if you are still entertaining yourself with the same thoughts throughout the day today?
Back in the 1960s, I was one of those who thought Mary Whitehouse and her supporters a bit naive and limited. Why should we not be allowed to watch what we wanted as grown-ups? What was wrong with a bit of artistic nudity, for example? But of course the changing of our standards did not release a flood of ‘art’.
I am still minded to write to whichever TV channel it was last night that carried that film. But I suspect it will be a lonely little letter. Surely no one cares anymore? Maybe they’ll frame it.
Tom Davies, the wonderfully eccentric author of the equally eccentric Merlin the Magician and the Pacific Coast Highway (one of the few Christian books that have made me laugh out loud) wrote a sombre follow-up called The Man of Lawlessness, which he identified as the media, pouring a stream of violence and filth into the minds and lives of ordinary people, and especially the young.
Judging by what I glimpsed on television last night, he may have been right. For there is only one place such thoughts could have come from, and one place where they belong, and that is in the lowest pit of Hell.
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  1. Phew, no wonder half the 'civilized world' is in therapy!
    Personally "Psycho" was more than enough for me. I remember having nightmares for weeks after that, so this charming little tale would have had me screaming the house down.
    Mary Whitehouse was all and more than you say, but viewing was less extreme in her day.
    I fear a letter to the channel responsible would simply produce the standard, "there is an off button" response. So good luck with that one.

  2. John this is indeed horrific. It reminds me of ancient Rome and how even Christians became fascinated by and addicted to the gladiatorial shows; unable to tear themselves away from the entrancing and compelling displays of violence and bloodletting. Lord have Mercy. Nigel

  3. Interesting not as many replies here... more evidence of the need for the gruesome. Also, what more needs to be said that we DON'T want to keep up with society.

    A useful resource is a website called, common sense media, which rates films, TV & games. Extremely useful for adults re: content & issues to make judgements (some really awkward things come up in films clearly marketed at younger kids). But actually, useful for grown ups too.

    Halo, is another e.g. The game is an 18, yet the toys and lego is aimed far younger.

  4. Very interesting indeed ... many posts on the feminist demand to be first in the Kingdom of God ... barely a word on the Christian duty to combat the supernatural forces of evil menacing people in general and women and children in particular.


  5. hehe..
    i have same situation here