Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why TnA is in Horror Films

 As readers of this blog can probably tell, I am a fan of nudity in horror films.  Even if a film is terrible, sprucing it up with a topless model helps.  I have always found the Puritanical mind-set of those who enjoy horror movies but have nothing but disdain for nude scenes odd (you have no issue about blood, guts, mangled body-parts, etc, but when a nipple is shown on a breast you are offended?).  A horror film it supposed to be a visceral experience on some levels... you are supposed to "feel" it in a physical sense as much as experience it emotionally and process it intellectually.  When a film can shock the mind, terrify the heart, and make the body quake, then it is a great horror movie.  Nude scenes help accomplish the physical connection.

Witchboard 3
 This is not to say that every horror film needs nudity to be successful.  John Carpenter's The Thing and Ridley Scott's Alien are both great horror films.  They accomplish a visceral connection with their audiences with no nudity, although Alien does place Ripley in her underwear and offers a crotch shot toward the end.  Nudity is merely one effective tool in a film-maker's bag-of-tricks to engage the viewer.  Film is a visual medium, thus the key method to engage your audience is through imagery.  By presenting a nude scene, the film connects with us on a most basic level, titillating that part of our lizard-brain that responds instinctively to T-n-A.  It works regardless of the age or gender of the audience... show an attractive topless woman and most of your viewers become more engaged.

The Fly
 Much is also made about "gratuitous" nudity.  This is when there seems to be more than just a few nude scenes... instead someone is naked through most of the film.  There is a difference between "gratuitous" and "unnecessary".  For example, Return of the Living Dead and Zombie Women of Satan both had what I would consider "gratuitous" nudity, but it was nudity that could be explained by the plot; Trash in RTLD is turned on by graveyards and is a freak, and the cult of women in Zombie Women of Satan are drugged and kept in lingerie or topless by the cult-leader.  Terror Toons has a nude scene simply because the bit-character performing the scene is also a porn-star.  The nudity has absolutely nothing to do with the plot, thus it is unnecessary. 

I Spit on Your Grave
 On the other side of that coin are horror films where nudity makes sense, but is not included, either because the actress does not do nude scenes (or was not paid enough to do the scene) or (more likely), the film is seeking a PG-13 rating and sacrificing blood, gore, and nudity for the rating.  As a horror film viewer, this actually takes me "out" of the film.  Every time there is a love-scene that is drawn out by soft-music and fuzzy-filming (meant to make it more sensuous) and the female remains in her bra or shirt throughout, it becomes blatantly obvious that I am watching a film.  I find myself thinking "what red-blooded male is NOT going to take out the girls breasts while having sex?"  Less extreme, but equally annoying, are scenes where a character goes through the ringer, either being ripped at by the environment of slashed by the monster.  Her shirt, pants, even hair look like hell, but her wonder bra is apparently made of stainless steel and remains flawless.  Check out the scene where the Jackal attacks Shannon Elizabeth's character in Thir13en Ghosts for exactly what I mean.

 The unbelievability of this lack of nudity make the film less convincing.

The Devil's Advocate
 As I have pointed out in other posts, the major part of the problem with horror films today is the industry chasing the PG-13 rating.  Let us all be honest for a moment, the horror genre is not known for its depth of plot or its intellectually engaging story-lines.  A horror film is meant to frighten and shock, and through this entertain.  It accomplishes this end by engaging the viewer viscerally... it tries to generate of physical response from the viewer.  Nudity is often the lure that draws the viewer in; you are given something pleasant to look at which captivates you and leaves you looking when the unpleasant occurs.  Robbed of blood, gore, and nudity in an effort to get a PG-13 rating, most horror films fall flat, becoming at most mildly interesting negative fantasies.

 Nudity, when done in a manner that adds to the viewing experience, even if "gratuitous", is a part of the fabric of horror films, using beauty as a lure and as a point of comparison to the ugliness that is integral to the story.  Titillating your viewers, be it through humor, sexuality, or an appeal to their sympathy, helps make the incredible more convincing, and leads to an over-all more entertaining experience.  When the genre deals with the unsavory, the dark, and the terrifying, why would it shy away from the sexuality inherent in all those experiences?

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