WTF: Why Not Slaughter Kittens On Screen?

To quote a famous one-eyed sailor, “I am disgustipated.”

That’s not an easy feat, mind you. I can take a lot on the silver screen, but I have to say that when I saw last week’s new remake The Last House on the Left, I was pretty much disgustipated.

Then I started hearing feedback for my review, and it disgustipated me even more.

Here’s an excerpt from my review that ran on my web site 7mpictures.com and was linked to from RottenTomatoes.com:

The one thing that kept going through my mind as I watched “The Last House on the Left” was how unnecessary the film it.

Oh, the fans of the original and this new remake will most likely insult my intelligence by suggesting that I just didn’t get the movie. Don’t worry. I got the movie. And I still didn’t like it.

I know that the original has been held up as a “video nasty” horror classic because of the movie’s “It could happen” potential. And yes, I will concede that the reality of a band of raping, murdering psychopaths is far more likely than any scenario involving werewolves, vampires or zombies. But the bottom line is that I don’t enjoy watching innocent people get brutalized on screen. And call me crazy, but I really detest rape scenes in films.

Then I read some comments from RottenTomatoes.com readers like these:

He’s missing the point completely. He just didn’t expect to be horrified when he walked into a true horror flick and he’s lashing out at others who can handle it…. You’re supposed to be shaken, disgusted and sick to your stomach. That fact that this film evoked such raw emotions from you so effectively is to be applauded, not criticized for.
– Bloody Mathias

The movie did what it was supposed to do, Kevin. No way…a scary horror film that actually was horrific?
– Josh M.

What the fake rape?

There’s a lot of things in movies that people consider awful that I can stomach. Heck, I’ve seen all the SAW movies, and I actually liked the Hostel films. Yet filmgoers have been turning their nose up at most torture porn lately. But with $14 million at the box office last weekend, I suppose we’re okay with rape… just don’t torture anyone.

Now I know that FSR’s own Rob Hunter saw The Last House on the Left and liked it quite a bit. But I have to agree with FSR’s Robert Fure on his feedback to Hunter’s review in the comments section:

In 1972 this film was like nothing else that had really been done, so damn sure that’s shocking. But viewed today by a young generation of horror veterans, it is kind of laughable at parts.

Fure’s absolutely correct. Rape is nothing new on the American cinema screen. In fact, there was a string of movies in the mid-1990s – from crap like Showgirls to fine movies like Rob Roy – that featured pretty graphic depictions. So sitting here in 2009, these scenes are not really shocking any more like the original 1972 Last House on the Left. Rather, they’re just unnecessary.

The RT readers cited above suggest that I don’t get the movie because I don’t understand this was a way to horrify the audience. Let’s forget for a moment that I actually say in my review that I do get it; I just don’t like it. (That’ll show how often people just read the pull quotes and not the full review.) My question is whether full blown graphic rape scenes are really that necessary, even in a movie like this.

After all, the villains in The Last House on the Left already kidnap, beat-up and threaten the girls, eventually stabbing one to death in the stomach. Earlier in the movie, they kill two deputies, strangling one with a seat belt while showing him a picture of his children and telling him he’ll never see them again. Can you tell me that adding rape to their list of crimes makes them any less awful?

Oh sure, the rape seems to clinch the revenge plot of the parents, but isn’t it bad enough that they shoot their daughter and leave her for dead in a lake? But even beyond that, I ask why it’s necessary to show all of the crime on screen? Does it make the act any less awful? Is it really necessary to show Sara Paxton face down in a patch of dirt while John Henry the Terminator forces himself on her?

Why not just have them slaughter kittens? Or strangle puppies? Or force the girls to watch a Pauly Shore movie marathon? Those are all surely horrifying, but I don’t want to watch that on screen. It’s like watching the death of children in a movie. Films like The Mist and Reservation Road managed to depict this without splattering it onto the screen. Hell, even Funny Games handles this stuff off-screen. Call me old fashioned, but for rape scenes, I’d rather just fade to black and trust that it happened off screen.

With all that said, when the big-budget Hollywood movie Slaughter the Kittens comes out, I’ll be first in line to see it.

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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